A slice of Thessaloniki…

Right in the heart of Nicosia, at the end of Ledra street just before the Green Line, is a small, traditional cafe surrounded by buildings and side streets holding many years of history. Offering delicious and fresh desserts, pastries and any baked goods your heart desires, the cafe is reminiscent of an old cafe you would find in Thessaloniki.

Yiayia Victoria (Grandma Victoria) is one of the most popular choices among locals as well as tourists, who are searching for authentic fresh desserts and pastries full of flavour. The location and design of the cafe allows any visitor to travel through time, back to an old traditional kafeneio (coffeehouse) and taste recipes that have been passed down through generations. A wall covered with photographs, as well as old chairs and tables give the illusion of being at yiayia’s house. Yiayia Victoria is the ideal place for a morning coffee or an afternoon tea.

You can’t visit the cafe and not taste the fresh pastries and pies prepared right in front of you. You can find a large arrangement of desserts, anything from traditional mpougatsa and trigona panoramatos, to slices of a classic chocolate cake.

And if you are not a big fan of desserts, the cafe provides an immense variety of  delicious savoury pastries, such as feta pies and traditional Cypriot halloumi pies.

If you ever find yourself in Nicosia, find the time and squeeze a visit to Yiayia Victoria’s cafe to enjoy a traditional Greek coffee and taste the traditional recipes.

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Lets talk herbs…

Flavour, aroma and uniqueness. That is what everyone expects when they think of Greek food. What plays a starring role in the dishes and what makes them even more distinct than those in any other cuisine could be nothing other than the immense variety of unique herbs used. Fresh or dried, the herbs used in traditional Greek recipes offer the dish a unique flavour and make it more fragrant.

Some of the most common herbs are oregano, mint, dill and basil. All can elevate any dish they are added to.

Oregano, in most cases, is used dried and added to meat or fish dishes for a more fresh flavour and scent. However, it is the ideal partner to feta cheese and you will very often see it used in traditional Greek salads.

Th_00FC_ringer_MajoranMint is a herb that is used by most cuisines around the world, however Greeks were the first to use it in their cooking. Its sweet smell and distinct flavour separates it from any other herb. Mint is used in meat dishes as well as desserts, but it also greatly compliments yoghurt. One of the main ingredients in the famous tzatziki dip is mint. Mint is also a very popular flavour for tea in both Greece and Cyprus.large_f5df8a22-650c-4428-a6db-46e6422acbbb.jpgDill, is a beloved herb in the Greek cuisine as it can be used from anything like a bread recipe, to fish dishes. It complements lemon and cucumber beautifully and is a unique addition to the traditional bean recipe Gigantes. I recall my grandmother always using it there.dill-2826179_960_720-e1516184402484.jpgLastly, basil is a popular herb in the greater Mediterranean region, as it is also popular in the Italian cuisine. It is the most common plant in a Greek household and is mostly preferred to be used fresh rather than dried. It’s the ideal herb for tomato and it is commonly used in pasta.sweet-basil-eo.jpg

 

Wine and dine!

Stepping away from the festivities with a fresh start it’s now time to detox from all the food we’ve indulged in during the past few weeks! So lets take a small break from food and discuss wines, specifically red wine!

Wines  are known to be a very important in the Greek culture and way of living. From ancient times meals and celebrations were always accompanied with red wine. Archaeological digs from as far as the Mycenaean era of Greece have found spectacular goblets and elaborate pottery with carvings and painting of “Symbosia” (drinking parties) with wine having a leading role in those gatherings. Thus proving the history wine has in the Greek culture.

However, the importance of wine to the Greek culture stretches beyond history, and reaches religion. Wine is known to be the blood of Christ in Orthodox Christianity, therefore making it most valued. Even during the last supper, Jesus offered his Apostles red wine and said, “this is my blood”. For that reason, the Orthodox Church respects and values red wine.

The Mediterranean climate of Greece has little change in temperature, with warmer winters allowing for a better harvest. It is also the climate where viticulture and winemaking first began.

In more recent years however, red wine is a staple on a Greek table, and can even be used in cooking. The rich aroma and fruity flavour of red wine can elevate any ordinary meal.

Want to taste some Greek wines for yourself? Here is a list of popular wines recommended for you! YIAMAS!

https://www.greeceandgrapes.com/en/wine-grapes/red-wine

 

Happy New Year!

It’s 2018! We have now officially entered the New Year! An opportunity to start fresh and make good life decisions! But that doesn’t mean you should leave everything you have come to know behind. Look at the Greeks. Tradition remains throughout the years and similarly, each Greek household has welcomed the New Year in the same way with one very distinct sweet offering- The Vasilopita.

