Category Archives: Main dish

Cumin lamb

cumin lamb

Pan, god of the mountains, protector of hunters and fishermen, son of Hermes and the nymph Dryopi had α goat’s horn on his head as well as goat’s hoofs instead of feet.  When he was born, his mother horrified from the look of the hairy child smiling at her, deserted him.  His father, Hermes wrapped him in a hare’s skin and took him to mount Olympus.  All gods were enchanted by his charm and playful demeanor, so Dionysus named him Pan (“All” in Greek) since all gods adored him.  Pan was cheerful, amorous, always in love with a nymph and played his flute in such a melodic way that sounded like the song of a nightingale.   His favorite place was the caves of Arcadia where he lived dancing and scaring away the goat herds, with his shrieks.  The word “panic” is derived from Pan and the sudden flight from the dreadful situations he brought about. Continue reading

Corfu’s Pastitsada

Corfu's pastitsada

Corfu’s olive trees, spreading and gnarled with luxuriant age, dapple the island in a silvery green mist, punctuated like exclamation marks by dark, slender cypresses.  The hedges are garlanded with honeysuckle in spring, and fireflies flash green globes through the nights of early summer, when the fields are carpeted with wild lupine and cyclamen, daisies and celandines.  Corfu is the only place I can think of where the bird song is sufficiently strident to wake you at dawn, and it is certainly the only place where I have felt impelled to photograph sheep.  Grazing at the roots of olive trees, they are rather special, not like plain sheep at all but with long fleeces, narrow, rather intelligent faces and a coronet of curls on top their heads.  Although only about forty miles long and two miles wide at its narrowest point, Corfu is too unwieldy to be toured in haste.  Its very separate areas, each on different routes out of town, should be savored one by one.  Some beautiful landscape borders the east coast corniche road that follows the mountainous shoulder of the island, facing the Albanian coast.  Beyond Dassia and Ipsos the objective is Nissaki, a little hamlet of great charm, wondrous views, one tavern, and a steep, gray-pebbled beach from which one plunges into deep, buoyantly clear water.  (Extract from “Gourmet” magazine of an article written by Doone Beal in 1972).

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Stuffed eggplant slices

stuffed eggplant slices

Philosophy began in the small Greek cities of Ionia on the west coast of Asia Minor around 600bc.  There some men first had the freedom and audacity to ask fundamental questions about the universe.  Their answers, if sometimes inaccurate, were never absurd.  However most of our knowledge of them comes only through Aristotle, writing 200 years later.

One of them, Thales from Miletus (c.625-547bc) is considered the first known philosopher and natural scientist.  He predicted the solar eclipse of the 28th of May, 585bc which stopped a battle between the Lydians and Medes, both being superstitiously terrified.  He also regarded the earth as spherical,  a truly radical idea, reaching this conclusion not through divine revelation or Scripture but by observing and thinking. Extract taken from “the Ancient Greek World-People and places” by Nigel Rodgers Continue reading

Mackerel with bulgur

mackerel with bulgur

“Of course the Greeks too had their roots in the primeval slime.  Of course they too once lived a savage life, ugly and brutal.  But what the myths show is how high they had risen above the ancient filth and fierceness by the time we have any knowledge of them.  Only a few traces of the time are to be found in the stories.

We do not know when these stories were first told in their present shape; but whenever it was, primitive life had been left far behind.  The myths as we have them are the creation of great poets.  The first written record of Greece is the Iliad.  Greek mythology begins with Homer, generally believed to be not earlier than a thousand years before Christ.  The Iliad is or contains the oldest Greek literature; and it is written in a rich, subtle and beautiful language which must have had behind it centuries when men were striving to express themselves with clarity and beauty, an indisputable proof of civilization.   The tales of Greek mythology do not throw any clear light upon what early mankind was like.  They do throw an abundance of light upon what early Greeks were like-a matter, it would seem, of more importance to us, who are their descendants, intellectually, artistically, and politically, too.”   Extract taken from “Mythology” by Edith Hamilton. Continue reading

Greek meat pie

greek meat pie

In Ancient Greece, many culinary texts have been written but only a few have survived throughout the centuries.  The most famous as well as the most valuable of all is “the Deipnosophistae” which means “Gastronomers discussing on various matters, during dinner” and consists of fifteen books written by Atheneaus of Naucratis, a Greek scholar that lived from 170 to 240 A.D. mostly in Alexandria.  Unfortunately, from the first three only fragments and quotations exist.  These books are a treatise on all aspects of ancient life.  Athenaeus has compiled literary works from Ancient Greek writers and cooks and synthesized them in an anthology that is still modern, timely and easy to read today. They contain detailed notes on culinary preparation and ingestion of food from the times of Homer (around 800B.C.) and forward, as well as anecdotes, poems and citations from philosophers and play-writers.

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Quail roasted in vine leaves

quail

Ancient Greeks are the world’s earliest people to seriously delve into the origin of things, their roots and all the subjects of their time and their daily lives, so besides the oral myths they started writing history, whether as mythologists, geographers, poets or even comic writers.  The order of the cosmos, every aspect of nature and the human functioning within it became a major study. They have been obsessed with analysis and rational order in every aspect of nature and the way it coheres with humans, thus there is plenty of literature concerning their sustenance from their primitive tribal existence to the classical era (5th-4th century bc) as well as the Hellenistic age following the conquests of Alexander the Great.

They developed a true gastronomic tradition which flourished in the agricultural colonies of the western Greek world, in Sicily and southern Italy as well as, during Ptolemaic and Roman times, in Alexandria, the capital of Egypt, at that time.  We have information about glorious meals hosted by the Mycenaean kings to plethoric banquets of the last sovereigns of the Hellenistic era. Continue reading

Stifado

stifado

Stifado is a famous Greek dish that can be enjoyed in most Greek tavernas and restaurants all over the world.  It is actually a stew, cooked with lots of spices and onions which release their wonderful juices, always in a covered pan.  Some may think that has an old Venetian origin-stufado, but in reality this method of cooking dates back in ancient Greece and its name is a derivative of the Greek word tifo («τύφω») which means “to burn slowly” as well as “to fill with fumes” (Dorbaraki etymology dictionary of the Ancient Greek language). Both translations are used in preparing stifado because the fire has to be the lowest possible and the meat is actually cooked from its fumes. Back then the dish was cooked without tomatoes since the tomato was introduced to Greece after the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, the 16th century.  Continue reading