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Greek Cuisine; Fassolakia Lathera. Green Beans in Tomato Sauce


Greek Cuisine.Fassolakia Lathera. Green Beans in Tomato Sauce
Greek Cuisine.Fassolakia Lathera.
 Green Beans in Tomato Sauce


What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Greek cuisine?

Yes, I know what you’re going to say:

“Souvlaki, MOUSSAKA, tzatziki, dolmades (Stuffed vine leaves)”



Authentic Greek Moussaka
Authentic Greek Moussaka


Souvlaki, moussaka, tzatziki, dolmades (Stuffed vine leaves) are all great Greek dishes, but, what is the basic, essential ingredient?

Olive oil, liquid gold, the healthiest of vegetable oils, it’s the mainstay of every Greek kitchen.

When I found myself living in Greece in the 70s, olive oil was quite alien to me, well, it would be wouldn’t it? I’m from Yorkshire!

 I have to say I didn’t care for it, I would try my hand at Greek cooking, omitting the key factor; the oil!


Olive oil Photo Aiala Hernando
Olive oil
Photo Aiala Hernando


MGG’s (My Greek God) question, when sampling my efforts at following his mother’s recipes, was inevitably;

 “Did you put olive oil in?”.

My answer “No” (He knew anyway, he didn’t need to ask) was met with much rolling of the eyes and twitching of the moustache.

Gradually, I came to accept it, I had no choice, olive oil is in absolutely everything, it was a case of eat it or starve!

Now, I’m sure a day doesn’t pass, when I don’t reach for the olive oil bottle, I use it like there’s no tomorrow, on and in everything, a glug here, a glug there, yes, that’s how I measure it, in glugs, “fassolada” (Bean soup), three glugs;  glug glug glug, that’ll do!

Well, I was certainly glugging away today; I made “fassolakia”, runner beans cooked in olive oil, one of the Greek “Lathera” dishes.



Green Beans Photo Kankana Saxena
Green Beans
Photo Kankana Saxena


The Greek word for oil is “lathi” and these vegetable dishes are oil-based, olive oil of course.

Traditionally, “Lathera” dishes are eaten in summer, made with fresh, seasonal vegetables, but they can be made in winter, using frozen vegetables, as I did today.

So, put your pinny on, grab your olive oil, and “Pame” (Let's go)


Fassolakia Lathera. Green Beans in Tomato Sauce

Ingredients for 4 – 6 people

Ingredients for fassolakia lathera. Green Beans in Tomato Sauce
Ingredients for fassolakia lathera.
 Green Beans in Tomato Sauce

1 kilo Green beans (Fresh or frozen)

200ml Olive oil

1 kilo Potatoes (Peeled and cut into cubes)

1 400gr Tin chopped tomatoes or 250 gr passata

2 Onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bay leaf

Salt & pepper

Method


Greek Cuisine.Fassolakia Lathera. Green Beans in Tomato Sauce
Greek Cuisine.Fassolakia Lathera.
 Green Beans in Tomato Sauce


Put olive oil in a large pan, heat and add chopped onions and garlic, sauté for 5 minutes.

Add tomato, stir well, add approx 250 mls hot water, the green beans, bay leaf, cubed potatoes, and salt & pepper to taste.

Mix well, bring to the boil, lower heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until potatoes are soft and sauce had thickened.

Not difficult is it?


Greek Cuisine.Fassolakia Lathera. Green Beans in Tomato Sauce
Greek Cuisine.Fassolakia Lathera.
 Green Beans in Tomato Sauce


 Serve with crusty fresh bread, feta cheese and a few Kalamata olives, and why not open a bottle of delicious Greek wine?

More Recipes









Kreatosoupa: Traditional Greek Meat Soup Made With Beef. Perfect For a Snowy Day in Greece.


Kreatosoupa:  Traditional Greek Meat Soup, Made With Beef
Kreatosoupa:
 Traditional Greek Meat Soup, Made With Beef


Am I really in Greece, and Southern Greece to boot?

