Greece is the word

Sarah Gamboni
22 January, 2016

Embrace the bold flavours of the Mediterranean with this laidback Greek menu, which includes a virtuous take on chicken souvlaki, plus garlicky squid, aromatic lamb and chocolate olive oil mousse, all expertly paired with Australian wines.

Greek chicken souvlaki

Chicken souvlaki
Makes 4

The word souvlaki simply means to cook something on a skewer, something Greek cooks have been doing for thousands of years: cooking skewers were found during excavations on Santorini which date back to the 17th Century BC. When rolling up a wrap, fold the bottom of the flatbread up slightly, to stop the filling falling out, then roll in from the sides.

300g skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp dried Greek oregano
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tbs olive oil, plus extra to cook
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ zucchini, shaved or sliced into thin strips
½ red onion, thinly sliced
4 warm flatbreads

200g Greek yoghurt
½ telegraph cucumber, grated, excess liquid squeezed out
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs finely chopped dill
½ tsp lemon juice
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil, or to taste

Combine chicken, spices, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil in a bowl. Season well, then cover and leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

To make the tzatziki, line a sieve with muslin or paper towels, set it over a bowl and pour the yoghurt into it. Leave to drain in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Discard liquid. Add cucumber, garlic and dill. Pour in lemon and oil gradually, seasoning with salt as you do so, tasting until the flavours are perfectly balanced. Chill until ready to serve.

To cook the souvlaki, preheat the grill to maximum. Thread the chicken onto metal skewers, then grill for 3-5 minutes each side, until the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat a chargrill pan or frypan over high heat with a little oil. Chargrill the zucchini for a minute or 2 until just beginning to brown. Stack each flatbread with tzatziki, chicken, zucchini and a little onion. Roll up and eat immediately.

Greek Kies

Wine match: Kies Family Wines Barossa Adelaide Hills Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

Crisp and fresh, this semillon sauvignon blanc has classic citrus from Barossa semillon and wild gooseberry from Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc, giving great
mid-palate depth and length, complementing the souvlaki’s bold flavours rather than being masked by them.
Winemaker Joanne Irvine

Greek squid 

Squid braised with garlic and rosemary
Serves 4 as a meze dish

4 tbs (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
Pinch of salt, plus more if needed
200g squid bodies and tentacles, cleaned, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbs red wine
1 tsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
¼ tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)

Place olive oil in a heavy-based pan and warm it over a gentle heat. Add the garlic and the salt and cook slowly until the garlic is beginning to soften. Now add the squid and the wine. Cover and cook gently on a low heat for 30 minutes.

After 20 minutes of cooking, add the rosemary to the pan and replace the lid for the final 10 minutes.

At the end of cooking, taste, add more salt if necessary and stir in the balsamic vinegar (if using). Serve immediately.

Shady Violet Pinot Gris

Wine match: Tidswell 2015 Shady Violet Limestone Coast Pinot Gris

From the Limestone Coast Vineyard, this wine is vibrant and refreshing with abundant green apple and citrus flavours, underlying mineral notes and hints of leatherwood honey. Balanced acidity creates a clean, crisp finish that cuts through the olive oil.
Winemaker Ben Tidswell

Roasted eggplant  & caper salad
Serves 4 as a side dish

This is a twist on a classic Greek salad. The smoky roasted eggplant and sharp capers work perfectly together. If you can get hold of some grey-coloured caper leaves (as in the photo), the salad will be even better. In Greece, even the caper leaves are preserved, rather than just the buds and berries.

1 eggplant
Lemon juice
100g cucumber, chopped into small chunks
200g (6 cups) salad leaves (I like rocket, spinach and mizuna)
1 tbs finely chopped red onion
Handful of kalamata olives
6-8 small ripe tomatoes, halved
1 tbs capers
Handful of parsley leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
100g good-quality feta

Place the whole eggplant directly on a gas ring and cook, turning regularly, for about 15 minutes or until the skin has blackened and blistered and the eggplant is collapsing. Alternatively, place under the grill and cook at maximum temperature, turning, until the skin is thoroughly charred all over. Set aside to cool for a few minutes. When cool enough to handle, place on a plate and cut from end to end, but not all the way through to the other side, opening the flesh out like a book. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving the blackened, ashy skin behind. Place the flesh in a bowl and squeeze over a little lemon juice to stop it discolouring. If necessary, chop it into bite-sized pieces.

