A taste of Greece – Vegetarian recipes

Traditional Greek Vegetarian Dishes

Greece may not spring to mind immediately when you are thinking of vegetarian cookery and dishes, but it should. Fruit and vegetables that are produced in Greece are of the highest quality, and most of the food used on the islands is organic. The Greeks treat vegetables and fruit with the respect they deserve, often serving them separately from the other foods so that the quality and flavour can be appreciated without other foods distracting from them.

Many generations of villagers in Greece have been brought up on a diet of mainly fresh fruit and vegetables, along with copious amounts of top quality olive oil and pasta and bread. The consumption of pasta in Greece often exceeds that in Italy!The traditional diet of the villagers also contains lots of pulses and lentils, and fresh walnuts and almonds are eaten daily. They ate very little meat in their diets.

The main flavourings for food are olive oil, wine, lemon juice, and local herbs. Imported spices are viewed with suspicion, as they are believed to be bad for the stomach. Factory produced cakes and manufactured products are treated with scorn, as are things with additives.

Olive oil

Olive oil produced in Greece is golden to light green in colour. It is lighter than Italian olive oil. Olives are gathered only when they are ripe and drop off the trees naturally, this produces a virgin olive oil which is low in acidity.

Wine

Most wine is  produced by traditional methods. It does not have chemicals or preservatives added.

Lemons grow naturally all over Greece. They are available all the year round, and are very large and full of flavour.

Local Herbs

Local herbs are used in traditional recipes. Oregano, sage, thyme and rosemary and many medicinal herbs grow wild on the mountainsides.

Most local traditional dishes are one pot affairs. They can be cooked slowly in a huge casserole pan with a tight fitting lid, on top of the traditional wood stove or two ring burner, or they can be cooked in the wood oven in one dish. Often, more than one dish will be in the oven to save fuel. Some villages still abide by the tradition that locals can take food to cook in the wood fired bakery oven, once the bread and cakes for the bakery have been taken out for sale.

Fresh crusty bread is often served with meals, particularly ones that produce lots of sauce to dip into, or olive oil and lemon that the food has been cooked in.

Dark multi grain bread is the nearest substitute for the local (Mavro) black bread that the villagers love.

Salads.

Greens and walnuts.

Mix rocket, baby spinach leaves, endive leaves and Italian lettuce with a little olive oil and wine vinegar.S prinkle walnut halves on top.

Tomato and fresh basil with cubes of Feta cheese

Slice large tomatoes onto a plate, chop fresh basil and sprinkle on top. If you eat cheese chop feta into cubes and add to salad.

Oven baked Dishes

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers

Cut the top of large tomatoes and peppers and fill with cooked wild rice, mixed with chopped tomato flesh and grated onions, and half a teaspoon of cinnamon. Put into a large ovenproof dish and put a little water into the bottom. Drizzle a little oil over the top. Cook until the tomato and pepper shells are soft.

Baked Feta cheese with tomato and paprika

Put a square of feta cheese into a piece of foil. Add 2 teaspoons of tomato paste and some finely chopped garlic to  a little tomato juice and mix well. Pour over feta and sprinkle with paprika. Seal the parcel. Put onto a baking tray in a moderate oven till the cheese melts.

Vegetables

Horta (wild greens) with olive oil and lemon juice

Drop baby spinach, other young green leaves, or beetroot tops into boiling salted water until wilted. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon on top. You can substitute young spinach leaves or even young dandelion leaves.

Fresh beetroot with wine vinegar and honey dressing

Boil young fresh beetroot until cooked. Remove the skins and arrange in a dish. Sprinkle with a little wine vinegar mixed with a teaspoon of honey.

Lemon and rosemary roast potatoes in the oven

Part boil some chunks of potatoes in salted water for about five minutes. Place in an ovenproof dish. Pour a little water in the bottom and drizzle the potatoes with olive oil. Cook until almost done, then tip the juice of a lemon over the potatoes and sprinkle with rosemary. Return to the oven to finish.

Deep fried cauliflower and broccoli florets

Part boil the florets for about five minutes in salted water, drain. Dip them in a mixture of wholemeal flour and grated parmesan cheese. Fry in hot olive oil until brown and crispy. Dip in sesame seeds if you wish.

Skordalia(Garlic Sauce)

Puree boiled potatoes with three or four cloves of crushed garlic. Add three tablespoons of olive oil and stir well.

Meatless carbonara

Cook your pasta or spaghetti  along with some small pieces of vegetable such as onion, courgette, carrot and peas, till tender. Drain and immediately add two whisked eggs, some crushed garlic and lots of black pepper and sea salt. Sprinkle some good parmesan on top before serving.

Home made Walnut Pesto sauce

Put 4ounces of walnuts in a processor, add half a cup of olive oil, some fresh basil, and a clove of garlic. Add a pinch of cinnamon.Mix till smooth. Use over pasta or vegetables.

Soup

Home made bean soup is the staple diet of most villagers in the winter months, it is filling, warming, and full of flavour.Put a can of chopped tomatoes in a large pan, and add half a pound of green beans, chopped. Add two onions, two carrots, and three sticks of celery, chopped well.Add a glug of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Cook until the green beans are tender.Season to taste.

Two very simple desserts

Orange and cinnamon Bread

Buy crusty loaf and cut a number of slits in it. Mix some fresh soft butter with the zest of two oranges, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Spread the mixture on either side of the cuts.Wrap the loaf in foil and return to the oven for fifteen minutes till the butter is melted. Remove the foil and brown for a further seven minutes. Dust with icing sugar to serve in slices.

Heaven’s Dream

Cut two fresh apples, two pears, and half a honeydew melon into small pieces in a deep bowl.Add  a handful of raisins and sultanas and a carton of pineapple juice.A little Metaxa brandy or deep red wine may be added if you want to. Leave in the fridge for the flavours to blend. Serve with thick greek yoghurt or fromage fraise.

Janet Darbey

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