Food Eating In

Food - eating in

General tips

*Store cupboard. I stayed in Lipsi during the run up to an election. One evening there was an election rally in the village square. Everyone seemed to attend. The tavernas were shut. The shops were closed. I was staying in a studio with a well-equipped kitchen, but I had no food in. Since then I always try to keep a tin of something in, so that if there is another 'Lipsi' evening I can prepare some food. A typical standby would be a tin of gigantes, like broad beans in a tomato sauce. I know the tinned variety is cheating, and any self-respecting Greek cook would start with the dried beans but…………………….

  • Orange squeezer. If you don't have an orange squeezer in your room or kitchen, they only cost a few euros. Look for gadgets with the squeezing widget on top and a measuring jug underneath (you need a jug - Greek oranges are so much juicier than those you buy in England. I have had almost a tumbler of juice out of just one Greek orange).
  • Salad dressing. For dressing salads, instead of just olive oil, try this. Take a small empty water bottle, add some olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice (proportions according to your taste), and oregano, salt and pepper and shake. Any left over will keep for a day or so, and shake before each use.

*Pepper mill. Greek tavernas and restaurants (at least the sort I eat in) don't have pepper mills. I always take a pepper mill to Greece - a brass pepper mill I bought at a spice/herb/cheese/olive oil / and a lot more shop in Naxos. The mill part is very compact. There is a removable base to catch the ground pepper, which makes a very good egg cup!

Some simple breakfasts.

  • Greek yogurt, and honey (look for local honey).
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice. Especially when oranges are newly picked.
  • Boiled eggs. The yolks are usually a brilliant orange - I am sure it is natural, not a food dye!
  • A walk to the bakery for some fresh bread!

One of my favourite 'eating out' breakfasts in Greece is omelette with feta and bacon. I have tried cooking this in, but it usually ends up as a burnt and messy (but tasty nonetheless!) plateful.

Some simple lunches.

  • A beefy Greek tomato, a dribbling of Greek olive oil (look for local olive oil), a sprinkling of oregano (freshly picked) and some fresh bread to dip in the juices. Mmmmmmmm.
  • Perhaps add some feta cheese, a slice or two of red onion and you have a Greek salad.
  • A walk to the bakery for a cheese pie, or a cheese and spinach pie!

Some main meal ideas.

  • I usually stay in places where I have access to an electric hot plate or two, and a fridge, and a selection of pots, pans, crockery and cutlery. So I can in theory prepare meals. Usually I don't do much in the way of cooking - I prefer to eat in tavernas. But sometimes, especially in low season you may find that the only taverna is shut for a day or two. Or you may fancy eating something that is on sale in the shops but not available in the tavernas.
  • Enhanced gigantes. Gigantes (beans the size of broad beans) can be bought in tins. The tinned variety is a little bland, but makes a good starting point for a meal. The addition of bacon is not something I often see in Greece - I once ate gigantes cooked with bacon at a small taverna in Kea, and they were delicious.

Cut some bacon [available pre-packed in most grocers] into small pieces and fry in olive oil. Put gigantes into a pan with tomato and onion and garlic and oregano. Heat until tomato dissolves. Greek tomatoes behave differently to English tomatoes, and make a delicious sauce when they disintegrate. Try stabbing the skins of the gigantes - the skins are tough, and this will let the flavours permeate through the beans. Add the bacon. Carrots are often added to gigantes - so perhaps cook some carrots and add these as well. Add some fresh herbs at the end if you have any (try dill or parsley).

Perhaps make an extra dish of gigantes for the next day. Put some of the mix aside before you add the bacon. The next day add more tomatoes. If you add quite a bit of tomato and some water, the dish will be more like a bean soup.

  • Pasta and tomato sauce. Heat tomatoes, onion, oregano. [OK, if you like cook the onion first! In writing these notes I have assumed some basic cooking know-how!]. Add some feta, or buy some grated cheese. Serve with pasta.
  • Look what vegetables are in season.
    • Artichokes. Boil and serve with olive oil and lemon juice dip [squeeze a lemon with the juice squeezer, and shake with the oil in a water bottle].
    • Courgettes / zucchinis. Boil whole if small, or cut into chunks. Dress with olive oil and lemon, and perhaps a little garlic. Perhaps toss over the heat with the olive oil, lemon and garlic after cooking.
    • Briam. Briam is a mixed veg. stew. Choose what you fancy - tomato, onion, aubergine, courgettes, potatoes. Cut into small chunks and heat in a pan. Cut the chunks into sizes so that everything is likely to take the same length of time to cook. Be careful to get enough liquid. You can add water, but this may make the end result too liquid. Add olive oil, a drop of lemon juice, oregano, garlic. If you haven't managed to pick any fresh herbs, see if there are any in the grocers. You can keep them fresh by standing them in water. Parsley or dill, perhaps. Perhaps start out by heating the tomatoes. This is a dish that tastes as good, perhaps even better, when reheated the next day.
  • Fish. I love eating fish, but almost always eat it at taverna. The heads, the contents of the stomachs, the lingering smell - best leave the preparation and cooking to the experts. Then I saw a larger than usual fishing boat in the harbour with a larger than usual range of fish. The fish included a fish that looked like skate, one of my favourite fish in England. With skate you eat the wings, so no head or stomach contents to worry about. I asked the fisherman for one piece. He looked amused. The first revelation was that skate wings come in pairs, attached at the middle. Obvious when you think about it - if there was a not a pair of wings, the fish would be unbalanced. But I had not had reason to think about the layout of this bit (or any bit) of a skate's anatomy before. The pair of wings only cost 2 euros.

So now I had two skate wings to cook. What did I do? I had a large pan, but not large enough to take both wings. So I cut the wings apart. The 'bone' joining them is more like cartilage than hard bone, and is easy to cut. I did find that the wings curled up as soon as I started to cook them, so it might be possible to cook the two wings together in a smaller pan than you would otherwise think possible.

I put some water, a little olive oil, a little fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt, pepper and oregano into the pot and poached the fish over a gentle heat until I could see the fish starting to flake of the bones (if you don't know the fish, imagine something like a harp shaped comb - the fish is either side of the 'strings' , the flesh on one side thicker than that on the other. The fish was delicious, if a little bland. I cooked the second wing in the same liquid, adding more lemon, oregano, and this time some garlic. Another time I will try to pep up the fish a bit more. England black butter (almost burnt butter) is a traditional accompaniment to skate. If like me you don't use butter in Greece, you could buy an individual portion or two. In a restaurant in England I have eaten skate with capers - most Greek grocers sell capers. Or try serving the fish with the olive oil and lemon and oregano mix that some tavernas serve with grilled fish (shake the mix up in a water bottle).