As a committed Grecophile and taverna cuisine aficionado – ha! who am I kidding! In all reality I love Greek cooking for a few simple reasons: at its heart it has a basic premise of seasonal home-grown simplicity and feeding the ones you love. It’s rooted in tradition, from the festive feasts for weddings, Easter and name days to the simplicity of tossing together a few fresh local sourced ingredients. I love cooking up a storm (translate = chaos!) in the kitchen. This weekend I had a friend over for dinner so decided to get stuck in and prepare a meze menu for sharing.
I read through Belinda Harley’s ‘Roast Lamb in the Olive Groves‘ for inspiration . I have struggled to find many Greek cookbooks – so let me know if you come across any treasures. It’s a very skilful modern take on some of the wonderful and traditional recipes she found during her time spent on Paxos. The island is a true jewel in the Ionian sea – we visited Paxos a couple of years ago and had enjoyed two weeks of pure bliss, walking, swimming in deserted beaches and enjoying some of the finest local cuisine. The island is a treasure – recommended to me by my parents who have only visited it in 1976, it was their first taste of what turned into a long term love for Greece. I have inherited their adoration of helios and retsina, and convinced myself in the 30 odd intervening years Paxos had changed only a little, with just the modern conveniences of wifi and imported gin as the real markers of time. But I do want to get round to writing a longer post on Paxos as it is a small island that deserves a full exploration. Watch this space
But in terms of my menu plan, the island inspired me to cook Spanakopita – a deliciously buttery feta and spinach pie.
Using Harley’s recipe for a colourful panzarosalata (beetoot salad with radish and feta) with it’s peppery taste to liven up the palate and offer a colourful visual for the meal. In my humble opinion any Greek menu is incomplete without a good basic tzatziki, served with bread and olives drizzled with lemon oil and thyme.
To add a little texture and taste I cooked midia saganaki – which is mussels in a winey tomato sauce, with an added shot of ouzo, sprinkled with herbs and feta. It’s a perfect sharing dish with the sauce just crying out for soaking up with bread.
I also grilled some simple pork kebabs seasoned with herbs and lemon, a Greek salad – drizzled generously with wine vinegar and topped with feta. There is a love of cheese throughout this menu, so I went all out and grilled halloumi to serve drizzled in honey and sesame seeds.
All served with a bottle of Retsina salvaged from Sainsbury’s and chilled to perfection. It may have been February in Kent, but we all agreed it was a Greek summer in our bellies…