food

An Epicurean Easter in Greece

Lydia's guide to Greek Easter food

Hello again everyone! Since I am spending Easter in Athens, Greece I decided to write another blog about which traditional foods Greeks enjoy on this holiday.

Every Easter Sunday, the whole family comes together. From parents and grandparents to second or third degree cousins everyone gathers around the table to celebrate the special day. They all cook delicious traditional dishes like succulent lamb with potatoes, refreshing Greek salad with feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, onions and kalamata olives, other types of meat like oven baked baby goat and a Greek traditional soup called “Magiritsa” which contains green vegetables and lamb liver. Everyone helps in the preparations of the Easter lamb, drinks lots of wine and most probably talks about politics! Here are some of the most traditional Easter foods you will find in Greece.

Lamb on the spit

Easter Sunday celebrations start early in the morning. The main food is lamb on the spit, which takes around 4 hours to cook. However, its preparation is a much longer process and requires lots of skill. First the lamb needs to be washed inside out and left to dry. Then lemon and salt need to be poured inside and outside the lamb together with pepper and thyme or oregano. After lighting the charcoals, the cook needs to start rotating the lamb fast and once all of the fat melts, rotations should be slower. Once the meat is cooked it is ready for serving, however it is enjoyed best while it is on the spit when everyone pulls out small bites of it. If the weather is nice (which usually is during Easter) everything happens outside, in gardens or courtyards with lots of wine, tsipouro and of course traditional bouzouki music!

Easter eggs

Coloured Easter eggs is a must follow tradition in Greece. People paint the eggs on Thursday before Easter in many colours but primarily in red, because it represents Jesus’ blood.  There are two ways to paint the eggs, either naturally or by using artificial colours. Both processes are really simple: First you boil the eggs (preferably white ones for a more vibrant colour) and then you add the colouring. If you are following the natural painting process, together with the eggs you can boil beetroot, which provides the eggs with the red colour. According to Greek tradition all family members need to “bang” each other’s eggs. Loser of the “game” is the one whose egg gets crushed on both sides first.

Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

Easter biscuits

If you visit Greece during Easter time you will always find traditional Easter biscuits in every bakery or coffee shop. These are simple vanilla biscuits in the shape of a braid. What makes them special (apart from their shape) is their orange flavour and aroma, which creates the perfect balance together with the hints of vanilla.

Sweet Easter bread

It might sound cheesy or an over-statement but this could be the best bread you will ever have. Similar to hot cross buns, Greek Easter bread is sweet, also in the shape of a braid. It is soft and best enjoyed with a cup of hot tea or coffee. It makes a great breakfast option and the anise flavour gives it a unique taste. The best part is that you can find it in many different flavours like chocolate, chestnut and white chocolate or even with mastiha crème (made of a traditional Greek mastiha a fruit which comes from a tree that only grows in the island of Chios and has a truly unique taste).

Sweet Easter Bread

Sweet Easter Bread

 

Lihnarakia

This is not a very popular Easter food but for those who come from or have visited the island of Crete, it is one of the tastiest treats you can find during Easter time. It is a star shaped shell made of soft dough and filled with a mixture of sweet cheese, sugar, eggs and cinnamon. It is the perfect balance between a sweet and savoury treat and, if you ask me, I could really eat hundreds of them! They are really difficult to make, so if you ever visit Greece, make sure to ask around who makes the best.

Lihnarakia

Lihnarakia

After this delicious feast, as you can most probably imagine, everyone is stuffed and just needs to relax. Going home and lying on the bed or sofa is the best option to relax and recover from the large quantity of food consumed. And if there are any left-overs the family might get together again the next day to eat the rest!

An Epicure’s Guide to Greek Food

Lydia’s “all you need to know about Greek food”

Hello everyone! My name is Lydia and I am a proud Epicure. I recently visited Athens, Greece and I would love to share with you my foodie experiences through a guide to must-try, authentic Greek dishes.

Greek Street Food

The first thing you definitely need to try if you visit Athens is “souvlaki”.  Souvlaki is a pita bread wrap with slices of chicken or pork, tomatoes, onions, chips and tzatziki (a sauce made with Greek yogurt, cucumber and garlic).  It’s a delicious meal on the go and healthy too, especially if you drop the chips! Makes a great lunch while taking a break from your visit to the Acropolis.  

greek souvlaki

Pastitsio

The word “pastitsio” derives from the Italian word “pasticcio” but even though its name is Italian, the dish is Greek and is really tasty. It contains several layers of deliciousness and is really worth trying. The first layer is thick pasta tubes, then comes the minced beef cooked in tomato sauce, another layer of pasta and finally béchamel as the top layer. What makes it unique is the combination of tomato sauce and béchamel giving pastitsio a really juicy texture.

Youvetsi

Youvetsi is my favourite Greek dish of all. It’s orzo pasta cooked in the oven with tomato sauce and chicken, lamb or beef. It is fairly simple to prepare and it’s bursting with flavour from all the spices used like cinnamon and nutmeg. Youvetsi makes a great Sunday family meal and is best enjoyed with some grated Parmesan sprinkled on top or feta cheese on the side.

youvetsi

 Gemista

Stuffed vegetables (gemista) is the perfect spring dish! Light and flavoursome, it makes a great vegetarian option. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, aubergine and courgettes are stuffed with rice, parsley, mint and tomato and are baked in the oven. Can be enjoyed both cold and hot and adding some raisins in the stuffing gives the vegetables just the right amount of sweetness.

gemista

Pita

Spinach pie (spanakopita), cheese pie (tiropita) or zucchini pie (kolokithopita), in Greece you can find any kind of sweet or savoury pie possible. If you try a homemade pie, the filo pastry will most probably be handmade which makes quite a difference in its taste. There are several stores in central Athens where you can try homemade pies, offering from simple flavours like plain cheese to more complicated ones like chicken and pepper.

spinach pie

Gliko tou Koutaliou

If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss out on the traditional gliko tou koutaliou (spoon sweets). They are similar to sweet preserves but the fruits are kept whole and not mashed. From grape and prune to almond and tomato there are numerous options for you to choose from to satisfy your taste buds.

greek spoon sweet

Traditional Greek Spirits

If you are looking to accompany your meal with a traditional drink, try “ouzo”, an anise flavour alcoholic beverage mixed with water and ice. If you would like to go for something stronger, try “raki” also known as “tsikoudia”, a Cretan grape-based pomace brandy similar to grappa, which contains 40%–65% alcohol by volume.

These are just some of the most traditional Greek dishes worth trying. If you are lucky enough and get to visit one of the Greek islands, don’t miss out on the fresh seafood, fruit, vegetables and local specialties.