A Greek Clean Monday

Clean Monday (Greek: Καθαρά Δευτέρα),  is the first day of Great Lent in the Orthodox Christian Pasha. This day is also called Koulouma.

This day in Greece is celebrated as a National Holiday. The whole family gathers around a table full of mezethes, made specially for the day. If the weather allows it, it also involves outdoor acitivities of flying kite and Maypole which is a custom brought from the refugees in Greece, but also has special dishes such as lagana, halva, tarama and various others.

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Kite flying

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The Maypole Dance Custom(Γαιτανάκι in Greek)
Gastronomical Customs of Greece
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The most famous eating costume is that of Lagana, that is unleavened bread made just  for that day. It is a flat bread with sesame, which is made with yeast and is ususally oval shaped. Every bakery shop in Greece is selling tons of Lagana bread on this day!
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The other famous delicacy of the day is tarama salad, made with preserved fish roe. It is made with olive oil or sunflower oil, fish roe, bread and onions.
Among these foods, there is also a loved delicacy. The famous Dolmathes or dolmadakia.
They are made with vine leaves and filling of rice and herbs. It is a difficult handmade process that requires experience and knowledge, but that is what makes this dish so special.
Another sweet delicacy of the day is Halvas.

Halvas is called the dessert made with sesame paste and glucose syrup, often found with almonds, cocoa or vanilla. Τhis halva is very nutritious as it contains sesame which is one of the Greek superfoods.

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There are also other 2 types of halva.The semolina halva made with semolina, olive oil, sugar and water & Halva Farsalon which is made with corn flour, sugar, olive oil, water and almonds.
semolina halva with carrot sweet preserve

Semolina Halva

farsala type halva with caramel

Halvas Farsalon

There are many other dishes that are enjoyed on Clean Monday. Some prepare giant beans in tomato sauce, seafood like mussles and shrimp in tomato sauce, or fried in olive oil. Other enjoy a shrimp spaghetti dish, or a mydopilafo which is rice with herbs and mussles.

Clean Monday is a day that we have fun, spend time with our loved ones and enjoy valuable moments with great tastes.
Are there any culinary customs in your country?
Have a Great Clean Monday!
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Sarakosti & Greek cuisine

April-ShowersApril is here to stay and we are in the middle of the Orthodox Lent -Sarakosti-.

Sarakosti is also an important fasting period for Christians. It is an important part of the religion but also an important part of Greece’s folklore history and tradition. It mainly includes the fasting of meat, fish and animal byproducts. It starts with Clean Monday, and ends on Holy Saturday.

There are some  fasting foods enjoyed throughout this period, such as taramasalata, horta (greens), grilled seafood, traditional lagana bread, black eyed peas, giant beans in tomato sauce and many more. On Shrove Monday, the table contains many of them and even more!

Here are a few of some delicious appetizers and dishes that we traditionally consume during Sarakosti.

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Lagana as we described above, is the staple bread of this period! Here in Greece every bakery is preparing lagana these days.Lagana is a flat bread with sesame seeds. Many try to bake it at home, with exciting results!

If you want to try this style bread at home, give a look at this recipe:

http://mylittleexpatkitchen.blogspot.gr/2013/03/the-lagana.html

Taramasalad

http://www.m38378b1aefdab3385e127b6338f78ef0ygreekdish.com/recipe/taramasalata-recipe-greek-fish-roe-dip-taramosalata/

Its basic ingredient is taramas, which is carp’s or other fish’ eggs. The preserved fish roe is mixed with olive oil, dry bread, onion and lemon juice until the result is creamy. The taste of this dip is irresistible. You have to try it at least once! It’s not typical in its ingredients, but the taste result will compensate you. Here in Greece, we consume it mostly in the feast of the orthodox Pasha.

Below you will find the recipe for the Greek traditional Halva, which is made with semolina.

Semolina Halva

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Ingredients
1 cup olive oil
2 cups coarse semolina
3 cups sugar
4 cups water
cinnamon
almonds
pine nuts
blonde raisins

Heat the olive oil in the pot, and add the semolina. Slowly roast the semolina, constantly stirring. When it has a darker richer color, add the sugar and water. Be careful, big hot blisters of halva are going to pop, so use an oven glove and protect your hands. Stir constantly over low fire until the mixture is detached from the pot. Add ½ spoon cinnamon, some pine nuts, almonds and raisins and give it a few more stirs. Pour the mixture in a form and let it cool.

