An inventive array of foods is consumed in Greece during the 50 days of fasting before Easter. The best of them feature in the “Clean Monday” pick-nick lunch that kicks off Sarakosti (the Lent).
This is the day that fresh sea-shells are widely available and consumed, either raw or cooked in spicy sauces.
If you are in Greece on Clean Monday, don’t be surprised if people ask you to fly a paper-kite with them! Souls are supposed to be spiritually “uplifted” as much as food that is blood-free is supposed to “cleanse” our system.
Here are some very popular mezes you can find during Sarakosti in Greece, easy to prepare at home.
Htapodi xydato (Pickled octopus)
For city-dwellers, frozen octopus is preferred because it keeps its flavor well and guarantees tenderness. Pickled octopus is just one of the many ways to cook this mollusk that practically substitutes meat. You will find it also cooked in red-wine sauce, baked with tomato sauce and pasta, grilled over charcoal, minced and shaped in patties and deep-fried etc.
You will need:
1,5 kgr octopus (frozen)
Red wine vinegar
Optional: bay leaves, chili pepper flakes
How to prepare it:
De-freeze the octopus by placing it in a basin full of water. Drain and place the octopus in a pot over a medium heat and pour fresh water just enough to cover half of it, then pour ¼ cup of vinegar. Cover the pot with the lid and boil over medium heat for about 40 minutes or until it is tender. Turn the heat off and pour another ¼ cup vinegar. Let the octopus cool down inside the pot. Drain and cut in even-sized pieces. Marinated octopus is kept best in jars covered with olive oil, seasoned with oregano (add bay leaves and chili pepper flakes if you want a spicier flavor).
To serve just sprinkle oregano, drizzle with vinegar and olive oil.
Fava (Yellow-lentil puree)
“Fava” in Greek is nowadays the yellow lentil (not the fava bean, now avoided as a nutritional danger) and it is served both as main dish and meze. The most known yellow lentil grows in Santorini but as it is rare to find we just follow the way they cook it there, and in fact all over the Aegean: boiled and then mashed to a fluffy puree. The dish is served in two ways: “married” (with sautéed or fresh onion slices) or “orphan” (without onion). In either case, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, capers and olives are added on the top.
You will need:
500 gr yellow lentils
2 large onions, peeled
¼ cup olive oil
Wash the yellow lentils under cold running water for 2 minutes over a colander and drain. Place in a pot and pour water enough to reach two times the level of the lentils. Add the onion. Simmer uncovered, stirring from time to time, and taking care to remove the foam that gathers on top with a perforated spoon. After about 1, 5 hour or when the mixtures resembles a very thick soup remove from the heat and add salt to taste. When the mixture is still warm press it through a sieve (or use a blender), adding the olive oil gradually. Pour it into a deep serving dish to cool down completely and thicken even more. Score the surface with a fork before you add pepper, olive oil and lemon and the rest of the accompaniments on top.
Kali Sarakosti! Happy Lent!