The foods of ancient Greece were varied, with a concentration on vegetables, legumes, fruits, fish, and a variety of meats roasted on spits, boiled, or cooked in ovens. While the common person enjoyed eggs from quails and hens, legumes, olives, and most importantly bread made from barley, the meats were reserved for the wealthy. Water and wine were common throughout the day. Because sugar wasn't known, honey was the sweetener of most desserts.
Some customs of the time might seem odd nowadays, like cooking fish with cheese or watering down the wine. What typified ancient Greek food was the simplicity, and how it made the best out of a few ingredients. Our collection features dishes from back then so you can bring to your table some history in the shape of tasty soups, desserts, and beverages.
01 of 09
This national Greek dish is on the menu every week in most households. Thought to be eaten in ancient times, the recipe uses very simple ingredients like olive oil, vegetables, tomatoes, and bay leaf to perfume rich white beans cooked in water.
Although the recipe cooks in 2 hours, it requires soaking the beans overnight. By doing so they retain their firmness but cook more rapidly. If you don't have the time, use the quick method of boiling the beans with water and salt and let them rest for just 1 hour to soften them up a little. Cook the beans for an hour with water and olive oil, add the rest of ingredients, and simmer for an extra hour.
02 of 09
This is an early version of baklava. Mix a simple flour dough with water, salt, and olive oil. This is going to be the foundation, mid-layer and top layer of the dessert. Make a mixture of lemon juice, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, honey, and pepper to top the bottom and mid-layer of dough. Bake for 30 minutes and soak in a sugar, water, and petimezi syrup for 4 hours.
This antecedent of famous, layered baklava is mildly sweet and full of nut protein. A little goes a long way, so slice it in small triangles once it's time to serve.
03 of 09
Loukoumades are one of the first recorded desserts in history and can be traced back to 776 B.C. These deep-fried doughnut-like pastries are one of the most beloved Greek treats still today, and they're relatively easy to make.
Make a yeast dough and prove for 2 hours. Make a syrup with cinnamon, water, honey, and sugar. Fry little balls of dough until they puff up and are of a dark golden color. Soak up the oil with paper towels, dip in syrup, and serve immediately. Sprinkle with cinnamon or powder sugar.
04 of 09
The key to this recipe is to find fresh sardines. Canned sardines won't do justice to the preparation, and there's nothing like the salty ocean water flavor that comes with fresh fish. Because Greece has a large coastline, it's only natural that fish and seafood were and are favorites foods, very common in all households.
This simple traditional recipe uses olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon to add flavor to this flaky fish. Clean the fish, top with the rest of the ingredients and bake for 45 minutes.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Find these sesame honey bars anywhere in markets across Greece. The difference between the ancient recipe and the one used nowadays is that in the past there was no refined sugar, and the sugar used today hardens the bars and makes them crunchy.
The ancient version was chewier and used only honey and sesame seeds. For our recipe, we recommend splurging on the honey and buying good quality thyme, wildflower, pine, or chestnut honey. Cook the honey to a boil and add seeds until it boils again. Let cool and transfer to a tray covered in parchment paper. After the candy has hardened in the fridge, cut and serve.
06 of 09
Grape must is used to make petimezi, a grape syrup known since ancient times that is used like maple syrup, in grape must pudding (moustalevria), various types of sweets, or to top yogurt, pancakes or cheese.
For this recipe, you need either grape must from our recipe or 65 lbs of grapes to come up with approximately 3 gallons of syrup. Because petimezi was made during harvest times it wasn't too difficult to come up with that much fruit. Nowadays you can third the quantities using 21.5 pounds of grapes, and just 1/4 cup of wood ash to help you collect the impurities. Once the fruit is crushed and seeds and pulp removed, reduce until you obtain 1 gallon of syrup, which you can split into smaller bottles and give as gifts to family and friends.
07 of 09
Moustos, grape must, is made using the juice squeezed from fresh grapes. This is made in large quantities during the September grape harvest in Greece and can be a fun family activity in which everyone can literally stomp all over the place! For this recipe, you'll need a big tub and 10 to 11 pounds of grapes, although you could make more and give to family and friends as a gift.
You need wood ashes to make grape must. When you boil the must and add wood ashes, they help catch the sediment and impurities of crushed grapes and act as a magnet, bringing to the surface the unwanted pieces, which you will then skim and discard. This ancient process of cleaning the must with ashes was used by ancient Greeks. The must cooks in just 20 minutes, but the overall time depends on how energetic you are when crushing your grapes!
08 of 09
Often the most appetizing of dishes are those that incorporate very few items so each ingredient shines through. A simple bowl of marinated olives can be a refreshing and amazing appetizer to start a night-long dinner of various courses. The abundance of olive trees in Greece makes olives and olive oil national staples. Something as simple as this represents the history of a nation that has embraced the gifts of nature and converted them into their national pride.
Time-consuming, this recipe can be a month-long project. First, you need to cure the olives for a few weeks, and then marinate them in vinegar, salt, oregano, lemon wedges, garlic, and olive oil for at least one more week.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
You can enjoy within minutes a treat that the Greeks have been enjoying for thousands of years. You need sweet oranges and ideally Greek thyme honey, although any honey available to you works well.
Simply peel the oranges, cut them in slices, drizzle with honey and dessert is ready. Optional ground cinnamon can add a kick to the dish.