Patties_07Chick peas Patties

One day before we put the chickpeas in water to swell. Next, thoroughly dry chickpeas and mash a few in food processor. Then chop (by hand rather than in a food processor) other materials, add the chickpeas and mix well. Allow the mixture to rest for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.
In a deep frying pan put some olive oil and place over medium heat. Shape small balls with the mixture, roll them in flour and fry until they are golden. If you want, accompany the dish with slices of lemon and tahini sauce.

Ingredients:

2 cups chickpeas
2 large onions
3-4 spring onions
1 bunch dill
1 bunch mint
1 bunch parsley
Salt Pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
flour

Do you know other interesting recipes? Share with us!

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Vasilopita the pie

“Vasilopita” cake is the dessert – symbol of New Year and is connected with the feast of St. Basil, from which it took its name.

vasilopitaWe find it in many forms and different ways of preparing, in all Greek houses, urban and rural. Made mainly with flour, eggs, sugar and milk and most commonly on the surface is written the number of the New Year with peeled almonds.

Inside the dough is placed a coin and whoever finds it is the lucky person of the year.  In some rural areas instead of coin they used to place a piece of straw, vine or olive strand depending on the production area, and whoever found it would have a good harvest during the year.

The cake is cut and shared with a ritual in the night before the New Year, right after the year change!

There is, however, the Christian tradition for the custom of New Year cake.

When St. Basil was bishop in Caesarea of Cappadocia, the perfector of Cappadocia wanted to plunder the city. St. Basil asked the city’s wealthy citizens to collect cutlery that could deliver as “ransom” to the conqueror. They gathered many valuables. However , according to the tradition the city was saved either because the perfector regretted, or because of a miracle with St. Mercurius and numerous angels removed his army from the province.

flouri_konstantinatoBut in order for St. Basil to return the valuables to the citizens, not knowing who owns what, he instructed to prepare small loaves into which he placed one of the coins or valuables and distributed them to the citizens the next day. The tradition continued in the memory of the day of his death, January 1st.

Newer versions of this tradition from Pontus and Asia Minor show St. Basil winning the collector of taxes on gambling and then distributed them with small breads or a big pie.

In Athens it is common to serve the so-called “Politiki” Vasilopita which is produced mainly from flour, eggs, sugar and milk, manufactured in various sizes and types, but is usually inflatable, fluffy and sweet. Other Vasilopita recipes are served throughout Greece, with spices , fruit etc.

In western Macedonia instead of Vasilopita they serve a cheese or leek pie. Basic but common feature is that inside they have a coin, usually an ordinary one but in some cases gold (“Constantinato”) or silver.

Then Vasilopita is cut on the table, in which the family is sitting. The landlord after the “crossing” of the pie with the knife three times, starts to cut into triangular pieces offered in each attending family member or friends and relatives. First piece is for the house (or the Christ, the Virgin Mary and Saint Basil), and the line continues with the landlord, landlady, family members and guests, with the last piece going for the poor, without of course forgetting any immigrants, patients and other family persons who for various reasons weren’t able to attend.

Vasilopita

Ingredients

850 g. flour
100 gr. beer yeast
6 eggs
180 g. butter
180 g. sugar
 1 level tablespoon salt
100 gr. Sugared fruits cut in small cubes
100 g. raisins
zest of one orange

Preparation

IMG_8705Mix 100 g. flour with yeast, previously dissolved in warm water thereby making a dough and leave in warm place for 3 hours. Knead in remaining flour with whole eggs, butter dissolved, sugar, salt and leaven uploaded. We continue to work the dough for a while until it “thickens”. Add the chopped fruits, raisins and orange zest.

Allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume . Place in mold and bake the pie at 180 Celsum degrees for about an hour. Leave at least for half a day, before serving.

Back to school Vol.2

New school year has begun, and everyone is trying to organize the daily routine, which requires a lot of time and energy. We gathered some interesting recipes of Greek inspired quick and easy meals, suitable for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, that will save you a lot your valuable time. They’re also suitable both for kids and grownups.

Lack of time, brings lack of creativity sometimes. You can “save” this post, to read it every now and then in times of need!

