A big part of understanding the culture of a country we travel to is to get to know – and taste – its traditional dishes. The combination of flavors and cooking techniques always tell a story, usually going back millennia. Getting to know the Greek cuisine also means you get to learn more about Greece’s history and people.
Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)
Spanakopita is a Greek savory pastry, which can be found in any taverna’s menu under “mezedes”. It is also an on-the-go snack you can trust to calm your hunger during the day.
Traditionally, the filling comprises spinach, feta, onions, eggs, and scallions. There is a vegan version as well, which is served during the Lent, which forgoes the feta and eggs, but includes dill, parsley, olive oil, and a bit of white flour.
If you happen to try this dish in rural Greece, the spinach may be mixed with leeks, chard, or sorrel.
You will need:
- 2 red onions finely chopped
- 3 spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- 500g spinach, washed and roughly chopped
- a pinch of grated nutmeg
- 200g feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 average size eggs beaten
- 2 tbsps fresh dill chopped
- salt and pepper
To make the filling for the spanakopita take a large pan and soften the onions in a large knob of butter until it just starts to turn golden. Then add the finely chopped garlic and stir for a minute or two until it also softens. Add the spinach in batches and cook until wilted. Place everything in a sieve on top of a bowl to drain the excess liquid. When the liquid has drained and the mixture has cooled down mix in the eggs, spring onion, feta, sprinkle of nutmeg, and season to taste.
To make the pie you need to place 3-5 overlapping sheets of filo pastry sticked together with olive oil and with the excess filo on the sides of the tray. Fill in the mixture then pack the pie with the rest of the excess filo pastry from the sides of the tray. Add 3-5 sheets of filo pastry sticked with olive oil on top to completely seal the pie.
Put the tray in the gas oven at 180 C for 45-50 minutes or an electric oven at 200 C for the same amount of time or until golden brown.
Let the pie cool down for 10-15 min before you cut it into pieces to serve. Enjoy!
Now that you have the recipe, you may ask yourself what cooking utensils are needed. Oh and bonus, we will also share more useful cooking utensils to whip up your favorite Greek dishes (plus links where to buy them from). We’ll get there, too, but before that, let’s look at the ancient cooking utensils.
Just a Bit of History: Ancient Greek Cooking Utensils
Since Prometheus gave us fire the Greeks have cooked and improved the art of cooking simple food. Kitchen utensils and equipment artefacts were found in Delos from as early as the classical and late classical period. The ancient Greeks had time to create and improve a unique cooking and dining culture.
Ancient Greek sources and artefacts attest a whole range of utensils from all types of everyday cooking methods. In ancient Greece, most of the cooking was done outside because of safety and practicality reasons. But this didn’t stop them from grilling, boiling, braising, frying, roasting, and baking.
For example, the ancient term of “obeloi” was used for grilling on wooden or metal skewers, like the modern souvlaki. Cooking utensils for boiling include “lebes” (clay or metal pots used for a large quantity of food), “kakkabe” (a wide mouth pot used for fish stewing) or the “chutra” a leather cooking pot. The ancient kitchen utensils terms go on and on. In fact, the author Hatzidakis mentioned 126 different ancient Greek terms for cooking utensils in his work the Aristophanes’ comedies.
Having so many terms and thus different utensils does not mean that the ancient kitchens were more well equipped than us. Even today it’s not like you are going to buy every piece of kitchen equipment you can find. Most people had the basics, a knife, a mortar and pestle and maybe a clay pot. Even well-equipped aristocratic kitchens did not have every item, but were obviously better equipped.
Basic Cooking Utensils for Greek Recipes Today
Cooking utensils found in one culture or another are directly linked to the geography of the regions. A mortar and pestle, an olive pitter or a herb chopper are also used in a wide range of Mediterranean cuisine. Out of those, the Greek cuisine is one of the most ancient and representative.
Let’s look at some recommendations of cooking utensils that will help you prepare an authentic Greek recipe. From the most used tool in any kitchen (the chef knife) to the less frequently used herb chopper (except if you cook for many people), here is everything you need to cook delicious Greek recipes.
You will use your chef knife up to 90% of the time when preparing a Greek recipe or any recipe for that matter. Therefor, I consider you should buy the best chef knife . Depending on whether you are a beginner or a professional or just want to buy a top of the line knife you should first research the subject further.
Pestle and Mortar
The pestle and mortar is the staple of any Mediterranean recipe. Cooking from these destinations involves a lot of crushing and grinding, herbs, and spices. With that being said, your pestle and mortar is a need to have tool on your Greek Kitchen table.
We now make Skordalia with a food processor but our grandparents used to have a large wooden mortar and pestle. When you crush the ingredients in a food processor you end up with a very smooth paste. But if you take the time and crush the ingredients with the pestle and mortar you will get different textures and a more rustic feel to your Skordalia. Which do you prefer?
Clay Cooking pot
Ovens are used very often in Greek cooking and not just for baking bread. You will get awesome results with your Easter roasted leg of lamb if you just use a clay cooking pot . Or how could you prepare a Sifnos Mastelo? (Lamb or goat in clay pot from the Sifnos ).
Overall, I love to use a clay pot and do it very often for that matter. From lamb to pork or chicken everything is mouthwatering tender in less than 1 hour. Great addition to your kitchen equipment.
Of course, olives, the staple in the Greek cuisine. An olive pitter is a real help when trying to make some stuffed or just seedless, canned olives on a platter. Or maybe you want to make some delicious stews or roasts that contain olives. You don’t want anyone biting hard on an olive seed. Be careful you can do real damage with those seeds.
A spice grater is an obvious addition for your Greek kitchen. From grinding cinnamon to nutmeg, a spice grinder will help you make all those tasty Greek sweets you desire. The tool is hand-held and looks like a mini cheese grater. It is a need to have tool especially if you keep spices whole, which you should do in order to maintain the flavor of your spice for longer.
In any culture where the sun shines most of the year people will grill and barbeque. So, the skewers are another great addition. Souvlaki? Chicken, lamb or pork? They all involve spices, fire and a skewer. This is a perfect addition to your summer grilling equipment.
I know you can use a teaspoon but why not drizzle your honey more authentic and with precision on your loukoumades ? Those fluffy balls drizzled with honey and sprinkled with crunchy walnuts make my mouth water. Honey is a used in many Greek dishes in their recipe composition or just to be served as it is. Plus, the honey dipper is a pretty nice-looking tool in your honey jar.
Pastry is not only a French guilty pleasure but also a delight most enjoyed in Greece. From the savory traditional Greek Spanakopita or the feta Tiropitakia to the sweet crunchy and custardy Trigona Panoramatos, pastry is a big thing in Greek food. If you want to cook these recipes there is nothing better than a pastry brush to cover your melted butter with.
Wood rolling pin
Of course, if you are baking there is nothing better than a wood rolling pin . If you are thinking of making pastries sweet or savory or just Greek pies with your favorite filling, you need a rolling pin. It makes your recipe look much more professional. I must admit that I have used a wine bottle at once with pretty good results but not the same as with a rolling pin. It’s cheap but sometimes there is no way to get it and you must improvise.
The herb chopper is not as important if you cook a dish for one or two guests. But, If you have to cook for a whole family and maybe also friends this could save you a lot of time. Herbs are very common in Greek cuisine as they are in most Mediterranean cooking. In Italy they use the “mezzaluna” which is synonymous to the herb chopper.
This post was brought to you by Hori from All Knives.
The post contains affiliate links.