Travel is not about a place, a sight or an activity, it is an experience of a land through its people and their gastronomic delights. When I landed in Athens, I was thinking of Acropolis, Aegean Sea, history and heritage but after my first meal in the famed Plaka area, I indulged full on into the culinary pleasures of Greek Cuisine. Every meal was a journey of taste accompanied by the aniseed flavoured local Ouzo, Raki or a glass of Wine. However, I must admit that Ouzo wins my vote.
It was love at first bite with “Dolmades” which is a mix of cheese, rice, meat/ vegetables delicately wrapped in vine leaves and steamed. Served with a generous helping of cheesy dip, the taste lingers in my mouth. Being an Indian, I am used to fish dishes wrapped in banana leaves but this one is a revelation. Not to be relegated as a one night stand, the affair with Dolmades continued through the 10 day trip, making a constant appearance at almost every meal….
Next came the Chicken Souvlaki- or the Greek Kebab. Served with a tiny helping of herb flavoured rice, a yoghurt dip, crispy fried potatoes, the chicken pieces were grilled right and while they melted in the mouth the red wine vinegar, pepper and garlic taste from the hours of marination was pretty apparent !!
Walking through Plaka in Athens, this riot of colour in a store selling exotic drinks catch our attention, raising our hopes and expectation of what Greece had to offer !!
I decided to go slow the morning after and opted for an omelette instead!! What was served kept me away from food the entire day, the fetta cheese, tomato and mushroom filling with half a dozen chicken eggs (joking) along with the fries broke into a tango in my stomach…It was yummmm….to say the least
A day later we landed in Oia, Santorini in the Cyclades group of Islands. Sitting in a fine dining restaurant, watching the sun slip off the horizon and discussing life at large we dived into the delicious Lamb Kleftico. The lamb chunks were partly slashed allowing shredded cheese to be inserted. The chunks of lamb was then tossed in olive oil with carrot, potato,onion, lots of garlic and tomato with a spattering of pepper and other seasoning and wrapped in parchment paper like a packet. The wrapping was then placed in a roasting pan partly filled with water and slow cooked for hours for the authentic taste and transferred to the plate for serving. On a trip to Greece, this is a must have for anyone who loves lamb and does not mind oodles of garlic.
A trip to Greece is incomplete without a taste of its famed salads. A bowl of vegetables complete with olives, grated cheese, pickled aubergine, tomatoes and grated cheese laced with a generous amount of olive oil and tossed with oregano is a great start for the day. The best part of the trip was the sea food delights in Naxos. Be it the grilled fish platter that we devoured to the last bone,
or the soft delicious tiger prawns cooked with orzo pasta, it was a foodie delight. The pasta almost seemed like rice and I was left wondering whether it was a mistaken order. A spoonful later, I could feel the difference. Impressed with the taste and texture, I got a pack of pasta to India which never got cooked as well as I was served in Greece.
The last meal in Napflion was Prawn Saganaki and Pita Bread. Cooked in tomato, paprika and cheese with a generous helping of ouzo for that fiery taste, the dish I am told takes its name from the size of the Pan it was cooked in. The plating suggests that it was indeed a 6 inch pan, not small by my standards though!!
I sat in many tables and enjoyed many a meal but the sunny corner table in a restaurant in Thirassia with the magnificent view of the Aegean and undulating hills in the distance remains etched in my memory !!