Greek cooking is an ancient art encompassing not only the flavours and ingredients of the Mediterranean diet but also the heritage. It goes back to the time when Greeks believed its basic elements to be gifts from the gods: cereal from Demeter, olive oil from Athena and wine from Dionysos. These items were not only a source of nourishment, but were also used as offerings in religious rituals.
Τhe word “gastronomy”, meaning the art of cooking, comes from the ancient Greek word γαστρονομία (gastronomia), which can be broken down into the words for stomach and knowledge or law. Greek poet Archestratus of Sicily is thought to be the first person to have used the term; it appears in his poem ‘Hedypatheia’, a gastronomic guide of the fourth century BCE. In it he lays out the principles of good cooking, and gives advice on where to find the best food in the Greek world.
Two thousand years later, Greek cuisine still follows Archestratus’ basic principles: fresh, natural produce used in simple cookery with distinct flavours, free of heavy spices and rich sauces. Using a range of local ingredients, recipes have passed down the generations and cater for seasonal and religional variations. Along the way, Greek cooking has incorporated the influences of other peoples and cultures of the Mediterranean and beyond.
The Art of Greek Cooking comprises 65 much-loved, traditional Greek recipes that have stood the test of time. It includes:
- Salads and Mezes: Salads have always formed part of the Greek cuisine, reflecting the season and what is freshly available at that time, while Mezes are small dishes made from a wide variety of ingredients either fish, meat, pulses or cheeses.
- Soups, which are the most soothing and restorative meal in the Greek cuisine, made with a variety of raw ingredients and consumed as a main dish.
- Laderá and Pulses: Laderá are typical dishes of the Greek cuisine based on summer vegetables, herbs and olive oil, while pulses have always been a staple in the Greek diet and make for delicious dishes when cooked Greek style!
- Fish and Shellfish: Greece is very closely linked to the sea and fish have been widely used in Greek cuisine since ancient times, while shellfish are plentiful in Greek waters and form the basis of a number of delicious dishes.
- Meat: In Greek cuisine, recipes with meat are mainly based on lamb, goat, pork or chicken while in recipes with minced meat, beef is most commonly used.
- Pies: Handmade Greek filo pastry is an art in itself, requiring experience and patience. Pies are found all around Greece, in different shapes and forms.
- Desserts and Coffee: ‘Spoon desserts’, ‘baked desserts’, syrupy desserts’ are among the most typical Greek desserts. Honey is one of the most used ingredients in Greek desserts, together with nuts, fruit and spices.
These healthy and delicious nutritional dishes for everyday or for special occasions are the perfect introduction to the art of Greek cooking. Savour delightful, nourishing dishes and enjoy a healthy diet, the Mediterranean way!