What? So soon? Indeed, we just had a 4 day hiatus from work last week (Thank you Jeebus) but those who follow the orthodox calendar such as the Greek church will be celebrating Easter this weekend.
In terms of international cuisine, Italian, French, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food can all be found to be brilliantly authentic and true to its mother country (of course, there are also shocking examples of mutating mee grob and scary spaghetti bolognaise).
Unfortunately Greek food doesn't seem to have travelled as far as other mediterranean cuisine such as Italian in terms of availability and quality. Don't dispair, great Greek food can be found in Sydney and Maria Benardis of Greekalicious (a Greek domestic goddess who runs a cooking school, catering company and culinary tour guide of her homeland) shars a few tips and finds with me.
For an overall authentic Greek dining experience.
As with any ethnic food, head to areas where that community tends to live and socialise. In this case, you'll find solid Greek eating in Marrickville, Maroubra/Kingsford, Brighton le Sands and Petersham.
Now, Petersham is normally known as the heart of Portugese territory but Perama is arguably one of the most authentic Greek experiences you can have in Sydney.
Alongside the dishes such as Moussaka and Lamb, lamb, lamb - there is much you may not have discovered including pork belly baklava: Layers of flaky filo pastry, pork belly meat, date and pistachios, topped with crispy crackling and served with a date and mastic sauce.
Satisfy your curiosity and order mezze-style plates (called ouzomezedakia) which will allow you to sample multiple dishes in more modest amounts (the Greek do like to be generous when serving food).
Baked, not fried.
Maria's favourite place to buy baked goods is the Hellenic Bakery in Marrickville. Packed to the rafters with all manner of traditional bread syles (combinations change daily including ingredients such as cheese, aniseed, fennel, poppyseeds and spinach). You can also pick up the Greek equivalent (I'm told) of fast food in the form of pies with spinach and cheese and other savoury ingredients.
Sweet toothed foodies will love their shortbread (kourambiedes) and other traditional biscuits and pastries.
To top it all off, you can order a whole slowcooked lamb (usually a few days notice is necessary). The tradition comes from when most people didn't have the facilites to slow cook such a large piece of meat (who does these days, either?) and as bakery ovens are usually active very early in the morning, this left a lot of time when the ovens weren't being used. So wny not whack a lamb in there?
Around Illawarra road, you'll also find Greek butchers selling Cypriot sausages and other specialised cuts and preparations of meat.
And Maria's tips on adding a little Greek to your kitchen?
Always have the following ingredients handy:
- Greek extra virgin olive oil (olive oil originates from the island of Crete)
- Oregano (Fresh is best, so grow a little pot on your windowsil)
- Honey (Greek food uses very little sugar, opting for natural sweetness from honey instead)
- Fetta (Good Greek fetta is as creamy as Bulgarian or Danish and should always be stored in brine when you buy it)
- Filo (Virtually any leftovers can be chopped up, mixed with spinach, eggs, pine nuts and wrapped in filo...kind of their version of bubble and squeek but without the HP sauce.)
And last tips?
You'll know how authentic a Greek restaurant is by the fact that the taramasalata (dip made from fish roe, lemon, oil, garlic and bread) is creamy and white (not pink) and the fetta is soft and creamy (made from goat or sheep's milk rather than our favourite bovine pals).
So Kalo Pashcha (Happy Easter) and get your Greek on!
88 Audley St Petersham NSW 2049 Phone (02) 9569 7534
371 Illawarra Road, Marrickville. Tel: 9559 2701. Open daily, 5.30am-7pm