Basic Greek Pantry
Aubergine: Large firm vegetable with a purple almost
blackskin is used in moussaka and many other dishes.
Bread: Bread is served with every Greek meal and
is often used to soak up any sauce, oil or juices on the plate.
Loaves are traditionally round with a light coating of flour.
Cheeses: Feta, kasseri, kefalotiri
and ricotta are commonly used cheeses.
Feta is a soft, moist white cheese made
from ewe's milk, creamy sometimes crumbly in texture.
Kasseri is a medium-hard, strongly flavoured
yellow cheese with a rind pressed into the shape of a cylinder.
Kefalotiri is a firm, dry, salty yellow
cheese with a tough rind moulded into the shape of a skull.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: The
most versatile and commonly used ingredient in Greek Cuisine.
Filo Pastry: Paper thin sheets
of pastry made from flour and water, used for both sweet and savoury
Garlic: Used fresh in Greek
cooking and available all year round.
Greek Coffee: Also known as
Turkish coffee, it is very finely ground to a powder. The coffee
is combined with water and sugar and cooked over a flame in a
cylindrical pot with a pouring lip called a "briki".
It is heated until it just reaches the boil and a thick froth
has formed and served in demitasse cups accompanied by a glass
of iced water.
Herbs: Oregano, thyme, mint
and parsley are used fresh and dried in Greek cooking.
Lamb: The most popular meat
used in Greek cooking. It combines well with almost any herb,
spice, fruit or vegetable. Lamb is particularly complemented by
olive oil, lemon, garlic and oregano.
Lemons: Used to flavour sauces,
soups, dips and syrups, to marinate and tenderise meats, and to
garnish meat, fish and poultry dishes during and after cooking.
Octopus: Baby octopus are
used for pickling or pot cooking. Do not salt octopus as this
will toughen the flesh. Larger octopus are less tender and need
to be pounded with a mallet, marinated for several hours or overnight
before being grilled or barbecued.
Olives: Kalamata olives are
the most commonly used today. They are black, firm-fleshed, slightly
sweet olives ideal for salads, and cooking.
Ouzo: Colourless, aniseed-flavoured
spirit, traditionally served in small straight-sided glasses,
often mixed with a little water.
Pulses: Brown lentils, chick
peas, black-eyed beans, broad beans, canellini beans and lima
beans are commonly used in Greek cooking. They are added to rich
tomato-based sauces to make soups or casseroles, or simply mashed
into a dip with oil and lemon juice, or served cold as a salad
with a dressing to taste.
Semolina: Both fine and coarse
ground semolina are used in sweets and cakes.
Spices: The main spices used
in Greek cooking are ground white pepper, cracked or whole black
peppercorns, ground or bark cinnamon, whole cloves and allspice.
Taramasalata: A highly flavoured
dip usually made from cod's roe, olive oil, lemon juice, mashed
potato or soaked and squeezed dry stale bread.
Tzatziki: Traditional yoghurt
dip made with thick yoghurt, grated or chopped seedless cucumbers,
garlic, fresh herbs, salt and pepper.
Vine Leaves: Available from
supermarkets and delicatessens in packets, fresh young leaves
are used. Soak vine leaves in warm water and rinse well before
using to remove excess salt.
Yoghurt: Firm, plain natural
yoghurt is always best for dips and cooking.