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 lamb and eggplant, smothered in 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, making beef dishes less common in traditional fare. Many dishes are wrapped in filo pastry - including Greek classics such as spanakopita (spinach and feta) and the honey-drenched, nut filled dessert baklava. As for beverages, strong Greek 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.
View our Greek recipe collection here.
Mezedes are small plates of appetizers usually eaten before lunch. There are three types of meze: ouzo meze, wine meze and more recently, beer meze.
When cucumbers and tomatoes are at their summer best, there is nothing to match this fresh-tasting Greek salad. Seek out the best feta cheese you can find for this recipe.
Filo pastry is a staple in Dimitra's household and the key to great filo pie is that drizzle of butter between each layer and this complements the pastry perfectly.
In this recipe for slow-roasted lamb by Melbourne chef George Calombaris, the meat is tenderised by the yoghurt and honey and is full of classic Greek flavours. It is then cooked on the barbie to a perfect caramelised finish.
Skordalia is a sauce or dip usually made from potato and flavoured with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and parsley. This white bean version from George Calombaris is fast and delicious.
There is an art to getting the foamy crema, or kaimaki, on top just right when you brew coffee in a briki (a Greek coffee pot that is like a small saucepan). If you perfect this recipe, then you’re deemed to be marriageable!