By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
While lamb may be the main celebratory food over Easter, the Greeks enjoy a wide variety of fresh produce through this important holiday. And when you see what's in season right now, it's clear that Australia is a great place to enjoy a Greek Easter celebration.
If you're preparing for a Greek banquet - with an Australian twist - here are some "must haves" to include on the shopping list before the weekend.
1. Kalamata olives
Kalamata is the capital and central port of Messinia, located over 200 km south west of Athens. It's where the famous black Kalamata olives from and an essential ingredient at any Greek family feast.
Of course you could just serve a pot of cold olives and people will still love them but to make them a bit more "spesh", I like to heat them up on the oven with a slug of olive oil, slivers of garlic and chilli and a cinnamon stick.
2. Extra virgin olive oil
You'll need a lot of this if you're planning a Greek meal. Personally I cheat and buy Australian since our own home grown EV olive oil is pretty hard to beat. Look for one with a medium "fruitiness" which will come close in flavour to a good Greek olive oil.
Splash it over everything!
3. Greek yoghurt
It's thick, creamy, made from either cow's or sheep's milk and an essential pantry item.
Greek yoghurt is the main ingredient in the Greek dip Tzatziki and there are many ways to make it. The traditional and time consuming method requires straining the yoghurt and the juices of grated cucumber overnight. I prefer the quick cheat's method which is to simply grate cucumber, squeeze the juices out quickly by hand and stir it through the Greek yoghurt with crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Serve it with warmed pitta bread for a delicious starter.
Greek yoghurt is also delicious drizzled with honey (another very popular Greek ingredient). I love it served with grilled oranges, honey and roast walnuts.
Readily available right now, grapes feature large in Greek cuisine.
Grapes and dried muscatels are delicious served with cheese. For something different consider grilling haloumi salad and serving it with a salad made with green leaves and fresh grapes. A dressing made from wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil will complete the dish.
Eggplants are used in the traditional Greek moussaka, made with ground lamb but it's central to many other Greek dishes and in season now.
We love it fried into fritters and served with a lovely garlicky tahini sauce with lemon juice or course (see below)
Like the olive oil, lemons and their juice are used in almost everything including over eggplant fritters (see above) and sautéed greens (see below!)
Greeks love their greens and although of their popular greens such as horta and amaranth are not so widely available in Australia, spinach and silverbeet are.
It's hard to beat the all-time favourite spanakopita or spinach pie but I like spinach sautéed and served with crushed garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
With lamb, spinach, fresh or dried mint is used liberally in Greek cooking
Add it to sautéed green just before serving, or shop it through tzatziki for an extra boost in flavour.
9. Filo pastry
If you're making spanakopita you will need some filo pastry. Forget buying it, it's way too hard, instead have a refrigerated box on hand and make sure you thaw it to room temperature before using otherwise it will crack.
If there's pastry left after making the spinach pie you can literally wrap it around anything. I like it around salmon with a layer of spinach in-between. Not very Greek but delicious all the same.
No Greek meal is complete without garlic. It is added to just about every savoury meal.
No need to suggest anything here other than to arm yourself with a good garlic crusher or a small chopping board dedicated to chopping smelly stuff!
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