Five Traditional Greek recipes for Lent
Photo and text by Mirella Kaloglou & Panos Diotis.
Sarakosti (or "The Great Lent") is a huge tradition here in Greece. It's a period of (Christian) fasting, in which people are asked to abstain from all meat & animal products(eggs, dairy) except seafood (however fish isn't allowed). This is actually a traditional Greek version of a vegetarian diet, that's also followed before Christmas, before the Dormition of the Mother of God in August and every Wednesday & Friday.
Ok, we know it sounds a bit tough to some people, and that's the reason not everybody follows this throughout the year. Religious people tend to try harder though. In reality, a large part of the population will mostly abstain from meat in this period, but not from all dairy products.
Sarakosti begins always on a Monday (different each year), called Clean (Ash) Monday and lasts for 40 days. The word Sarakosti comes from Tessarakosti, which literally translates as "the Fortieth". On the starting day of Clean Monday, most people go out in the country and celebrate with their friends & family while the kids play with kites. It's a day to be close to nature and an opportunity to celebrate the beginning of the spring.
The reason for fasting is "cleansing" your body and preparing yourself spiritually for the Easter. Since there are many benefits from following a vegetarian diet for some days, there are also people who aren't so religious, but also follow the tradition of fasting, finding this an opportunity to improve their health.
The food consumed during Lent, is mostly cooked & raw vegetables, pickles, a lot of grains/legumes/pulses, seafood (octopus, cuttlefish, squid, clams and shrimps), olives, potatoes, nuts, garlic dips, cod roe dips (taramosalata) & a lot of bread to accompany all this. Fish isn't allowed, except on the 25th of March (Greek Independence Day) when the God's message to Mary is celebrated (big Greek Holiday). The traditional food on the 25th of March is fried cod and garlic dip (skordalia).
There are many delicious, filling dishes people eat during Lent. In the following list, we summed up 5 of our favorite recipes that are suitable for Sarakosti.:)
Top 5 traditional Greek recipes for Lent:
1. Traditional Greek Taramosalata (Cod Fish Roe spread / dip)
This is by far THE tastiest food of Sarakosti. It's made with cod roe eggs (called "taramas"). Wait; read the next few lines before navigating away from the page:)
This is a food that DOESN'T taste or smell like fish. People who DON'T eat fish, are CRAVING for taramosalata.
The reason is, that this dip only takes the saltiness and the smoked flavor of the cod roe eggs and combines them with the strong taste of the onion and the flavor and the aroma of the extra virgin olive oil. A lot of fresh lemon is also added to "break down" any hint of fish.
The base for this appetizer, is some bread (crust is not used), simply soaked in water & then squeezed dry thoroughly.
It's extremely easy to make this appetizer: You only need a food processor and you start adding the ingredients, correcting the taste according to your preference.
There's really no way to communicate the deliciousness of taramosalata with words. It's a smooth, creamy delicacy, served with some olives or pickles and a lot of bread to dig in. The taramosalata you can find in the grocery stores (it's also sold abroad, you can find it as a pink colored spread/dip) it's also tasty, but -as with most things- there's really no comparison to a homemade taramosalata (usually made with white roe). Its taste is vastly superior.
2.Stewed “baby” octopus in tomato sauce with rice
Stewed baby octopus is definitely one of our favorite dished for Lent. It’s hearty and scented with amazing spices. The octopus is cooked in a tomato sauce until tender and is served over a bed of rice. You really have to try this out! The recipe includes detailed instructions for preparing the octopus.
One of the most popular recipes of our blog, fakes is a delicious lentil soup. This is a dish that tastes great and it's also very easy to make. Actually, this was one of the first homey foods we ever cooked, since they were so easy to cook. Very nutritious, fakes are cooked almost once a week during Sarakosti.
4. Fasolada: a traditional Greek white bean soup recipe
The Greek national food fasolada, is a delicious bean soup, that's warming, filling and has a lot of protein. Very popular during Lent, fasolada is served with olives, raw onions and bread and satisfies even those craving for meat.
5. Delicious, hearty Black-eyed Pea Salad
This delicious salad is healthy, full of flavors and ideal for the period of Lent. The black-eyed peas make an excellent substitute for meat and with the addition of red sweet peppers, spring onion, olives and dill this is far from being a boring bean salad. The dressing with extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic, mustard, and paprika compliments this salad perfectly. This dressing is a must-try. It’s really delicious and you can also try it out in other salads or pour it over grilled fish/seafood!
So religious or not, you can try any (or all) of the above, any time of the year: they’re delicious traditional Greek dishes you 'll want to cook again and again!