  1. Greek Burritos!

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http://kokocooks.com/2011/09/greek-burritos/

The classic Mexican dish with a Greek scent. You can prepare lots of them and put them in the freezer, so whenever you don’t have the time to prepare something new, you can defrost them. It is delicious, aromatic and everyone is going to love the flavors. Suitable for lunch and dinner.

  1. Feta, Olives and sundried tomato Bread

999http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/12424/kalamata-olive-sundried-tomato-and-feta-bread

A recipe for every hour of the day! Hand-kneaded soft bread with mixed in pitted olives, feta crumbles, and sundried tomatoes. You can experiment adding fresh or dried herbs. You can put in the freezer in small balls the size of a hamburger, in order to defrost and bake, so you have fresh bread every time you need it.

  1. Greek Yogurt – Fruit Cake

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http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2015/03/30/greek-yogurt-fruit-tart/

A really simple and mouthwatering tart with no baking involved. Perfect way to incorporate fruits in a “dessert” recipe. Greek yogurt makes it creamy and fresh.

11http://www.juliasalbum.com/2014/10/peach-and-blueberry-greek-yogurt-cake-recipe/

A juicy cake recipe with peaches, blueberry and of course Greek yogurt.

  1. The meatless Feta sandwich

 12http://thefoodcharlatan.com/2013/08/02/grilled-squash-red-pepper-and-feta-sandwich/

A no meat delicious sandwich, which includes oven baked vegetables, with the addition of feta cheese chunks. A simple alternative to the old fashion cheese n ham sandwich. Use your imagination to create other interesting combos, a sandwich bread is the kind of canvas to paint on! You can even let kids choose their ingredients or make it something like a buffet, with a list of various fillings to pick from.

  1. Savory Feta muffins

13http://thecookspyjamas.com/savoury-feta-and-olive-muffins/

A different recipe for a savory muffin with delicious feta cheese and Greek olives. It’s easy, you make a batch of them and of course you can freeze them in order to use them up on a busy day.

Do you have other Greek inspired Ideas or recipes to share with us?

Find other interesting recipes here:

DIY|Summer Mediterranean Salad

hot weather

Officially, summer is here!

Our clothes are fewer, our smiles are bigger, the mood is getting better, and the food portions we consume are getting smaller. We generally try to avoid fatty foods during the summer, our bodies don’t need so much energy to make it through the day. We choose refreshing light meals that won’t keep us down.

So, I have a question for you! How do you feel about legumes salads? Salads with lentils, beans, split peas, peas etc?https://i0.wp.com/www.raw-living-food-success.com/images/Beans.jpg

Legumes are an important part of the Mediterranean Diet. In Greece we are used to consuming legumes at least once or twice a week. We are consuming large peas known as “giants”, lentils as a soup, split peas as a mousse, chickpeas as a soup or in the oven, and many more.

The first time I tasted legumes as a salad, I think I will remember it for a long time. I had not even seen it as a trend around the internet. I was in a comfort-food type of restaurant, in the alternative heart of the city, Keramikos. Since I like exploring new tastes, I ordered it from the menu right away.

It was a lentil salad, with carrot sticks, lots of parsley, feta cut in cubes, vinegar-olive oil dressing and ground black pepper. The taste was so refreshing and interesting, I was so happy to taste “boring” legumes in a different recipe.

Ingredients photos saladSince I knew that legumes is such an important nutrition source, containing significant amount of protein, I was glad that I was able to cook it differently, and set up a new recipe directory with the name “Legumes salads”.

Soon after I discovered it, it was already everywhere. On Pinterest, on foreign and Greek sites as well, in every respectable restaurant of the town, in every salad list etc. It had become a different dish, made with the same old materials that nonetheless gave it a new perspective.

If you know the basics in the kitchen, and you have enough imagination in order to experiment, the road is open and the dogs are constrained. (a famous Greek saying, meaning you are free to act as you will)Salad Recipe

I started experimenting with all kinds of legumes, lentils, chickpeas, peas, splitpeas, green peas etc. Not all of my experiments were crowned with success. However, I found where my taste met my capability, and this was somewhere near the Mediterranean bean salad.

So, from now on when it’s the legumes day of the week, one in two weeks I will experiment with a salad.

Waiting for your thoughts and comments!

