In Greek culture, food is so much more than sustenance – it’s about culture, comfort, family and life itself. “If you grow up in Greece, you grow up with your mother chasing you around the house with a spoon,” jokes Greek-Australian chef Peter Conistis.  
1 Jul 2008 - 9:00 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

From one of the most ancient civilisations on earth comes simply prepared food that uses the best of what's in season and adds a little magic in the form of clever flavourings to help it sing off the plate. Greece's culinary tradition dates back hundreds of years and has evolved over time to absorb many diverse influences. Many well-known Greek dishes are in fact part of the larger tradition of the food of the Ottoman Empire, with classic dishes such as moussaka, börek and tzatziki having Arabic, Persian and Turkish roots.

From some of the best lamb dishes on earth to fresh seafood, vegetables, beans, pulses and, of course, good olive oil, Greek food is simple, colourful and incredibly nutritious. Like other Mediterranean cuisines, Greek food has a reputation for being heart healthy with its heavy use of olive oil, fish, lean meats, vegetables, herbs and grain, although some dishes can be quite rich, like the classic moussaka – a hearty dish made of layers of eggplant, potatoes and onion smothered in a white béchamel sauce and cheese.

Mezes (or mezze) refers to small dishes, which frequently help make up a main meal, served with salads, dips and pita bread. Besides the ever-present olive oil, other widely used ingredients and flavorings include eggplant, tomatoes, potato, okra, lemon, cheese, herbs and honey. Greece's climate favors the breeding of sheep and sheep, making beef dishes less common in traditional fare. Many dishes are wrapped in Filo pastry - including Greek classics such as spanakotyropita (spinach and cheese) and the honey-drenched, nut filled dessert baklava. As for beverages, strong Green coffee, retsina (white wine with pine resin added) and the 80-percent-proof anise flavoured Ouzo are all ever popular.

When Greeks taste something delicious, they have a lovely phrase "Yia Sta Heria Stas" which translates as "I kiss your hands", celebrating the skill of the cook.