Vasilopita is a cake made on New Year’s Eve and eaten the moment the clocks pass midnight. The cake contains a hidden coin (“Flouri”), which according to Greek tradition will bring good luck to the receiver for the coming year. The tradition also requires the cake to be marked with a cross before being cut into slices, one slice for every person present at the gathering from eldest to youngest. The ritual also includes slices being cut for religious symbols such as God, the Holy Spirit and even the household.

The numbers of the New Year are traditionally inscribed on the top of the cake often with powdered sugar and almonds, and in more recent years, cake icing.

Besides the tradition and religious meaning the Vasipolita brings to the Greek New Year, it is also extremely delicious. The soft sponge has a subtle sweet flavour and a warm fragrance of orange and spices as soon as it comes out of the oven, making it distinct and evocative to any Greek of the festive season.

Have I got you intrigued yet about this delicious cake? Want to know how to make it? Here is a recipe you could follow in order to bake the perfect Vasilopita: http://www.mygreekdish.com/recipe/vasilopita-cake-greek-new-years-cake/

So take your lucky slice, enjoy and have a Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year!!

A Greek Christmas!

Christmas has once again come and gone so fast. But am I the only one concerned that the weight I’ve gained from the extravagant food fiesta this festive season will not go away so easily? Of course if you are Greek you will continue indulging in traditional festive delicacies and attending family dinners up until the Epiphany (Theofania) celebrations on the 6th of January and well, all year round.

Food was served in large quantities and in imense variety, as in any other family gathering or festive celebration. So why would Christmas be any different?

From souvla, to dolmades, to pastichio, a Greek Christmas dinner includes all traditional mouth-watering dishes that make Greek cuisine so distinctly different to any other. And of course no Greek Christmas table would be complete without a traditional village Greek salad.

But don’t think that Greeks don’t consider dessert. Like the food, delicious desserts are of primary importance at such gatherings, to please all sweet-tooths. Traditional festive cookies kourambiedes and melomakarona, baklava and different flavoured cakes (eg. chocolate, Christmas cake), you can expect almost anything to be served for pudding.

However, Christmas is not just about food! It’s about enjoying and appreciating the company of your loved ones, making memories and spreading love and happiness in your home and to the rest of the world! It is the one time of the year where you can let go of all the stress and worries and be jolly. So grasp the moment and have a very Merry Christmas!

Do Christmas like a Greek

It’s almost Christmas and do you know what that means? It’s time to go back home, to friends and family and spend the festive season with them. In Greek culture though, it also means food. Lots and lots of good food!

I’m seizing the moment for being home this time of year, to share traditional food and festivities that happen around Christmas.

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The most known and requested delicacy this time of year are the melomakarona and kourambiedes. Both mouth- watering and delicious, they are definitely one of the things that make Greek students excited to go home for Christmas.

Melomakarona are syrup dipped desserts usually topped with ground walnuts and perfectly rolled into an egg-shape. The sweetness and aroma of this dessert does not compare to any other and some of it’s ingredients, like cinnamon and orange zest encapsulate the universally- known festive smell and taste.

 

 

Kourambiedes are another famous dessert, most often prepared along with melomakarona for the festive season. This dessert, covered with powdered sugar, is guaranteed to please any sweet tooth. Often flavored with brandy, although mastiha and rose water are also very popular, kourambiedes are also a staple on a Greek Christmas table!

 

However, the process of making kourambiedes and melomakarona is not just about baking. It’s a time that brings family together and an opportunity to share a tradition with the next generation. I remember every Christmas baking this delicacies with my grandmother, a memory I’m sure most Greeks share!

 

A time of love, joy and family! That’s what Christmas is all about anyway!

 

Eat like a Greek?

Have you ever wondered why Greeks make such a big deal over food? Have you never seen the memes on social media? 

Well it’s common knowledge that in a Greek house hold, food is of vital importance in every aspect. The type of food, the way it’s cooked, the quantity and especially the occasion.

Sharing food is an important part of the Greek culture and eating is not just to satisfy hunger, but also an opportunity for a social experience. Family dinners are known to be a blessed time during which family and friends come together to bond and celebrate a special occasion.

Whether it’s a holiday they are celebrating, like Christmas or Easter, a name day or a birthday, or just a family gathering, you can be certain that food will be served in over generous amount. It’s part of the culture after all and a tradition which dates back to Ancient Greece, where feasts would be held in celebration of an event.

Greek cuisine is referred to as an example of the ideal Mediterranean diet, both rich in flavour and primarily consistent of fresh ingredients. Olive oil usually plays an important part in almost every dish and is used in generously during the cooking process.

So if you ever find yourself on a Greek island expect good food, amazing hospitality and don’t be shocked if the owner of the Taverna won’t let you leave if you still have food on your plate. Greeks never leave food on their plates!