Fenia Karkantzou

Marketing Manager | Greek Brands

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DIY Greek Christmas

merry_christmas_new-wide

Christmas: the time of the year everyone is waiting for!

What does it actually mean to have a Greek Christmas time?

Christmas is connected with the values of family, friends, love and compassion. Christmas time is already here and kitchens start to smell like cinnamon and spice .The holidays are full of family dinners, name days and many occasions for gathering and eating together. It is a wonderful opportunity to dress up, gather with your loved ones and arrange a festive lunch or dinner to celebrate.

Every region of Greece prepares its own local Christmas dishes. Each area specializes in a dessert, a main dish, or even an ingredient. That way we have a plethora of genuine traditional recipes that represent us in local and national level.

Preparation of the dinner is a family procedure. One way or another every family member is involved into it. The “cook” decides what dishes to prepare and the grocery list is getting ready. Then it is time for shopping and in-house arrangements. Regarding recipes, a typical start for a festive dinner would be a warm comforting chicken soup ,by Kenton Kotsiris, ideal for welcoming your guests. This soup is made with a technique called “avgolemono”, when whisked egg whites are added into it and gets a thicker creamier texture.

A less typical but authentic Greek recipe from Diane Kochilas is that of leek tart with metsovone cheese, a smoked P.D.O. Greek cheese with rich flavor.This recipe would be ideal as a cozy appetizer as it is preparing the guests for more intense flavors up next.

Roasted turkey is a relatively new addition to the festive main dishes. Most traditional main course dishes ask for meat like pork or lamb cooked either in the oven, or in casserole. One classic Greek recipe is pork with lemon and celery, or with dry fruits and nuts. The side dishes which come along are generally based on rice or potato, but not in their simple edition. A typical Greek dinners also has at least 1 – 2 salads in the middle, generally with vegetables of the season.

The typical Christmas bread with symbolic meaning and strong religious influences is called Christopsomo and is eaten on Christmas Day.  (Recipe here).

Every Christmas table has it desserts, and most of the times more than one. A typical Greek Christmas dessert is “Diples” that can be eaten any time of the day. Another famous Greek Christmas dessert is “Melomakarona”, a syrupy biscuit with winter herbs and spices.

The Greek Christmas menu doesn’t stop here. It has a long catalogue of appetizers, pies, main courses and desserts. It’s full of aromas, flavors and traditions that makes it unique and special.

We ‘d love if you share with us your own favorite Christmas recipes.

Our warmest wishes for Happy Holidays!

Greek Brands team

http://www.greekbrands.com

Greek Olive Oil : Export trends for 2014-2015

10905523_s It is considered one of the most valuable export products for Greece. This is why we refer to it as liquid gold. Greek olive oil offers us a competitive edge in quality and a powerful asset in our exports portfolio.

The way Greek olive oil has been exported has changed dramatically through the years. From bulk containers with no actual product specifications, we have reached an era in which everything is reported and controlled. Olive oil products are now in specific packaging and come with labels of nutrients, expire dates and lot numbers. They also have quality certificates and are traceable in terms of crop, producer and batch.

Greek olive oil may have a bulk history, but it seems as though this era has come to an end. Now branded Greek olive oil is gaining ground. It comes in sophisticated packaging, ready to be communicated and sold internationally. Behind all this, lies a great effort in marketing, promotion and communication.

583338_sAbout exports, year 2013-2014 has not been a good year for Greece in terms of quantity and pricing, as it wasn’t a good year for the olive trees. Fortunately this prediction is not going to be verified this year. As described in the International Olive Oil council’s newsletter this is going to be a success year for Greece. The production is predicted to double since last year and is projected to surpass even other countries’ production climbing up to more than 300.000 tons. In the meantime, rest of the Europe is facing a rough year, mainly due to bad weather conditions. Moreover, predictions indicate that there will be higher demand than supply and consequently, that will lead to higher prices.

Taking into account its qualitative superiority, its supreme taste and its beneficial characteristics, one can easily conclude that this is an opportunity for Greek olive oil to develop and flourish.

This is more like a Marathon run, so the required supplies towards this goal are resistance, determination and persistence.

The focus point is to keep the demand in high levels, by pointing out its added value in comparison to other olive oils. This goal can be achieved, but it requires a lot of effort in marketing, a full exploitation of distribution channels, and continuing advertising.

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http://www.greek-olive-oil.com