Ask the Greek

Greek food shows us all the best parts of the Mediterranean diet. Many of us have grown up with Greek friends and neighbours, due to the massive influx of migrants in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In fact, we have one of the largest Greek populations outside of Greece. So we should be familiar with Greek food and ingredients. Although the Greek people have always appreciated it, we are now taking another look at Greek food and incorporating it into our diet, as its popularity takes off. Remember, it is worthwhile sourcing good quality ingredients, as you will taste the difference. Try a Greek deli, where you may find that the dips are homemade with love and care: taramosalata, made from fish roe, bread, oil, eggs and lemon juice, whipped until light and fluffy. Tzatziki, a garlicky yoghurt dip spiked with cucumber and mint, can be eaten as part of a meze, for grazing, or delicious with souvlaki, as in the recipe below. Quality olive oil is a must; look for a Greek brand. As is real feta cheese, made from sheep and goat’s milk. Kalamata olives, fat, ripe and juicy, are essential. All combine to show that a simple Greek salad, below, is greater than the sum of its parts. Of course, if you can find Greek basil, it’s all the better.

The lemon yoghurt syrup cake has lovely lemony tang. It is not overly sweet and the syrup soaks into the cake, without making it too wet. I think it is at its most delicious, served still slightly warm. Dollop with extra yoghurt, if you like, but it doesn’t really need it.

The Greek table is a place of sharing, friendship and hospitality, so invite some friends and family around and make your own Greek feast.

A Greek Salad

photo Marina Oliphant

Whilst there are many salads in Greek cuisine, this is the most well known.

Of course, you must use the best quality, authentic Greek ingredients, from the olives and oil to the cheese. Feta means ‘slice’ in Greek, so serve a large slice on top of the salad.

4 ripe tomatoes

1 lebanese cucumber

1 red onion

1 cup Greek Kalamata olives

handful fresh mint leaves

handful fresh basil leaves

handful fresh oregano leaves

200g Greek feta cheese

sprinkle dried Greek oregano

3 tbsp Greek olive oil

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

sea salt and ground black pepper to season

 

Cut tomatoes into large wedges. Cut cucumber into thick rounds. Peel onion and cut into wedges. Place in a salad bowl, then add olives, mint, basil, fresh oregano and toss. Place a slice of feta cheese on top and sprinkle over dried oregano.

Make a simple dressing by combining olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad.

 

serves 4.

 

Chargrilled lamb souvlaki

photo Marina Oliphant

In Greece, they make souvlaki with pork, but here in Australia, we use lamb. Either way, it’s delicious.

1 kg diced lamb shoulder

½ (half) cup olive oil

2 lemons, juiced

1 tbsp dried oregano

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

8-10 small pita breads

1 cup tzatziki

salad leaves to serve

 

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to marinate for a few hours in the refrigerator.

Remove and place meat on metal skewers.

Heat a grill or bbq to very hot, then cook skewers for a few minutes on each side, until cooked to your liking.

Serve with warmed pita breads, tzatziki and salad.

 

Serves 4-6.

 

lemon yoghurt syrup cake

photo Marina Oliphant

A lovely, moist cake with a lemony tang.

125g butter, softened

250g caster sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup greek yoghurt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

zest 2 lemons

3 tbsp lemon juice

400g self raising flour

½ tsp bicarb soda

syrup:

1 cup caster sugar

1 cup water

4 tbsp lemon juice

2 lemons, finely sliced

 

Preheat oven to 180C.

Grease and line a 23cm cake tin with removable base.

Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and continue to mix until combined. Add yoghurt, vanilla, lemon zest and juice and mix. Add flour and bicarb and gently fold through.

Place mixture in cake tin and smooth the surface. The mixture will be quite firm.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until cake is cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat to dissolve the sugar. Add lemon slices and simmer for 10 minutes, to soften the lemons. Set aside.

When cake is cooked, remove from oven and poke all over with a bamboo skewer, to make lots of small holes. Slowly pour the lemon syrup over the hot cake until it is all absorbed.

Place the lemon slices decoratively on top.

Allow to cool, then remove from tin.

 

 

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