In Greece, feasts are not reserved for the gods of Olympus. Wherever you land in the country of 6,000 islands, you are sure to find a good table where you can enjoy divinely fresh produce without going broke.
Of course, there is (almost) year-round sunshine, the Acropolis, the blue-white of the Cyclades and the monasteries of the Meteors. But if you go to Greece, it is also for the simple and daily pleasure of sitting on the terrace of a taverna to see the best Mother Nature has to offer. A statement shared by UNESCO, which in 2013 included this « Mediterranean diet », of which Greek cuisine is the perfect illustration, in the intangible heritage of humanity. In this country where everything seems to grow better than elsewhere, five millennia of history and mixed influences have made it possible to optimise the combination of flavours, giving rise to a gastronomy that is as balanced and varied as it is convivial.
And it is a real heartbreaker to retain only seven representatives. On the menu of this article :
- The mezze
- The horiatiki or the famous Greek salad
- The kleftiko
- The souvlàki
- The galaktoboúreko
- Greek wines
Mezze: the great festival
If Spain has its tapas, Greece has its mezze, served in bowls or small plates to be eaten alone, on pita bread or as an accompaniment to the dishes that follow them.
Everybody goes for it: the cucumber gives us the tzatziki (which we no longer present), the eggplant the melidzanosalata, the split pea the fava and the unexpected alliance of the vine leaf and rice offers us the summer splendour that is the dolmadès. And then there is the round of dumplings: lamb, beef, chicken or simply chickpeas. But we would be exhausted to go around the mezze: it’s hard to find less than twenty or so à la carte options in any self-respecting Greek restaurant.
Horiatiki : all along the trip
Rare are the dishes you never get tired of. This is the case of this « Greek salad », which you will be happy and even impatient to find every day on your lunch table.
A real concentrate of natural freshness, with tomato, cucumber, onions, green peppers, feta, oregano and olives as the main ingredients and capers as possible guest stars. A drizzle of olive oil on top and the holidays can finally begin…
Moussaka: in search of eggplant
Beware of imitations! The star dish of Greek cuisine is adapted around the world in countless versions, so much so that it is impossible to really say what the « real » moussaka is. But you know what you’re going to find in it first: the taste of eggplant well preserved in a small bath of parsley, garlic and onion. And as long as this pleasure is there, you’re ready to turn a blind eye to any fantasy.
Kleftiko: sweet as a lamb
Speaking of the virtues of confit, let’s take a look at this melting dish where the lamb is slowly stewed with the tomato, pepper, potato, oregano and thyme after marinating in white wine and lemon juice.
A sunny version of the « seven o’clock leg of lamb », which is said to take its name from the habit adopted at the beginning of the 19th century by mountain bandits (klephtes) of preparing their meals by burying earthenware pots under the ashes to avoid attracting the attention of the Ottoman occupiers. True or not true, the result is the same: it is delicious.
Souvlàki: a love of skewers
With the gyros, the souvlàki is the safest refuge when you’re tired of trying to decipher the restaurant menu. The most economical too: a pork (or chicken) skewer, a pita bread plus a tzatziki for dipping and the trick is done for less than five euros!
Galaktoboúreko: the dessert is on!
Not hungry anymore? The impromptu arrival on the table of this puff pastry (phyllo) sprinkled with syrup and topped with vanilla and/or lemon flavoured custard will certainly change your mind.
The wines of Greece: let 100 grape varieties blossom!
In fact, in the land of Dionysus, the cultivation of vines is an affair that goes back more than five millennia and, from Macedonia to the Peloponnese, obliquely across Crete and the Cyclades, we continue to cherish a unique oenological heritage, based on grape varieties with exotic names, both red (agiorgitiko, mandilaria, mavrodaphni…) and white (assyrtiko, athiri, malagousia, roditis). With one word to unite all this: Yamas! (cheers!).