the greeks know how to cook vegetables. plus two recipes from the lovely lisa.

I’m on a mission this year (many missions) to get people to eat more vegetables. A recent study found that only 1 in 10 of us get enough of the stuff in our gobs. Amazing! What the heck are people eating?? Being Greek myself, vegetables have always been the largest component of meals. Which surprises many, I know. People think Greek food, they think souvlakis and lamb gyros. Tsk tsk.

Being a historically ‘poor’ country, most Greeks had very little access to meat. Meat was something saved for special occasions; village festivals, baptisms, Easter etc. So ensued a cuisine rich in hearty and nourishing vegetable, legume and bean dishes. Really, if you look through a Greek cookbook, you’ll find that most recipes are vegetarian. And if you visit Greece you’ll find most dishes on restaurant menus are vegetarian. Imagine my delight in finding Lisa, who is two things you'd think were mutually exclusive – Greek; Vegetarian. 

Lisa is the talent behind the aptly named blog Greek Vegetarian – it’s the place to go for a plethora of amazing veggie dishes – and I invited her to share with us her take on the Greek cuisine and two of her favourite veggie-full recipes - 

You might be surprised to know that meat is not really considered an essential component of the Greek diet. In fact, for a significant part of the year, many Greeks observe fasting periods such as those leading up to Easter and Christmas, which means abstaining from meat, fish and sometimes even eggs and dairy products.

Today's Greek diet is still rich in fresh produce and unprocessed ingredients, making it one of the healthiest in the world. Not only has it been found to protect against heart disease and stroke, but studies show that the Mediterranean diet lessens your chances of developing cancer, diabetes and obesity, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

When I think of classic Greek flavours I'm tasting tomatoes, figs, eggplant, cucumber, oregano, parsley, garlic, bay leaves, honey, olive oil, red wine, feta cheese, cinnamon, pistachio nuts, almonds and so many other ingredients too numerous to mention. Two of my favourite Greek vegetable dishes showcase some of the simplest ingredients and are really easy to prepare:


Lentil and Roast Vegetable Stew (Fakkes Stifatho)



Lentils have been a part of Greek cooking for millennia. High in protein and packed with minerals, the ancient Greeks knew they were on to something when they introduced lentils as a staple in their diets over 8,000 years ago. My Lentil and Roast Vegetable Stew is the perfect slow-stewing pot of goodness for a therapeutic Saturday afternoon in the kitchen.

Serves 8

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large onions, finely chopped
1 bunch of celery, finely chopped
5 carrots, cut into 2cm rounds
5 zucchinis, cut into 2cm rounds
6 fresh tomatoes, blanched, skin removed and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups dried brown lentils
500ml vegetable stock
4 cups water
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra oil for roasting vegetables
Thick Greek yoghurt and sweet paprika to serve (optional)


Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.

In a large, heavy-based pot, fry onions and celery in olive oil over low heat until softened and lightly golden.

While onions and celery are cooking, place carrots in a lightly oiled baking dish and roast in oven for 20 minutes. 

Add zucchinis to baking dish and roast for another 20 minutes or so, until zucchinis are starting to brown.

Add tomatoes, lentils, vegetable stock, water, bay leaves, honey, cinnamon and oregano to the onion and celery mixture and stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring stew to the boil, lower heat and simmer, covered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Add roasted carrots and zucchinis to stew, stir gently and simmer for another 5 minutes. You want the roasted vegetables to retain their caramalised coating, so don't allow them to cook in the stew for too long.

Serve topped with a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt and a light sprinkling of sweet paprika.

Flomaria Pasta with Hearty Mushroom Sauce


Flomaria pasta is an egg noodle native to the island of Limnos, where my dad's family is from. Village ladies of the island have developed specialised techniques of hand-cutting the pasta to make two different types of Flomaria – fine strands like pieces of string, and flat, narrow strips like linguine. 

If you don't do pasta, this sauce is equally terrific on a bed of mashed potatoes or brown rice - Maria.

Serves 8

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 kg of Portobello or Swiss Brown mushrooms, sliced
3 large onions, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooked Flomaria* pasta to serve
Feta cheese to serve

* You can find Flomaria pasta in good Greek delis, otherwise any good quality, free range egg linguine or fettuccini pasta will suffice.


In a large, heavy-based pot, fry onions in olive oil over low heat until soft and transparent.

Add mushrooms and bay leaves, stir and fry for a couple of minutes.

Cover and allow onion and mushroom mixture to steam over low heat for 15 minutes.

Add garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and fry for another minute or so.

Serve spooned over pasta, topped with crumbled feta cheese.


Images by Lisa. Check out more of Lisa's healthy vegetable dishes over at her blog Greek Vegetarian.



10 comments:

  1. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to guest post on your blog today Maria :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing your delish recipes :)

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  2. What great recipes!! As a beef cattle farmer , I am always looking for ways that don't have too much meat because we conscious of our meat consumption(because it available all the time!)
    Love these recipes lisa.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can imagine the temptation is great!

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  3. Wonderful!!
    Many many kisses from Greece

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  4. Great recipes Lisa. Congrats!

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  5. It is extremely difficult to conduct studies that would control the many variables that might affect nutrients, such as seeds, soil type, climate, postharvest handling, and crop variety. Hope you would be using OBE Organic right?

    ReplyDelete

 

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