The Greek calendar has a number of special days, but a standout is 25 March. Not only does it mark the annual celebration of Greek Independence Day, it also has religious significance as the Annunciation of the Theotokos.
This is said to be the day when Archangel Gabriel gave the Virgin Mary the news that she would bear a child, a miracle who would come to be Jesus.
To celebrate this momentous day on the Christian calendar, people of the Greek Orthodox faith consume fish.
Aside from Palm Sunday, 25 March is the only other day that falls during the Lenten period where people are permitted to eat fish. Lent can last for almost 50 days, and during this period the faithful are required to abstain from not only fish, but meat, dairy, and in some cases even olive oil.
Traditionally Greeks eat bakaliaros, known in English as cod fish.
This particular fish became the go-to in part because of its practicality. While those living by the sea had easy access to seafood year-round, those living in villages in mountainous parts of the country needed to find a way to have it transported to them. With no refrigerated trucks, bakaliaros emerged as the ideal choice as it could be well-preserved with salt, and was also an affordable option.
Today Greeks around the world traditionally eat their bakaliaro lightly battered and deep-fried, accompanied with skordalia, a garlic dipping sauce – not dissimilar to the much-loved Anglo version of fish and chips.
We’ve sourced two delicious recipes, to try making your own special meal for family and friends.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
800 g potatoes
5 large garlic cloves
1/2 tea cup of fish stock, preferably some water from the pot in which you have cooked salted cod
1 wine glass of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
1. Wash and peel the potatoes. Place in a large pot of water and bring to the boil.
2. Boil the potatoes for approximately 15 minutes (time will depend on the size of the potatoes) until a knife pierces through with little resistance.
3. While the potatoes are boiling, peel the garlic and place in the food processor with a pinch of salt. Blend to a puree.
4. Once the potatoes are ready, drain the water and add some of the potatoes to the food processor along with a tablespoon of olive oil, two tablespoons of the fish stock and the juice from the lemon. Blend until the potatoes, oil, stock, lemon juice, and garlic form a thick paste. Repeat the blending process with the remaining potatoes, stock, and olive oil until all the ingredients are combined.
5. Once blended, mix in salt to taste, and drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the top.
6. Using your mortar and pestle, add the garlic with a little sea salt and pound into a thick creamy paste. Once the potatoes are ready, drain the water and then add the potatoes, a little at a time with a tablespoon of olive oil, two tablespoons of the fish stock and the juice from the lemon. Blend until the potatoes, oil, stock, lemon juice, and garlic form a thick paste. Repeat the blending process with the remaining potatoes, stock, and olive oil until all the ingredients are combined.
While skordalia makes a great meze, it is more traditionally served as a main meal, family style, in a large bowl in the centre of the table along with the fried salt cod.
Note: Preparation for this recipe should ideally start 3 days before consumption.
1 large piece of dried salt cod
1 tea cup rice flour
1 1/2 tea cups spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tea cups Greek beer
1 egg beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil for frying
1. Rinse the fish under cold water and remove any bones. Soak in cold water, in a covered bowl in the fridge for at least 36 hours changing out the water 4 times per day.
2. Cut the fish into pieces, remove the skin and press between paper towels to remove any of the excess water. This step is important because if the fish is not completely dry it is going to become a soggy mess in the frying pan. Set aside on a plate, uncovered and keep in the fridge to remain chilled.
Make the batter:
1. Add the flour and baking powder to a large bowl, mix well to combine. Using a whisk, slowly add the beer and egg until a thick batter forms. Place in the fridge for around 30 minutes to become very chilled.
Fry the fish:
1. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium high heat (175 C). Dredge the fish first in the rice flour, shaking off the excess and then dip in the batter and carefully place it in the hot oil. Make sure the oil is hot before adding the fish, otherwise you risk a soggy outcome.
2. Fry the fish until golden brown on each side, then remove and drain on paper towels. You can place the fish on a baking rack over a tray in a very low, warm oven to keep it warm and crisp until ready to serve.
3. Serve with the Skordalia.
* Both recipes are courtesy of Mulberry Pomegranate, a blog dedicated to Greek food and lifestyle. For more, visit http://mulberrypomegranate.com/