We have had an Arctic cold front “Ariadne”, which drifted in at the tail-end of last week, wreaking havoc, especially on the Aegean island of Skopelos, which flew to fame through the film "Mama Mia"; Greece is just not equipped for snow!


Snow on Skopelos Aegean Greek island of "Mama Mia" fame.
Snow on Skopelos
Aegean Greek island of "Mama Mia" fame.


Just as we thought the cold spell was coming to an end, it got its second breath, and, peeking through the curtains last night, I was amazed to see it snowing rather hard, but never expected to see what I woke up to this morning!


Our garden What we woke up to this morning. Loutraki, Greece.
Our garden
What we woke up to this morning.
Loutraki, Greece.


A winter wonderland, our garden was white; a rare sight for Loutraki, in fact, the last time this happened here was 2006.


Snow on Loutraki beach, Greece. Photo Corinth City
Snow on Loutraki beach, Greece.
Photo Corinth City

All very beautiful, though extremely cold, with a temperature of -2 degrees C!


Corinth Canal Isthmus, Greece, under snow
Corinth Canal
Isthmus, Greece, under snow

 
The perfect day for a warming soup, MGG (My Greek God), went off first thing with his shopping list, and was back in two shakes of a lambs tail, with all the ingredients for  “Kreatopsoupa”, that’s Greek for meat soup.

When my mother made this, years ago, back in Yorkshire, we called it stew, invariably it had yummy suet dumplings floating in it.



Beef stew with suet dumplings Photo Food.com
Beef stew with suet dumplings
Photo Food.com


Well, I’ve tried suet dumplings out on my family, definitely a no no, what a strange lot they are.

All my family though, including sweet Melina, my five year old granddaughter love stew, minus the dumplings, so that’s what will warm us up on this cold and snowy day.


“Kreatosoupa” Beef stew.

Ingredients for 4 – 6 people


Ingredients for traditional Greek" Kreatosoupa" Meat soup.
Ingredients for traditional Greek" Kreatosoupa"
Meat soup.

1 kilo beef, cut into bite – sized pieces

6-7 large carrots, peeled and sliced

5 – 6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

A large bunch of celery

3 – 4 large onions, peeled and sliced

Salt & pepper to taste

Method

Half fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil
Add meat, (I use kitchen scissors to cut into bite – size pieces, much easier than a knife), sliced carrots, sliced onions, cubed potatoes, and celery.
Again, after washing the celery, I finely cut it into very small pieces, using kitchen scissors, straight into the pan.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Give it all a good mix, bring to the boil, lower heat and simmer for a good three hours, giving it the occasional stir.


Kreatosoupa:  Traditional Greek Meat Soup, Made With Beef
Kreatosoupa:
 Traditional Greek Meat Soup, Made With Beef


Some recipes advice you to skim off the foam that forms at the beginning of boiling, I never do this, I feel as though that would be throwing away some of the flavor and goodness.
As long as you give it a few good stirs, when it starts to appear, it soon disappears to where it came from!

Once the beef is tender and soft, it’s ready.




Kreatosoupa:  Traditional Greek Meat Soup, Made With Beef
Kreatosoupa:
 Traditional Greek Meat Soup, Made With Beef


Slice up some fresh crusty bread and enjoy, don’t wait for it to snow before you try it!


More yummy recipes





21 Weird Greek Superstitions




Lucky Bat Bones
Lucky Bat Bones


All countries and cultures have their own customs, traditions and superstitions, some happen to have more than others, take Greece for example, here are just a few weird Greek superstitions that any Greek worth his salt adheres to!


1. “To Mati” The evil eye.

 
The Greek evil eye charms & amulets
The Greek evil eye charms & amulets



This must be the most well-known of Greek superstitions, the curse of the evil eye, said to be caused by jealousy and excessive praise, Greek evil eye  charms and amulets, in the shape of eyes, are worn, carried in pockets, or hung on walls, to ward off this bad fortune.

To test if you have been unlucky enough to have been touched by the curse of the evil eye, place a drop of oil in a glass of water, if it floats, all is well, you have not been afflicted, if it sinks though, well, then it’s a good idea to call a Greek mama to say her secret prayer for you, and when you start yawning, that’s the sign the curse is leaving you!


