Aside from the famous souvlaki that can only be experienced in its full glory in Greece (let’s not kid ourselves), there are plenty more options when it comes to Greek cuisine that bear a universal seal of approval. Not that one cannot make or try those dishes elsewhere, but there us a somewhat different allure to those staple flavours back home. Everything simply tastes better! Be it the freshness of ingredients or the overall vibe? All we know is that one cannot visit Greece without trying these mouthwatering meals.
Aside from tzatziki, taramosalata and fava, the holly trinity of Greek dips, melitzanosalata, especially when served fresh hold a special place on the Greek table. A mainstay of a Hellenic feast, melitzanosalata, or eggplant dip, is a simple yet tasty dish of roasted eggplant puree, mixed with garlic, oil, red onions, parsley and lemon juice. It’s perfect served cold or spread on toasted bread.
On a similar note, the most iconic Greek dish internationally is an oven bake that features slices of sautéed aubergine and potatoes, covered in layers of fried minced meat, puréed tomato, onions, garlic and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg with a final topping of béchamel and cheese. It takes very long to prepare this dish but the flavour will undoubtedly compensate.
Three essential components make up this pastitsio dish – pasta, meat filling, and a creamy bechamel sauce, all layered in a pan and baked to golden perfection. But you’ll have a messy kitchen as each of those requires its own separate preparation. You’ll dirty a few pots and pans making it, but it will be so worth the effort.
One of the most traditional Greek lamb dishes, it is slow cooked for hours in a mix of herbs and vegetables wrapped in baking parchment paper. The usual ingredients list includes garlic, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes that melt and offer the lamb their aromas and juices until it’s ready to fall off the bone. It gets it’s name from the years of resistance against the Ottoman occupation when the Greek fighters (kleftes) would cook their kill in a small pit in the ground, used to trap heat and smoke. In later years, it would bring families together on a Sunday or rare occasions.
Another traditional Greek meat dish, specifically a stew with onions, tomato, wine or vinegar and a variety of spices, stifado is usually made on the stove-top, but can also be made in the oven. The older recipes of Stifado don’t include tomatoes but do include wine. It’s usually made with rabbit, but in later years the recipe is also popular with pork, veal and lamb.
A traditional recipe for Greek stuffed tomatoes, eggplants and bell peppers filling up the air with aromas and the mouth with explosive flavours. stuffing can either be with rice and various herbs or it may contain minced meat. There are countless variations of Yemista with rice and herbs, or quinoa but yemista could also include minced meat.
A recipe found in the East and the Mediterranean, dolmadakia are vine leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts, and fresh herbs. Again this recipe takes a little bit longer to prepare, but is one of the most delicious appetizers Greek cuisine has to offer. They can be served warm or cold with a drizzle of lemon or yoghurt on the side. Like yemista, they have many variations some with meat some without and rice, dill and mint being the hero ingredients.
Horta is one of the most healthy and delicious recipes and can be eaten as a side or salad. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and enjoy. Depending on the season and location the leafy greens selection may vary.
Thessaloniki’s staple, bougatsa consists of filo pastry wrapped around a sweet semolina-based custard. Usually baked as a large pie and then freshly cut in smaller pieces, it’s served with icing sugar and cinnamon powder.
Saganaki is actually the name for all small dishes that are being fried in the small pan called saganaki, yet the word is more commonly related to the fried cheese starter served in most Greek restaurants. A level-up of this dish heroes sea-food, more specifically shrimps. Shrimp saganaki is ideal for cheese lovers, prepared in two-handled small frying pan where shrimps are cooked in tomato paste or fresh tomatoes, ouzo, flour and cheese for only ten minutes.