Salads and vegetables

Salads and vegetables

By
Pam Talimanidis
Contains
14 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742704869
Photographer
Mark Roper

The benefits of a diet based primarily on vegetables, olive oil and fish are well documented and the Mediterranean diet is widely recognised for its health-giving properties.

In our Greek village all the women and many of the men are devout church-goers. The Orthodox Church prescribes fasting days before many of the holy festivals and saint name days, as well as prohibiting the eating of meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. My mother-in-law, Yiayia, followed these dictates to the letter and would organise the family’s meals to be vegan on all of the prescribed fasting days. As our children got older they started objecting to this, so she would prepare a normal meal for the family, and then make a point of sitting down to dinner with one boiled potato on her own plate.

In Greece, meat is expensive and is eaten only once or twice a week. Arable land is too precious to be left uncultivated for grazing animals and instead they are grazed by a shepherd in a communal flock, roaming the edges of the roads and along the river in the evenings. Each paddock is farmed intensively and crops are rotated to alternately fertilise and rest the soil. Rocket and broccoli are now being grown commercially in the village as farmers have been forced to diversify, with the European Union withdrawing its subsidies for tobacco and cotton, previously the main crops grown in the area.

Every family in the village has a vegetable garden and aims to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Children arrive from the city at the weekends and leave with the car full of fresh fruit and vegetables from the family garden as well as containers of cooked casseroles and pita breads, lovingly prepared during the week and frozen for transport.

Spinach is grown in abundance and is used to make spanakoriso (spinach and rice) and spanakotiropita (spinach pie), or is added to soups. Dill, parsley, spring onions and green garlic are essential ingredients in most spring vegetable dishes and salads. Greens of all kinds (including dandelions, amaranth, endive and beetroot leaves), known as horta, are grown in gardens or gathered from the paddocks. They are steamed and served with a generous amount of olive oil and lemon juice, as a salad.

Spring and summer bring an abundance of vegetables to the Greek table in the form of casseroles eaten with bread and feta cheese. These are generically called lathera, from the Greek word ‘lathi’ meaning olive oil, as the vegetables are stewed in their own juices, with olive oil and herbs and sometimes with tomatoes. These dishes can be a mixture of many vegetables such as tourlou, or made with one particular vegetable such as broad beans (koukia), green beans (fassolakia) or okra (bamyies). To many Australians, these dishes seem to be overcooked as we are used to eating vegetables steamed, or slightly crunchy. But they are delicious, as the flavours cook together and you mop up the juices with a crust of bread.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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