A key ingredient in many dishes and appetizers, the many varieties of cheese include Feta (a sheep or goat's milk cheese that is salted and cured in a brine solution); Haloumi (a cheese from Cyprus that is usually fried before eating but it can be eaten raw and is popular as a salad with watermelon); kasseri (a mild soft cheese); Kefalograviera (a hard, salty cheese); Kefalotyri (a Greek version of pecorino); Piperati (a barrel-aged piquant cheese with a creamy flavour that is used for Greek salad and is of a higher quality than other fetas).
Filo pastry is tissue thin sheets of pastry that need to be brushed with oil or melted butter before cooking. Used in many ways to wrap or roll fillings that can be either sweet or savoury. These days not many people make it from scratch as it’s a time-consuming effort. In Australia the brand most popular with Greeks is the Antoniou brand which is kept in the fridge – rather than frozen – and comes in white, wholemeal, thick and thin varieties. The thicker variety is for savourites; the thinner dough for sweets.
Masticha is unique to Greece. Masticha is the sap produced by trees that grow only on the island of Chios. It is used in the making of ice cream, sweets, chewing gum and liqueur and also has medicinal and pharmaceutical properties. It has an earthy musk vanilla flavour.
Strongly associated with Greek cuisine, many varieties of olives are popular including kalamata (small, mammoth, colossal and super colossal); Throumbes (from the island of Thasos are sun-dried olives with a raisin like flavour); and Tsakistes (cracked green olives).
There is a very strong connection between Greeks and olive oil. It is the main oil used both for cooking and for dressings on salads and dips. Olive oil also has a religious connection as it is used in the christening ceremony.
Dried Greek rigani
Rigani is a Greek style of oregano. The flower buds are used more than the leaves. Oregano is the commonly used substitute but the taste is mild in comparison. Other herbs used abundantly in Greek cooking are fresh parsley, dill and mint.
Greek cooking uses lots of lemon in many ways, both whole, zest and juice.
Another essential component of Greek cooking both fresh and canned.