A history of Greek Cuisine and its most popular dishes.

Did you know that the first cookbook was written in 330 BC by Greek food gourmet, Archestratos?
This first cookbook was the genesis that inspired generations of cooks and food creators to document their recipes and others to follow them from their kitchen and the rest is history. 
Let's take a look into the history of Greek cuisine that had been the inspiration to have produced this world first. 

This post will also give you the curious among us a deep dive into Greek food, history, and the most popular recipes to have come out of over the centuries of refining them. 

Greek cuisine has been around for centuries, tracing its history back to Ancient Greece from as early as 350 BC.  

Greek food is a product of the geography and culture of the country - its mountainous terrain makes grazing animals difficult, which in turn, results in fewer dairy products being eaten, whereas fish was much more prominent because of its proximity to water bodies.  

When it comes to agriculture, Greece's climate is very favourable, with long growing seasons and fertile soils. The country has a large variety of wild herbs used in cooking, including oregano, thyme, mint, dill, and bay leaves.  

The Most Popular Ingredients in Greek Cuisine

Greek cuisine has been influenced by the fact the nation has predominantly lived by the coast so fresh seafood, fruits, and vegetables are the go. 

Some common fruits and vegetables include tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, oranges, lemon, figs, arugula, eggplant, and zucchini, to name a few. 

Many recipes use these ingredients to create a variety of dishes, from starters to desserts! For example, "melitzanosalata" is an eggplant dip made with roasted aubergine, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice.  

Greek cuisine is also famous for its zesty lemon juice and other fresh herbs like dill, oregano, mint, and thyme! The Greeks love to flavour their food with salt-cured olives (like kalamata olives), garlic, onions, and various nuts, including walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts!  

Other popular ingredients are lamb and goat, which are widely available in Greece. 

Influences on Greek Cuisine

There have been many different civilizations that influenced Greek cuisine- some examples being Ancient Egypt ( they helped introduce the cultivation of wheat and barley), Ancient Rome (introduced wine production), and the Ottoman Empire (they introduced spices such as cumin, mint, and coriander).  

Greece's location has also been key to its successful trading practices throughout history- it borders the Mediterranean sea, where plenty of fish and seafood are available. The climate also helped grow a variety of fruits such as figs, grapes, oranges, olives, dates, and nuts such as almonds or pistachios.  

The Greeks are also big on eating locally-produced ingredients to give their dishes a fresh twist! 

The Top 7 Most Popular Greek Dishes

Some very popular and well-known dishes from Greece include; 

  • Souvlaki - meat (usually pork or chicken) on a skewer cooked over charcoal. It's usually served with vegetables such as onions and pita bread.  
  • Tzatziki - a sauce usually made with yogurt, cucumber, and garlic. It's commonly used as a dip but can also be put on top of dishes such as Souvlaki.  
  • Moussaka - A Greek dish consisting of eggplant, ground meat (usual lamb), and béchamel sauce. 
  • Spanakopita- A Greek dish made with spinach, feta cheese, and filo pastry. 
  • Tiropita- A filo pastry dish filled with cheese. 
  • Baklava- A Greek dessert made of layers of phyllo dough, honey, and nuts (usually walnuts).  
  • Koulouria - Ring-shaped bread rolls which are often enjoyed as part of breakfast or brunch. They're usually topped off with sesame seeds. 

Apart from the main dishes, Greek food is also best known for its platters of appetizers, dips, and spreads called mezze. These include items like tirokafteri (cheese dip), melitzanosalata (smoked eggplant salad with garlic), tzatziki (yogurt flavored with cucumber and garlic), taramasalata (fish roe dip with bread), and pikilia (mezze platter).  

Greek cuisine is also best known for its wide variety of seafood dishes, including octopus, shrimp, squid, mussels, and more! Some popular meat items are lamb chops or shish kebabs, grilled meats, and roasted fish.  

Greek Cuisine Traditions and Important Dates

There are many cultural dishes that the Greeks enjoy eating during certain times of the year or at different events throughout their lives. One example is "Bourakia", which are cookies typically served during Easter. This is a very special time for the Greeks, so they enjoy treating themselves to delicious foods!  

Another Greek cuisine tradition is "Vasilopita", a cake that features Saint Basil on top. It's served at New Year's for good luck and prosperity!   

Also, they have a tradition of placing black-eyed peas on plates during New Year's to wish the recipient good luck for the new year!  

Greek Cuisine Table Etiquette 

Greeks have their own set of table etiquettes that they follow; For example,  

Greeks do not switch knives and forks. The fork remains in the left hand, and the knife remains in the right. When you are finished eating, cross your knife and fork on the plate with the knife under the fork. The tines of the fork should be facing down.   

If you want to say that you are finished with your meal, just put your napkin on the table.  

The fork and spoon at the top of your plate are for dessert. If you're not sure which one to use, start from the outside and work your way in, course by course.  

When you are not holding utensils, like eating, your hands need to be up on the table. Rest your wrists on the table.  

 Also, when passing food, pass all dishes to your left.

The Best Drinks to Accompany Greek Cuisine

Greek wines are very popular around the world. Varieties range from rich whites such as Santorini Assyrtiko, Chardonnay, crisp rosé wines like Nemea, and full-bodied reds like Xinomavro (has a bold taste that compliments dishes like lamb or pork.).  

If you're looking for something stronger, then Ouzo, Rakí, or Tsipouro are popular choices.  

You can also enjoy a beer with your meal as well. If you're looking for something a little sweeter, try Greek coffee or tea! 

Masterchef , Conor Curran and his Greek Recipes are available to cook with adash

If you're interested in learning more about Greek cooking, definitely give these recipes a try by downloading adash and cooking with Conor Curran.   

Cooking with Masterchef, Conor Curran on adash, will get you access to all his favourite Greek cuisine recipes, tips, and tricks in one place. You'll also get to join his closed community, receive rewards, discounts, and enjoy members' benefits on top of learning new cooking skills.

It doesn't end there; your membership will also give you exclusive access to 100's of recipes from the world's leading food content creators.

Download adash and make a Greek cuisine recipe your next meal in the kitchen.