It is no secret that I absolutely adore Greece. I love the country, the people, the culture and most of all, the food. Having spent countless summers on the beautiful island of Rhodes making friends for life and mixing with the locals, I can’t deny that if I had to change nationalities, I would choose to be Greek.
The thing that I really admire about the Greeks is their passion for cooking as a way of bringing people together. If you ever visit the country, you will never be far from a family gathered around a table sharing a mezze, a variety of national or local dishes similar to Spanish tapas. Believe me, if you ever have the pleasure of joining a family for a mezze you will be overwhelmed by the variety of flavours and colours presented to you. Never be afraid to try out the local dishes, I was pleasantly surprised by what I have tasted on my travels that I would never have dreamed of eating before back in England – squid and mussels being some of them.
This week, my brother and his girlfriend had us all round for a Greek afternoon and I was told I needn’t worry about bringing my own food, as it would all be gluten, wheat and cow’s milk free. We had a beautiful selection of dishes to choose from, including chicken skewers, lamb and mint mini burgers, Greek salad with feta cheese, olives, bell stuffed peppers, rosemary and garlic roast potatoes, gluten free pitta bread with a red pepper hummus dip and homemade tzatziki, as well as beef stifado which had been slow cooked.
One of my favourite Greek dishes is Moussaka and I have to admit that it is the one thing I really miss being able to have when I am over in Greece, as unfortunately it does contain flour and milk which is off limits to me. However, with a few alterations, this national dish can be made at home with minimal effort, and quite frankly it is delicious even if I may say so myself.
Here is a recipe I found in Greece in a cookbook and although there are many recipes out there which have been incorporated into fancier looking and more difficult dishes to make, when it comes to proper Greek cooking, simplicity is key.
- 2 kilos of large aubergines
- 1 kilo of mince
- ½ cup of olive oil
- 2 large onions
- 5 ripe tomatoes skinned and finely chopped
- ½ cup of dry white whine
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon of oregano
- Grated kefalotiri sheep/goats cheese (parmesan or dairy free cheese can be used instead)
- 2-3 portions of white sauce or if dairy free, I use Free & Easy dairy free cheese sauce and follow the pack instructions
1) Peel, wash and cut the aubergines into large thin slices and leave them to drain in salt.
2) Brown the mince in the oil with the onion.
3) Pour in the wine, tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and oregano
4) Allow to boil until the moisture has been absorbed.
5) Fry the aubergines and spread them in a large roasting tin and sprinkle with grated cheese.
6) After the first layer, spread the mince on top and then add another layer of aubergines, then sprinkle again with the grated cheese.
7) Pour on the white or dairy free sauce so that the surface of the moussaka is covered with a thick layer of sauce and finish with the cheese.
8) Cook in the oven for around 30 – 40 minutes until cooked through and crisp.
Variations – Thin sliced potatoes can be incorporated into the dish and fried before adding to the layers for a more filling and thicker moussaka, or alternatively, the aubergines can be swapped with courgettes.