In a large serving bowl, place the cucumber, salad leaves, onion, olives, tomatoes, capers and parsley. Drizzle over a little olive oil, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then toss. To serve, crumble over the feta and add the eggplant, then toss once more, very gently.

Greek food and wine pinot noir

Wine match: 2013 Hazyblur Kangaroo Island Pinot Noir

When served cold, the roasted eggplant salad calls for a lighter style red. This medium-bodied pinot noir from Kangaroo Island is lower in acid than many from the mainland and has good briary notes to meet with the olives. This wine entices with aromas of strawberry, bramble and briar rose perfume. Flavours of black cherry, plum and blackcurrant continue to unfold across the palate. Completing the picture is the smooth acidity, defined grip of white pepper and soft tannins to finish.
Winemaker Ross Trimboli

Greek lamb

Lamb kleftiko
Serves 4

You can make this with bone-in meat, but it will need a longer, slower cook. You can also swap the lamb for pork.

¼ cup (60ml) olive oil, plus more to cook
600g boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 onion, finely sliced
6 garlic cloves
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded, roughly chopped
2 large white potatoes, cut into chunks
80g hard goat’s cheese or Greek manouri cheese, cut into small chunks
Leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary
4 sprigs of thyme, broken into short lengths
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp roughly chopped parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a large metal roasting dish with 2 long sheets of baking paper, crossed over to form an ‘X’ shape.

Heat a little olive oil in a large, wide pan. In batches, brown the lamb all over, then remove from the pan and place in a bowl.

In the same pan, brown the onion over high heat with a bit more oil. Add to the lamb. Add all the other ingredients to the bowl (except the olive oil), season generously and toss gently to ensure everything is coated and the herbs and cheese are well distributed.

Pour the whole lot onto the centre of the double layer of baking paper. Fold the edges upwards to ensure no liquid can escape and pour in olive oil and 3 tablespoons water. Working with the top layer of paper first, bring the two overhanging edges together and fold them in on themselves, using small folds, until you have folded down to the lamb. Do the same with the second layer of paper to form a really good seal so no steam can escape.

Cook for 1½ hours. Rest the lamb in its parcel, out of the oven, for 15 minutes.
Bring to the table still wrapped and open to release the fragrant steam at the table.

Greek food and wine shiraz

Wine match: Poonawatta 2010 The 1880 Eden Valley Shiraz

Crafted from 130-year-old vines in Eden Valley, one of the region’s oldest vineyards, this deeply coloured shiraz is full of complex black fruit flavours, bramble, pepper spice and aniseed nuance. This precisely structured, elegant and finessed wine complements the slow-cooked lamb.
Winemakers Andrew Holt and Reid Bosward

Chocolate mousse

Olive oil chocolate mousse
Serves 4

A decadent dessert and a great way to make chocolate mousse without raw eggs. This is very rich, so serve small portions. Avoid using peppery or bitter olive oils, as those flavours will come through and clash with the chocolate. Make it even more decadent by stirring through 2 tablespoons of brandy or orange liqueur; or liven it up by adding a shot of cold espresso.

2 tbs flaked almonds
125g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
1 tbs caster sugar, plus more if needed
¼ cup (60ml) mild-tasting extra virgin olive oil
½ cup (125ml) double (heavy) cream
Pinch of fine salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of ½ orange, plus more to serve (optional)

Gently stir the flaked almonds in a dry pan over medium heat until lightly toasted. Set aside until ready to serve.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of just-simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water). Melt the chocolate and sugar together, stirring. Once the chocolate has just melted, mix in the oil and remove from the heat.

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks when you lift the beaters from the bowl. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly, but don’t allow it to set. Stir in the salt, vanilla extract, orange zest (if using) or any other flavourings, such as brandy, liqueur or espresso, now. Gently fold the chocolate mix into the whipped cream with a metal spoon, being careful not to knock the air out of the cream. Taste to check it is sweet enough and add a little more sugar if necessary.

Scoop spoonfuls of the mousse into 4 ramekins or individual serving dishes and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the almonds just before serving, adding orange zest, if you included it in the mousse.

Greek food and wine topaque

Wine match: McWilliam’s Show Reserve Topaque

With its luscious, complex palate of toffee, malt and nuts, the 25-year-old Topaque works a treat with this richly flavoured chocolate mousse.
Winemaker Russell Cody

 Feb Mar cover  

This feature originally appeared in the February/March issue of Halliday Magazine. It is an edited extract from The Islands of Greece by Rebecca Seal, photographed by Steven Joyce. 

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