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Gastronomy

Athens ..Gran Gusto

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Blessed with a rich topography, Athens boasts a rugged landscape of hills, of varying heights, where you can get lost by simply admiring the view. Add to that warm weather and several rooftops, and you understand why Athenians are fond of higher places. You cannot really  know a place if you don’t taste its food. So let’s do it , shall we ?

Greek cooking traditions date back thousands of years. Greeks today eat some of the same dishes their ancestors did in ancient times. These include dolmades(stuffed grape leaves) and many of the same fruits, vegetables, and grain products. A Greek, Archestratus, is thought to have written the first cookbook in 350 B.C.

The Greek diet has been influenced by traditions from both the East and West. In ancient times, the Persians introduced Middle Eastern foods, such as yogurt, rice, and sweets made from nuts, honey, and sesame seeds. In 197 B.C. , when Rome invaded Greece, the Romans brought with them foods that are typical in Italy today including pasta and sauces. Arab influences have left their mark in the southern part of Greece. Spices such as cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves play a prominent role in the diet of these regions. The Turks later introduced coffee to Greece. Potatoes and tomatoes were brought from New World after exploration of the Americas began about five hundred years ago.

Fresh fruits and vegetables play a large role in the Greek diet. With its long coastline, Greece also relies heavily on fish and seafood. Meat tends to play a less important role. It is often used as an ingredient in vegetable dishes instead of as a main dish. The islands and coastal areas of Greece favor lighter dishes that feature vegetables or seafood. In contrast, the inland regions use more meat and cheese in their cooking.

Here a non exhaustive  list of the culinary habits and restaurants we tried too

Greek Salad 

Greek salad can be found in restaurants worldwide, but in our opinion it is best on a warm summer’s day  – see their recipe below.

Ingredients:

½ small red onion, 1 cucumber, 300g cherry tomatoes, 1 bell pepper, a bunch of salad leaves, fresh basil, fresh oregano, 10-15 kalamata olives, 1 tbsp of capers, 150g feta cheese, 3 tbsp greek olive oil, 1 tbsp vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

Wash and cut vegetables, put them in a bowl. Add olives, capers, crumbled feta cheese. Season with salt, pepper, vinegar and Greek olive oil. Then enjoy!

Greek Coffee

Slowly enjoying a coffee under the warm sun with good company or a good book is practically a national pastime in Greece. In fact, Greeks love their coffee so much that owning a coffee shop is considered one of the safest businesses in the country: even when times are tough, who doesn’t want a cup of coffee?

Despite (or perhaps because of) Greece’s ongoing economic crisis, the number of quality coffee shops in Athens has mushroomed in recent years, and a rising cadre of professional baristas – a trendy title to hold nowadays – is taking pleasure in sharing their knowledge of coffee making and drinking.

As in the rest of the world, filtered coffee and espresso-based drinks have infiltrated Athenian cafés, which had previously stuck to serving traditional Greek coffee and what locals refer to as a frappé, a chilled concoction that took Greece by storm in the late ’60s and ’70s and hasn’t completely let go since. To make it, instant coffee, sugar and water are mixed together in a shaker or by hand until as frothy as meringue; the coffee is then poured into a tall glass and then ice and milk (regular or evaporated) are added according to taste. Most Greeks today prefer a freddo, an iced coffee prepared with espresso, to a frappé.

Gyros

The perfect sandwich if you are in a hurry and they can of course cook you a vegan version of it.

Ingredients: 

500g chicken thighs, cherry tomatoes, salad leaves, ½ red onion, tzatziki and 6 greek pitas

For the marinade: 1 tbsp coriander, 1 clove of garlic, 1 lemon, 2 tbsp of smoked paprika, chili flakes to taste

Method: 

Cut the chicken and marinate. Mix all the spices with juice of 1 lemon and olive oil. Mix well with the chicken pieces and let sit for 1 hour. Fry the chicken in batches, to caramelize well.

To assemble: wrap the chicken, tomatoes, onion and salad leaves in a pita, then add the tzatziki. Serve with crispy baked potato wedges on the side or add them in the wrap for extra yumminess!

Greek Cheese

The cheese making production is not new in Greece, but exists since ancient times. Even in Greek Mythology, the God Aristaeus, son of Apollo and huntress Cyrene, was the one teaching the dairy skills, amongst which also the art of cheese making. Greek cheese does not only play a role in Greek mythology and history…

Usually foreigners visiting Greece only have heard of or tasted the Greek “feta cheese”, but today Greece produces a wide variety of cheeses, all of excellent quality. Nearly every region or province in Greece produces their typical cheese.

Greek cheeses are made of cow milk (ageladino gala “αγελαδινό γάλα”), goat milk (katsikisio gala “κατσικίσιο γάλα»), and sheep milk (provio gala “πρόβειο γάλα»).

Greece applied to the European Union for 25 traditional Greek cheeses to be included in the “Protected Destination of Origin -products list” (PDO). Twenty one of these, were accepted and another four applications are pending. The  entire list of PDO cheeses is known as POP in Greek, “prostatevomeni onomasia proelefsis”.

In Athens you can find many shops specialized in all those cheeses. A good area to find those shops is in central Athens, around Evripidou street. Cheese is also used for delicious traditional Greek recipes.

Spanakopita

Spinach Pie as its known is a savory pie traditionally filled with spinach and feta cheese and wrapped in phyllo pastry. It’s so good, you have to try it,

See our recipe below.

