Greek Cuisine is truly a kaleidoscope of dishes, recipes and traditions which reflect local culture as it has evolved across the country’s rich and diverse landscape. Greece lies at the crossroads of East and West, and its cuisine has received various influences from its neighbours. Extraordinary mixes have emerged and combined with the land’s tradition dating back to more than 4,000 years, giving us a unique result of unforgettable gastronomic surprises!
Spices and herbs, the soul of every national cuisine, constitute an integral part of the Greek cuisine which is known for its ability to combine different elements wisely, with a unique sense of proportion and equilibrium. Spices have many a use in cooking and pastry, creating memorable gastronomic and aromatic variations of the same dish. This way food becomes richer in nutrients and leads to better health and well-being!
How about sneaking inside the Greek pantry and getting to know them better?
There is no doubt that cinnamon is the queen of all spices, with a tinge of sweetness and warmth. It has been very popular since ancient times. Did you know that the English name “cinnamon” derives from the ancient Greek word “κιννάμωμον” (kinnamomon)?
Use it in traditional sweets, cookies, cream, cakes and sweet breads. Also use it in dishes of red meat, poultry, fish as well as marinades.
Cloves have a strong, particularly biting taste and a pleasant aroma. Their flavour is a mixture of spicy and sweet notes and can be used either in confectionery or cooking with equally satisfactory results.
It is a spice reminiscent of winter and autumn flavours, as it offers a sense of warmth and coziness.
Use them to season pork and beef meat, nail them on onions and add them in your broths. Also bake pies, tarts, and prepare sweets and syrups with a pinch of cloves, add them to fruits, walnuts and honey or season your favourite liqueur with them.
Nutmeg has a nice strong penetrating aroma and an intense, almost sweet taste. There is no doubt that cinnamon is its true match, yet a combination of nutmeg and cloves is a fine one as well.
Use it mostly in traditional sweets, in red meat dishes and sauces, in salads and liqueurs.
Saffron is known as the “red gold” deriving from the red stigmas of the crocus flower. The Greek crocus of Kozani is known to yield top quality saffron, the world over. Having a light violet aroma, a wonderful slightly bitter taste and a unique yellow colour, saffron takes creations in pastry, cooking, cheese making and liquor-making to great heights.
Use it: in rice, potatoes, pasta, white meat and seafood or in your coffee and tea
Cardamom has a strong piquant taste with lemon and pine notes. It is considered one of the most expensive spices and it is famous for its stimulating properties.
Use it: mostly in sauces and vegetables. It makes interesting combinations with rice, chicken, lentils, cream, carrots, citrus fruits, pumpkin, tea and coffee.
Coriander was very popular in antiquity, as ancient Greeks believed that it could secure immortality of the soul. It has an earthy yet strong flavour leaving a citrus and sage aftertaste.
Use whole seeds or grate it in order to flavour your soups, roasts and lemon-seasoned meat, fishes, poultry and vegetables.
The Greek name of anise “glykanissos” betrays its sweet character [glýka means sweetness]. Its best known use is in the famous ouzo, the Greeks’ favourite drink for the summertime. It is also used to flavour tsipouro drink.
Use it in baking and pastry-making
Ginger has a strong piquant taste, leaving a tickling sensation on the tongue. Ancient Greeks knew it as zingiveri. It is today the basic ingredient of Ginger Beer, a well-known alcoholic drink made in Corfu.
Use it either grated or in the form of syrup to season your sweets and sauces.
Mahlab comes from the kernel of the sour cherry. On account of its intense aroma it is mostly used in pastry-making, leaving a unique aftertaste of cherry and bitter almond.
Use it in traditional Greek sweet bread (tsoureki) and in cookies.