With a trip to Athens next week…with a half Greek partner who craves food memories of Greece…I’ve decided to brush up on my Greek cooking skills. So where else to start than a good old Greek Salad.
I love Greek Salad and found myself indulging every morning for breakfast when I spent a week in Crete last year.
Hunting around the internet and a variety of Greek cookery books, I decided to go with the Guardian’s Felicity Cloake’s How to make the perfect Greek salad recipe. I love their ‘how to make the perfect..‘ recipes as they’ve done their groundwork and share in detail tips from top chefs, all the different ingredient varieties followed by their recommendation on getting it perfect. This is a classic dish, and, as Felicty mentions, it’s actually pretty rare to find a decent one outside Greece. But it should be pretty simple right?
Well after having made this a couple of times now, yes, it’s simple…but to take it to the next level, there are a few brilliant tips that I would never have thought of – mainly around marinading the onions and tomatoes and adding a special splash of Ouzo!
For the onions, it’s simply a case of giving them around 20 minutes in a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar and three tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil. Although I love raw onion, by marinading it, you lessen what can be an overwhelming hit of onion which can overpower other flavours in the salad.
Similarly, for the tomatoes – which must be as sweet and ripe as possible – sprinkling them with a little sugar and salt helps bring out the best tomato flavour…and the juice that results is a fantastic addition to the final dressing.
Cucumber is obviously a must and definitely best cut into bite-sized chunks rather than thinly sliced or large rounds that make it tough to fit on your fork alongside all the other delicious ingredients.
Other staples include feta of course – the best you can find rather than the bland, mild varieties you find in supermarkets’ economy sections. Crumbled over the top rather than neat slices or a huge hunk make this look a lot more appetising…and with crumbs of feta blended across the salad adds to the delicious flavours on your fork. Olives are obviously a must – the recommendation is of course kalamata but I’m open to other varieties as long as they’re decent quality olives. The addition of capers really helps bring out the sour saltiness of the feta…but gherkins are also recommended which I’m definitely going to try next time.
Oregano is a staple in this household so I wouldn’t dare try using other suggestions of mint or coriander. Not having many fresh herbs growing in the garden at this time of year, I used dried oregano which works perfectly well.
And finally the dressing – a good old classic of red wine vinegar and decent extra virgin olive oil do the trick. But, as I mentioned earlier, the addition of a teaspoon of Ouzo takes this to another level. That hint of aniseed, for me, takes this dish back to Greece and somehow makes this dish taste all the more authentic.
So below are the recommended ingredients for the perfect Greek Salad and you can find the full recipe here.
½ red onion
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
10 smallish, sweet tomatoes
½ tsp caster sugar (optional)
1 cucumber, chilled
25 kalamata olives, preferably stone-in
1 tbsp capers, drained (or rinsed if packed in salt)
1 tsp ouzo or pastis (optional)
3 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves picked and roughly chopped, or a generous pinch of dried oregano