The Real Greek Reborn:
Talking to Panos Manuelides, founder of Odysea and partner at the Greek Larder is a slightly overwhelming experience.
Especially when the whole affair is punctuated by the arrival of dishes of Greek food, some from the menu and some ordered specially by Panos to illustrate a particular point. Over something of a lunchtime feast we learnt that while Panos himself was born in Athens, his grandparents came from Constantinople (now Istanbul). Panos talking about his mother who was clearly a significant influence, explained that her dishes were Byzantine, the type of food which Madhur Jaffrey specialises in and has made popular. Something of an expert in Byzantine cuisine, one of her recipes is featured in Madhur Jaffrey’s book on Mediterranean cuisine.
The menu at the Greek Larder is a mixture of well known and unusual dishes. If you want to be safe, you can stick with Dolmadakia, Souvlaki and some Baklava to finish up with and you won’t be disappointed. The Dolmadakia are carefully made with vine leaves picked at the right time of year (May) which are blanched and then stuffed.
The Souvlaki looks a little like a Greek hot-dog but, the flatbread is brought over as frozen dough from Greece, so that it tastes authentic and the Souvlaki filling is a home made country style loukaniko with tomato and tzatziki.
If, like us you try going off piste for a bit and you can enjoy dishes which on paper might sound doubtful. There are salads made with wilted greens in olive oil and topped with feta (Horta)
Dishes of peas with herbs and (more) feta)
And there is a delicious dish of Kefalotiri saganaki with dry cured Kalamata olive paste, sesame seeds and wild thyme honey. It’s a special sheep’s cheese which is then pan-fried in olive oil and drizzled with a little honey. I can’t believe this one actually fits into the ‘healthy Mediterranean diet’ category, but it’s definitely a treat worth indulging in.
And there are delicious regional specialities, like the home cured salt cod in batter and this dish of Soutzoukakia Smyrneika (Izmir style beef rissoles) with slow cooked elephant beans. Food for the gods indeed – but only if they are very, very hungry!
We went on to talk about Greek Yoghurt. I was fascinated to learn that the thick Greek yoghurt I believed to have been made by straining the regular stuff was actually the result of adding powdered milk to the mixture. We tried both types together with a variety of honey and Greek preserves.
Oh, and indulged in a little of my favourite ice-cream which is made with Masticha, a kind of pine resin. If you get the chance try for yourself – it’s a lovely gooey stuff with a light pine scent. Added to ice-cream you get a wonderful toffee like texture quite unlike any other version.
Odysea have sent me a whole selection of ingredients to try, so I’ll be cooking over the next few months and seeing how much of the Greek Larder I can recreate at home!
If you want to try for yourself, you can buy Odysea products in Waitrose or through their own site
If you just want a Greek Feast of your own head for the Greek Larder
The Greek Larder