Greek cuisine is known for its diversity, offering individuals a range of fantastic dishes. With meat based and vegetarian meals both readily available across the region, all utilising a vast range of ingredients and spices, there is plenty of choice when it comes to cooking Greek dishes.
Of course, whilst a range of ingredients are used in these meals, there are a number of items which are frequently used in Greek recipes.
So what are five of these key ingredients? And what sort of recipes are they used in?
1. Filo pastry
This layers thin sheets of pastry together to provide a unique texture and taste. The multiple layers help to strengthen the pastry, making it the perfect ingredient for a variety of purposes. Filo pastry can be made from scratch or purchased pre-made. It can dry out quickly and it is, therefore, essential that anyone using this ingredient works quickly or keeps the pastry covered in cling film or a damp cloth when they are not handling it.
The pastry is commonly used to create ‘parcels’ of food, especially within Greek cuisine. One example of this is a dish known as spanakopita, which are small triangular shaped parcels containing spinach and cheese.
2. Feta cheese
This creamy cheese, which is traditionally made using milk from ewes and goats, is another common addition to Greek dishes. Feta cheese is often mixed with herbs, such as mint, and is used in a range of dishes – from salads to pastries.
Most Greek recipes will use this in its cubed form and feta cheese can be purchased pre-made and even pre-diced. Used as a key ingredient in Greek salads, feta cheese is combined with a number of other ingredients, such as tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, lettuce, olives, oregano, olive oil and red wine vinegar to create this dish.
Alternatively, the cheese can also be cooked and is commonly added to skewers containing meat and vegetables in the form of a kebab.
Greek yoghurt is known for its delicate taste and subtle flavourings. This can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes and a common desert could see it combined with other ingredients such as honey. Honey dough, with Greek yoghurt, walnuts and oranges is a common example and an incredibly popular dish across the world.
Of course, yoghurt is not just a key ingredient of Greek recipes but is also used across a range of cuisines. In fact, yoghurt based sauces or dips are often used to accompany hot meals, such as chilli con carne. These will often use another key Greek ingredient as well – cucumber.
Whilst a range of different meats are likely to be used in Greek dishes, lamb is perhaps the most well known and popular. A vast number of meals will use lamb as their main ingredient, cooking it in a number of different ways.
When cooking with lamb, it is common for the meat to be marinated or rubbed with spices prior to cooking. This helps to enhance the flavours and makes lamb a versatile and varied ingredient.
Greek dishes which use lamb include barbequed lamb skewers, lamb souvlaki (skewered meat and vegetables), minted lamb grill, lamb koftas (meatballs or meatloaf) and lamb rogan josh.
This ingredient is widely available across Greece and is common in a number of meals and recipes. These are commonly found in any dishes containing vegetables, such as traditional Greek salads, potato salads and will even accompany cooked dishes such as pastitsio (a baked pasta dish which uses minced meat and a béchamel [white] sauce).
These ingredients all form common elements of Greek dishes and are all readily available across a number of shops and supermarkets. This is true of other cuisines as well, with a number of ingredients used in Indian and Chinese recipes now also being easy to purchase.