2. “Filaxta” Talismans and amulets.


  "Filaxta" Greek charms & amulets
"Filaxta" Greek charms & amulets



Flilaxta, are Greek amulets, or talismans, usually seen pinned to babies, or children’s clothes, but are also carried in the pockets and purses of older people, and are believed to ward off the evil eye.

Called “Baskania” by The Greek Orthodox Church, small pieces of cloth are sewn into tiny sachets, embellished with beads, or the sign of the cross, filled with cotton wool soaked in holy oil, which has been blessed by a priest, or pieces of olive branch or basil, that has been used in some religious ceremony, performed by a priest.

Anything that is from holy ground, or that has been blessed by a priest, can be used to fill these “Filaxta”.


3. Spitting


Nais, taking spitting to another level!
Nais, taking spitting to another level,
and making double sure of protection from the evil eye, is that a Greek evil eye bracelet I see on her wrist?



Don’t be too surprised to see Greeks spitting all over the place, actually, it is not spitting as such, but more of a spitting sound;

 “Ftou, Ftou Flou”

Always spit three times (Three depicting The Holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Ghost), and you’ll be kept safe from the evil eye.

If you hear someone speaking of misfortune and misery, say “Ftou, Ftou, Ftou”, that should keep the same misfortune and misery away from you and your loved ones.

Fishermen spit on their nets, to ensure a good catch, and Greek babies are “Ftou, Ftou Ftoued” over,  all the  time, to keep the devil at bay.


4. Itchy palms


Giving or receiving? Which palm was itchy, left or right?
Giving or receiving?
Which palm was itchy, left or right?

 
Next time your palm itches, take note which one has the tickle, left, or right?
I hope for your sake, that it’s the right palm, this means you’re going to receive money, not a welcome itch if it’s the left palm though, you’ll be the one giving money to someone else’s itchy right palm!


5. Open scissors


Always close scissors, never leave them open Painting Raymond Logan
Always close scissors, never leave them open
Painting Raymond Logan



After using a pair of scissors, never put them down with the blades open, this is just an invitation for people to talk about you, and not in a good way!


6. Never leave shoes lying on their side


Even if your shoes are red-soled Louboutin,  don't leave them lying sideways
Even if your shoes are red-soled Louboutin,
 don't leave them lying sideways


Even if your shoes are coveted Louboutin, restrain yourself from leaving them lying on their side, in order to admire those cherry - red-soles.

Shoes left on their sides means bad luck, lots of it, some say even death!



7. Never leave your slippers sole-side up while you sleep.



Offending slippers
Offending slippers


If you want to have children, then be careful not to leave your slippers sole-side up while sleeping, a sure way, according to Greek folklore, to remain childless.



8. Writing boy’s names on the soles of wedding shoes.



Who will marry me?
Who will marry me?


Want to know who’ll you marry?
When attending weddings, young, unmarried girls, and bridesmaids, write the names of their loved ones on the soles of their shoes, or, the name of the boy they have their eye on.

If, at the end of the day, the name has not worn off, then, you soon may be hearing your own wedding bells.
Have you noticed how young Greek girls seem to walk so, so, carefully at weddings?

Now you know why!


9. Don’t hand over a knife


Lay your knives on the table
Lay your knives on the table


If someone asks you to pass them a knife, never put it straight into their hand, if you want to remain friends.

Place the knife on the table, in front of them, for them to pick up themselves, otherwise, you will fight, or your friendship will be cut short.


10. Never give perfume as a gift without receiving a coin in exchange.

Smells like a break-up
Smells like a break-up

If you can’t imagine live without your best friend, or don’t want to break up with your boyfriend, don’t give them perfume as a gift.
Giving perfume as a gift is a sure-fired way, according to the Greeks, to ruin any relationship.
If you absolutely must buy them the latest cult fragrance, make sure they give you a coin in return; this should ward off any evil vibes!


11. Always enter and leave a house by the same door.



If you came in this way, you leave this way.
If you came in this way, you leave this way.