Ingredients:

6 sheets of phyllo pastry, 800g spinach, 2 spring onions, 400g feta cheese, ½ bunch of mint, 1/3 bunch of dill, 2 sprigs of oregano, zest of 1 lemon and olive oil.

Method:

Filling: Chop and fry the onions, then add the spinach to the pan. Sauté the spinach until it loses most of the liquid. Place in a bowl, add chopped mint, dill, oregano, lemon zest, and the crumbled feta cheese. Add pepper and a little salt to taste, then mix well and let cool.

Assemble the pie: Brush the pie dish with olive oil. Cut 5 sheets of phyllo pastry into 4 squares (leave the last sheet whole). Lay the first 4 pieces on the bottom of the pan, letting them overlap and hang over the sides. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, then add another 4 pieces, repeat with the third sheet of pastry. Place the filling on top, then lay 2 more layers of phyllo pastry down. Don’t forget to drizzle oil between each layer. Finally take the last whole sheet of phyllo and place it on top. Fold the hanging pastry inside to make a rim.

Bake at 180’C for 40-50 min until golden in color. Remove from oven and let it cool slightly before tucking in. Enjoy!

Fasolada

fasolada

Fasolada was established as Greece’s national food during the dictatorship of Metaxas in the early 20th century, but the history of its preparation dates back to antiquity. Fasolada was a key element to “Pianopsia”, a custom celebrated in honor of god Apollo as part of a larger ritual called “Thisia.”
According to the myth, the semi God Theseus when heading to Crete in order to eliminate the Minotaur, stopped to the island of Delos where he performed a sacrifice to honor Apollo and swore that if he was the one to bring down the mythical creature he would offer ornamented olive branches to the God to thank him for his grace. In the seventh day of his victorious journey of return back home, there was barely anything to eat onboard so the sailors gathered everything they could and prepared a fasolada. Thus, Theseus established the celebration of “Pianopsia” (fasolada day) in order to thank Apollo for all his help.

Wine 

The custom of adding resin to wine dates back to ancient times; it is hardly surprising that the vine would, at some point, meet a neighboring pine, particularly in Central Greece, where the two grow in such close proximity. And while the discovery of wine itself has been attributed to a random event – a happy accident, if you will – the use of pine resin was quite possibly man’s first calculated intervention in the magical transformation that turns mere grape juice into precious wine.

How did this come about? Thanks to both its antiseptic and preservative qualities, thick resin from the Aleppo pine tree was first used to seal wine casks. It was also utilized to seal porous clay amphorae in ancient times, helping to ensure safer transportation and storage for the contents. Over the centuries, winemakers began to notice that the pine resin imbued the wine with a distinctive flavor and its use as a sealant became even more widespread. Later still, we find evidence of resin being mixed directly into the wine to improve its taste. Some vintners, it appears, even added whole pinecones to the clay jugs.

Café Frappé

During warm and sunny days and especially in spring and summer, Greeks prefer to drink the cold Frappe instead of the warm Greek coffee.

Dolmades

Greek Dolmades – Stuffed Grape Leaves (vine leaves stuffed with rice).

Anglais Athens  -Café 

We went at Anglais after a friends recommendation regarding the view.. Firstly, it has by far the best view among all the rooftops in Monastiraki square; you can gaze Lycabetus hill from the one side and from the other side you trip your sight among Acropolis and the ancient greek market. In addiction, the decoration with the light bulbs and the flowers makes you feel cozy as you were in your backyard and you can chill; a really nice combo.

Copyright video Lycabettus

Adress Kirykeiou 6Athens 10555, Greece (Monastiraki)

Bougatsa

Bougatsa can be sweet or savoury. it is a common Greek breakfast pastry consisting of buttery, flaky filo pastry with either a cheese filling or a sweet semolina custard filling.    

Ingredients:

  • 450 grams of filo pastry
  • ½ cup olive oil for the filo
  • 80 grams butter
  • 200 grams fine semolina
  • 1 litre of milk
  • 1 kilo feta crumbled finely
  • 2 eggs 2 egg yolks
  • Pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan
  2. Add the semolina stir well till mixed well with the butter
  3. Add the milk slowly mixing all the time so as the mixture does not form lumps 4. Remove for heat and add the eggs and egg yolks one by one mixing well after each one
  4. Allow the savoury custard to cool down
  5. Add the feta and pepper mixing well
  6. Layer the filo on the bottom of the shallow baking dish by oiling between each sheet of pastry
  7. Add the cheese mixture and cover with several sheets of pastry/filo oiling between each one. Fold in the edges and make sure you brush the top filo layer with melted butter.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven 200C for 40 minutes until the filo pastry is golden brown.
  9. Allow to cool down before cutting into bite sized pieces.

Falafels

Falafel plate with Mediterranean salad, hummus and pita from Grape Leaf Mediterranean.

Thanks to our guide Althea and our landlady Mrs Dothrakis for their help, tips and advices

List of restaurants

Fish Point for fish lovers: Archimidous 8, Athens, Pagrati-Platia Plastira Nikolaou 11635 Attica

Diporto Agoras for traditional greek food  9 Sokratous | Theatrou, PsirriAthènes 105 52, Grèce

Nolan for japanese food lovers:  31 Voulis Athina, 105 57 Greece

Cookoomela for vegan :Themistokleous 43-45, Athina 106 83

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