It's all Greek! | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 18, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 18, 2017

the fearless olive

It's all Greek!

As the earth spins towards the vernal or spring equinox and people worldwide gear up for a series of cultural festivals to mark this change, Pahela Baishakh and Easter are among the few that would mark this auspicious time of the year. As we experienced a short lived spring, gearing us up for a hot summer, allow me to present a vegetarian menu that cleanses the body and helps us get ready for a tough, summer Ramadan coming up. Hippocrates, considered the father of medicine, would say: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” He often prescribed common day ingredients like raw garlic to combat a number of ailments and Greek cuisine still includes a lot of dishes with raw garlic in them.

Skordalia

The Greek version of a typical bhorta ideally has mashed potatoes with garlic, as skorda is garlic in Greek and comes in all forms with boiled beet or zucchini. 

Ingredients

1 kg potatoes and alternatively ½ kg beets

1 tbsp garlic paste

2-3 tbsp lemon juice or 2 tbsp vinegar 

1 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup olive oil approximately

1 tbsp almonds, blanched and skin removed; alternatively 1 tbsp walnuts. 

Method

Boil the potatoes and mash them properly. Blend the almonds and mix them with the garlic paste, add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Mix these well with the mashed potatoes, and then drizzle in the oil, mixing continuously. Ensure that the mash is not very oily but enough to be consumed as a dip.

For the beetroot version, follow the above method and similarly blanch the walnuts for about 2 minutes before grinding them into a paste, but also leave a few dry walnuts, crushed to be sprinkled on top to add a crunch to the dish.

Serving

Sprinkle the mint leaves on top and serve with bread or julienned vegetable sticks and eat as a dip or a side serving. 

Health benefits

Raw garlic is famously consumed for improving heart conditions, balancing cholesterol levels, while providing an antioxidant. High in Vitamin B6, raw garlic also helps keep those transient time colds away. But above all, do not forget to have some mints after a meal with raw garlic, unless you have a zealous vampire stalking you. 

Spanakorizo

This is the Greek version of a vegetable khichuri, sans a whole array of vegetables or for that matter any daal! This dish is served throughout the year but Lent is when it glistens with olive oil and the green of fresh spinach! 

Ingredients

1 kg water spinach or Kalmi (normal palong shaak is mostly used but I prefer kalmi)

½ kg rice, any long grained rice e.g. kalojeera or any polao chaal

½ kg tomatoes, peeled and blended 

1-2 large onions, diced

3-4 spring onions, diced

1 tbsp roughly chopped garlic

1 tbsp dried chilli flakes, 1 tsp powdered jeera (roasted cumin powder)

Dried oregano flakes or if fresh ones available all the better

½ cup olive oil

Method

Fry the onions until glazed then add the garlic and sauté again until they turn pinkish. Add the rice, cumin powder, chilli flakes and cook for about 1 minute then add the tomato blend and cook for about 2-3 minutes until some of the mixture has lessened. Add the washed and cut spinach now and the oregano, salt and pepper. Now cook this as any rice dish, with adequate water. 

Serving

Serve it with a hot sauce or some baked fish, or vegetables. 

Health focus

Get those iron levels up as spinach is high in folic acid and is also great for the bones with Vitamin K, among manganese, Vitamin C and other essential minerals for the body. It is of course no wonder that Popeye loves this superstar of a vegetable so much! 

Flax seed meal zucchini fritters

Flax seeds are known to have been cultivated since 5000 BCE and is also known as linseed. Flax seeds were not only used in cuisine but also used to spin cloth. 

Ingredients

150g flax seed meal (you can crush some flax seeds and keep them coarsely grainy)

2-3 zuchhini, 1 large potato, 1 carrot, all three vegetables grated

Half cup beshon or chickpea powder

Salt and cumin powder to taste

Half cup chopped parsley (you may use coriander) and mint

½ cup olive oil 

Method

Make a pasty mix of the flax seed meal, the beshon and add the coriander/mint, salt, cumin powder and mix well. It should have the consistency of a paste so when you let it drop off a spoon, it lands in big chunks. Strain the shredded vegetables through a cloth to remove excess water and add these to the mix. 

After mixing them up, add the oil and mix one last time. Heat an oven for 5 minutes at about 150º C, then prepare a tray with a baking sheet. Take a tablespoon, and scoop out a levelled dollop of the mix and pour in onto one the baking sheet. Make as many similar circular-shaped dollops. Ensure that they are not too thick or the vegetables will not cook through. Stick into oven and watch as the sides turn golden brown then keep changing them so as not to burn.

Serving

The flax seed adds a crunch to the faux fritters so serve it with the above mentioned Skordalia or a yoghurt dip. 

Health focus

The many benefits of flax seeds make it a true super food and it is considered ideal for weight loss, lowering the body cholesterol and keeping your hair and skin looking great. Flax seeds come packed with Omega 3, fibre and proteins and also helps you clean the colon and is low in carbs.

Photo: Collected

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