Greece is home to a diverse range of dishes rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and seafood, and a number of other high-quality ingredients. Greek cuisine is recognised as being one of the healthiest in the world and has great nutritional value whilst remaining packed full of flavour. Mainland Greece and its islands typically experience a Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine due to its southern position in Europe which makes for successful farming. The Greek diet has remained constant over time with few changes and the recipes themselves are relatively simple which helps to appreciate the raw ingredients.
We’ve taken the time to put together the following article to suggest how you could begin to incorporate Greek cuisine into your everyday diet and help you become healthier with healthy Greek recipes. With everything going on this year, it is no surprise that people are looking to save any spare pennies and often don’t feel motivated enough to cook extravagant meals. Greek cooking can help you save time and money on difficult and unconventional techniques and ingredients without compromising on taste.
Traditional Ingredients and Dishes
The majority of traditional Greek recipes rely on only a handful of core ingredients including:
- Olive oil – used in a huge proportion of Greek dishes, particularly during cooking and for drizzling on salads. The fat in olive oil is unsaturated which means that it isn’t as bad for our insides.
- Fish and seafood – the large coastline means that fish is favourable over meat due to the wide availability.
- Fresh vegetables – Greek dishes often revolve around vegetables including tomato, onion, pepper, aubergine, potato, courgette, and garlic.
- Cheeses – feta, kasseri, mizithra, and kefalotyri most commonly.
- Meat – while most red meat is not very popular in Greece in comparison to the cuisines of other countries around the world, lamb is an exception.
- Herbs – the most frequently used herbs include basil, oregano, mint, and dill.
- Other – lemon, yoghurt, sausage, honey, olives, bread, and grains are some examples of other typical ingredients used regularly in Greek cooking.
Greece is notorious for its salads, grilled meat, bread, and cheese, but there is so much more to Greek cuisine than this small selection of dishes. Outlined below are some of Greece’s favourite delicacies which on the whole revolve around the ingredients previously mentioned:
- Moussaka – layers of fried aubergine, minced lamb, potato, onion, and garlic are topped with bechamel sauce and cheese before baking.
- Tzatziki – a dipping sauce made from Greek yoghurt, cucumber, mint, garlic, and lemon juice.
- Souvlaki – grilled meat on skewers typically served with tzatziki, pitta bread, rice, and salad.
- Spanakopita – usually consists of layered feta cheese and spinach wrapped in filo pastry but can also be filled with other vegetables or meat.
- Gyros – with similarities to a kebab, this dish involves grilled meat or cheese, salad, sauces, and sometimes chips wrapped all together in a flatbread.
- Baklava – small, sweet baked filo pastry stuffed with chopped nuts and soaked in syrup.
- Galaktoboureko – custard wrapped in crispy filo pastry and topped with syrup.
This is just a small preview from the endless variety of Greek food available.
Greek Food and Wine Pairing
Wine is a great accompaniment to a number of Greek dishes but due to traditional Greek meals consisting of several courses, finding an appropriate wine can be difficult. To avoid this issue, it is recommended that you focus on the primary part of the meal and select your wine based on that. Typically, tomato-based or meat dishes go well with a red wine whereas salads and foods with filo pastry are better suited to white wine. Rose is another wine which pairs well with Greek food and can often be used alternatively to whites or reds.
Below we have outlined some more specific wine pairings:
- Sauvignon Blanc – pair with Greek salads or appetizers such as dips and pitta or feta.
- Shiraz or Merlot – perfect with lamb dishes including souvlaki and gyros.
- Tempranillo – drink alongside moussaka.
- Pinot Grigio white wine – commonly paired with fish, seafood, and poultry.
In a world where vegetarianism is on the rise, Greek cuisine is becoming increasingly popular due to the primary focus on vegetables. While a number of dishes still involve meat, it is often the case that the vegetables in the meal are the priority and eating this type of food can help you to reduce the amount of meat you consume. There are also alternatives which can be incorporated instead if you wish to cut meat out of your diet completely.
While we appreciate that you might enjoy eating meat and don’t want to give it up completely, there are a number of health benefits that come along with a vegetarian diet. Removing meat from your diet can help reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. As well as this, reducing your meat intake can significantly benefit the environment and help to slow climate change. Every year, more and more forests are being destroyed to create space for livestock and is therefore reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that is absorbed by trees during photosynthesis. Additionally, the trees are often burned which releases even more carbon dioxide and overall, this can result in billions of tonnes of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere which in turn accelerates global warming.
With saving the environment and personal growth becoming a much larger priority for many in 2021, you can do your bit by eating more Greek food. Not only can this help you to become healthier but you can lower your carbon footprint without feeling like you’re missing out. By incorporating Greek cuisine into your everyday diet and making meat secondary to vegetables, you can experience these benefits without having to compromise on flavour and continue to enjoy food to the fullest.
Peter has been a keen blogger and amateur food critic for over 20 years. When eating and drink Peter loves spending time with his family and friends.