When visiting someone, always leave from the door through which you entered,
don’t go in the back door, and leave through the front, or vise versa, if you don’t want to break up a romantic relationship.


12. Salt sees off unwelcome visitors



Worth a pinch of salt
Worth a pinch of salt

Someone overstayed their welcome?
Never fear; a pinch of salt, thrown behind their back, will see them on their way!

It’s also said, salt sprinkled in a new home, will drive out evil spirits.


13. Don’t eat straight from the pot.


Who could resit pinching one of these potatoes  straight from the pot?
Who could resit pinching one of these potatoes
 straight from the pot?

Everyone hopes for glorious weather on their wedding day, right?
Make the effort to put your food on a plate then, never eat straight from the cooking pot, that’s just asking for bad weather on your wedding day!


14. Lucky bat bones


Bat bones, lucky for some.
Bat bones, lucky for some.


Especially on the Greek islands, bat bones are considered lucky, and are carried around in pockets and purses, to attract good luck.
On Corfu, I have heard, they believe to actually chew on bat bones brings the most luck!
The problem here is how to acquire a good set of bat bones, as it’s known to be so unlucky to kill a bat!


 15.  Try not to spot a priest walking in the street.


Greek Priests "Garlic, garlic!"
Greek Priests
"Garlic, garlic!"

Everybody loves a Greek priest, but, even though they are revered, look away quickly, if you see one in the street, it’s thought to be a bad omen.

If you can’t avoid a priest out and about on the streets, whisper “Skorda” garlic, this should do the trick of deflecting any bad omens!


16. Always steal plant cuttings.



Never pay for a plant cutting
They must have been Greek!

If you want plant cuttings to flourish, never ask for them from neighbours, family or friends, pinch them, it’s the only way for them to take root !

On eyeing up a particularly handsome plant, in a friends garden, on asking for a cutting, the friend is likely to reply;

“Come and take a cutting tonight, when I’ve gone to bed, so I don’t see you”

If you turn up too early, and they happen to be looking out of the window, well, then, they’ll just turn a blind eye!


17. Never leave a purse or wallet completely empty.



Money in my pocket
Money in my pocket


Money attracts money, so they say, so, never leave a purse or wallet empty, at least leave a couple of coins in there, and hope for some attraction!


18. Plant cactus outside the door.


Cactus security
Cactus security


Greece has the perfect climate for cactus, and they seem to grow anywhere and everywhere, but have you noticed, that it’s quite common to see them planted, either in pots, or in the ground, outside doors and entrances?

This is because these plants are considered useful as spiky, prickly door men, keeping the undesirable evil spirits out of the house.


19. Sneezing


Atchoo!
Atchoo!

Greeks believe, that when you sneeze, someone is talking about you, to find out who that someone is, ask whoever is with you, to give you a three digit number, add the digits together, for example, say they give you the number 123:
123 1+2+3=6, the name of the person who is talking about you, begins with the sixth letter of the alphabet.


20. Crows


"Sto Kalo, Sto Kalo" Picture by Colette Davis
"Sto Kalo, Sto Kalo"
Picture by Colette Davis


To the Greeks, crows represent a bad omen, bad news, misfortune and death, and the crow was a symbol of the occult in ancient Greek mythology.

When they see, or hear a crow, a Greek is likely to say:

“Sto kalo, sto kalo, kala nea tha mou ferris”

This means, literally:

“Go to the good, go to the good and bring me good news”
With this, they send the crow on its way, with instructions not to return without good news.


21. Salt, bread and eggs should never leave the house after sunset.



Not allowed out after dark
Not allowed out after dark


If a neighbor comes knocking on your door after dark, asking to borrow either salt, eggs or bread, say no!

If any of these three items leave your house after dark, you and anyone else living in the house are doomed, bad luck will befall you all, you will be inflicted with the evil eye.

Be very, very careful, people can b sly and may ask you for these items after dark, with the intent of causing you and your family harm, always say no!



Taking all of the above superstitions into account, if you come across someone decked out in evil eyes and amulets, spitting all over the place, muttering “Garlic, garlic” under their breath, while chomping on a bat bone, well, there’s a very good chance that it’s a Greek!