Holding On To The Holidays: A Greek Feast To Bring It Back
One of my absolute favourite parts - in fact, probably THE favourite part - of going on holiday has got to be the food. Once booked, I find myself Googling local dishes and restaurants to find the best, the most wanted, the nicest menus and the coolest, most Instagrammable interiors. No, I’m joking. I’m not bothered about them being the best. Ha. Our recent break to Kassiopi (read my write up of this beautiful part of Corfu here) heralded the beginning of a passion for all things Greek cuisine related, mostly revolving around tomatoes if I’m being completely honest. You cannot beat a fresh, fragrant, juicy Greek tomato soaked in olive oil and oregano and salted to within an inch of its life. If you think you can, then tell me now. Every evening, we’d visit a different local restaurant and sample what they had to offer whilst watching the sun go down over the harbour. Oh, holiday, how I miss you.
Anyway, when we returned to Yorkshire, I tried really hard to keep the beauty of Greece and it’s gorgeousness with me. I stocked up the fridge with pale, cold rose wine; I sat on the decking with Buddy watching the sun go down; I slapped on the Dove to try and maintain my sun tan. But the memory of our week of mediterranean lusciousness remained and I got out the cook books to recreate those warm, hazy prawn filled nights. The best thing about cooking Greek food is the fact that it basically comprises of vegetables and protein. And much cheese, of course (quite a lot of cheese tbh), but aside from my kids obsession with chips, there was a real lack of heavy carbs in much of the local fare that we sampled.
My friend Bianca and her family were visiting the first week that we returned so I was keen to recreate the ambiance a la Kassiopi and worked out a suitably easy menu. I only do easy menus that can be prepped in advance - slaving over the oven whilst everyone else is eating canapés and chatting is not my thing at all. I compiled a shopping list of what appeared to be almost wholly tomatoes, had it Asda delivered and set to work. I Instagram Storied the preparation and I don’t think I’ve ever received such a huge response for recipes - the Baked Feta in particular sent my message box into overdrive. The menu and evening were a great success, aided by a significant amount of Pisco Sour and Aperol Spritz. I was so pleased with the outcome that I repeated pretty much the same array of food for a dinner party the following week.
What follows is exactly what I cooked. Aside from lamb, obvs, the rest can be adapted for vegan guests (just substitute the dairy with vegan dairy free and the prawns with tofu). Top tip - plan your shopping list so you have it all there ready to go and set aside the morning for all the prep, it takes less than three hours from start to finish to create all of these dishes. Add some flatbreads, a colourful tablecloth and copious amounts of cold rose and you are WINNING.
Baked Feta With Tomatoes & Olives
Baked feta is super popular in Greece and there are plenty of recipes to choose from. We really liked it wrapped in feta with honey, in fact we fought over it pretty much every dinner. Much as this was delish, it couldn’t really be described as a quick dinner dish - this one, however, can. Using lots of vegetables and with literally a five minute preparation time, it’s as healthy as it is yum. I serve it as a canapé starter, often doubling up the recipe with ease if there are more than four people. In fact, I’ve been known to triple it! I found this on the Feasting Not Fasting blog which is well worth checking out and have amended it slightly to suit my family.
YOU WILL NEED: 8oz block of feta; 250g of cherry tomatoes, halved (mixed colours are effective); 1 clove of garlic, sliced; 1 red onion, sliced; 1 red pepper, sliced (I use jarred peppers in oil); large handful of black olives, pitted and halved; 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley; 1 tbsp torn basil leaves; 1 tbsp oregano (dried is fine).
METHOD: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place feta in a dish, then arrange the vegetables on top and around. Scatter over the herbs and season with black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. When ready to cook, place in oven for 20 minutes. Serve with pitta bread and crudités.
The Main Event
Slow Roasted Greek Lamb
Lamb is a mainstay of Greek cuisine and we ate loads of it when we were in Corfu, each recipe more delicious than the last. When we returned home, I searched for one that was easy (an absolute essential when it comes to my recipe selection) and tasty and this one is perfect. It’s from John Torode on Good Food - he uses shoulder of lamb but I always use leg of lamb. You can literally leave it in the oven for five hours with no worries whatsoever. Again, slightly bastardised recipe. Sorry John.
YOU WILL NEED: 2kg leg of lamb; 1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated but skin on; 30g anchovies (tinned is fine); 10 tomatoes (whole); 6 carrots (cut into matchsticks or be lazy and buy predone like I do); handful each of fresh sage, rosemary and thyme (dried is fine too is you don’t have to hand).
METHOD: Preheat oven to 160 degrees and put oven shelf low. Pierce the lamb all over with a knife and then stuff an anchovy and a garlic clove into each slit. Do a quick fry in the pan to slightly brown the meat. Place the tomatoes, carrots, sage and rosemary in a good sized dish (I use silver foil turkey dishes for this as they are malleable) and put the lamb on the top. Scatter with the thyme. Cover the dish with foil, put in the oven and cook for four to five hours until it’s falling off the bone. Shred the meat in the dish, squash the vegetables and mix it all together. Top with a few herbs and serve.
THIS. This is my absolute fave dish of the holiday and I will NEVER tire of it. I rarely have time to source raw tail on prawns, but if you do, it is definitely a bonus. Mostly, I used raw king prawns which I defrost and then totally dry off before adding. Honestly, it’s a winner every time. This is the Delicious magazine recipe and it’s a good one.
YOU WILL NEED: 1 chopped red onion; 2 garlic cloves, crushed; 5cm fresh ginger (or a teaspoon of Lazy Ginger); a tsp of chilli flakes (depending on how hot you like it); 350g jar tomato passata; 50g pitted black olives, sliced; 4 sun dried tomatoes, chopped; 1 tsp dried oregano; handful of basil leaves plus extra to finish; 2 mint sprigs, leaves shredded plus whole leaves for garnish; 1 lemon; 1 tsp sugar; 24 large prawns, tail on (or I use four small bags of tail off raw frozen king prawns); 200g feta.
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a pan and cook the onion, garlic and ginger with a pinch of salt for ten minutes until softened. Stir in the chilli flakes, pasta, olives, sun dried tomatoes, herbs, a squeeze of lemon juice and the sugar. Season with salt and black pepper. Leave to simmer on low for about ten minutes. Check seasoning, add more lemon and salt and black pepper if required. You can then leave this on the hob until you are ready to eat. When ready, put the prawns on the top of the sauce, crumble over the feta and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the prawns are cooked. Garnish with herbs and black pepper.
ON THE SIDE
I’ve actually used a variation of this recipe in previous blogs, but this one is particularly good. It’s unbelievably simple but very tasty. It also makes loads and I keep them in the fridge for days after as they are a great accompaniment to any meal. You can also have them heated up alone with feta cheese on in cosy food, Nigel Slater stylie. This one comes from Good Food magazine and as per, I’ve mixed it up a bit.
YOU WILL NEED: 2 tins of butter beans, drained; 1 large onion, chopped; 2 garlic cloves, chopped; 2 tbsp tomato puree; 800g tomatoes, chopped (you can also use two tins if you are strapped for time); 1 tsp caster sugar; 2 tsp dried oregano; pinch of cinnamon; handful of chopped flat leaf parsley.
METHOD: Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Cook onion and garlic in olive oil for ten minutes until softened, then add tomato puree and cook for a further minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for three minutes. Add the drained beans, cook on a medium heat for 30 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked into a thick sauce. Pour into dish and scatter with parsley. You can cook in advance and then stick in oven in the dish for 20 minutes. This is lovely hot or cold.
Unbeatable, I couldn’t have a meal when on holiday in Greece without an accompanying Greek salad. Each restaurant seemed to have a different recipe but I like this basic one the best. Not only does it always taste super fresh and healthy but it’s also VERY Insta worthy. Priorities, obvs. Ha.
YOU WILL NEED: 6 large vine tomatoes, as nice as you can find, cut into wedges; 1 cucumber, peeled with a potato peeler, deseeded and then roughly chopped; one red onion, sliced; large handful of black olives, sliced; 1 tbsp dried oregano; half a block of feta cheese cut into squares, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
METHOD: Put all into a large bowl and mix together. Lightly season. End of.
Greek Courgetti Salad
If you’re also cooking for vegans (as I often am) then I always try and up my game when it comes to the vegetable options. This one is super easy and very tasty and takes literally about five minutes to make. I’m a big fan of a recipe that looks good with minimal effort. You’ll need a spiraliser for this one (I’ve got the Hemsley & Hemsley one and it’s brilliant) or you can make your life even easier and buy it predone from the shop. The recipe is from Sophie Godwin from Good Food magazine.
YOU WILL NEED: Half a cucumber; 60g vegan feta (Violife do one); 200g tub of marinated olives with sundried tomato (from the deli counter); 250g courgetti.
METHOD: Slice the cucumber thinly on the diagonal and crumble the feta. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl with a little extra virgin olive oil and season. That’s it. Super simple.
There are plenty of versions of this on the market but this one by Barney Desmazery on Good Food is my favourite. I’ve tried a few. It goes brilliantly with the lamb and the salads and also perfect with pitta bread.
YOU WILL NEED: Half a cucumber, halved and deseeded; 170g pot of Greek yoghurt; 1 garlic clove, crushed; handful of chopped fresh mint leaves.
METHOD: Grate the cucumber, sprinkle with salt and squeeze out all the liquid. You have to do this a couple of times. Put in a bowl with the yoghurt, garlic and mint and mix well.
Roast Pepper & Walnut Dip
This is the version that I serve alongside the tzatziki as the vegan option. It’s by Jennifer Joyce for Good Food and it’s super spicy. Again, great for keeping in the fridge and eating as a dip or alongside fish or meat for the following days.
YOU WILL NEED: 1 tsp each of ground cumin and smoked paprika, plus extra to serve; 6 tbsp olive oil; 100g walnut halves; 225 roasted red pepper from a jar, drained; 1 tbsp tomato puree; 1 crushed garlic clove; 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (you can substitute with lemon juice or red wine vinegar).
METHOD: Heat the cumin and paprika in the olive oil for a few moments. Add all the rest into a food processor and whizz, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the spiced olive oil and whizz again. If it’s too thick, add a spoonful of water. Serve with paprika and black pepper on the top.
Okay, so this isn’t strictly Greek but it’s a really refreshing dessert after all the lovely flavours you’ve experienced from the rest of the meal. I discovered this recipe on the Good Food magazine website and it was perfect too for my vegan guests. Delicious and a piece of cake to make, this served eight of us. Annoyingly, I forgot to take a photo as by this time we had drunk quite a lot of Vina Sol.
YOU WILL NEED: 200g granulated sugar; 500g raspberries (plus one large extra punnet to serve); 1 lemon, juiced.
METHOD: Put the sugar and 270ml of water into a saucepan on a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat and simmer for five minutes or until it becomes a syrup. Set aside to cool. Blitz the raspberries and lemon juice in a food processor, then strain through a sieve - this removes the seeds. Combine with the sugar syrup, then put into a freezer proof container and stick in the freezer for five hours at least. Have a look every hour and give it a stir. Serve in little dishes with raspberries on the side. Voila, super simple and super easy.
Easy hey? I think I can categorically say I’ll be making this menu fairly regularly for the next six months. We may not have the warm weather, but we can still relive the sunshine moments. Yamas, sweeties. PS: If you do make any of these, PLEASE story and tag me, I’d love to see.