Fish In My Kitchen

With Lent lasting all of last month, we’ve been eating a lot of fish and consequently a lot of visits to the Athens Central Market as well as the fish stalls at our own weekly market. A wide variety of seafood is available.

Naturally all the labels are in Greek. For the novice, it is a steep learning curve getting familiar with local terms. Usually, if I don’t recognised something, I rely on my phone app, but after several frustrating attempts resulting in rather improbable translations, I’ve made a resolution. I’ve said this before – Alan Davidson’s book, Mediterranean Seafood, should be made into an app for the phone. But, since there isn’t one available and I don’t do app coding, I’ve opted to create a simple phone database for personal use. So far, I’ve entered the more common fish in a free database app called Ninox, which I’ll be testing next time I’m in the fish market.

Because it is custom made, I can add entries as I go and can later add additional fields such as Italian (or other language) terms. At the moment, however, I’m sticking to Greek. If it proves useful, then a list of greens is next. There are a huge number of seasonal wild greens available in the market here in Greece – too many to keep track of in your head.

Many of these go very well with fish. This is particularly true of almira (αλμύρα), boiled and served with wedges of lemon. Almira, sometimes called almiriki (the diminutive form), is a salty green related to tamarisk that grows best in coastal areas. Its season is generally summer, so the image below was from the market last year.

Squid has featured often on our weekly menus lately – usually as a tagine, but I am exploring ways of cooking it in curries. I like squid best when slow cooked to tenderise it.

We had yet more fish – battered salt cod or bakaliaros (μπακαλιάρος) this time – at our local lunchtime place. Salt cod is a traditional dish for March 25th, served with skordalia (σκορδαλιά), a kind of garlic aioli mixed with potato purée. The date marks the day the Greeks declared Independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821 and is also the religious holiday of the Annunciation. Two on one day, both celebrated with bakaliaros.

If you aren’t accustomed to skordalia, it should be eaten with caution. I could still taste garlic twenty-four forty-eight hours later.

Orthodox Good Friday is less than a week away when rather lovely ceremony of the Epitaphios (the liturgical service of the “Lament upon the Grave”) where participants gather with lit candles inside and outside churches across the country to await the procession of the icon on a litter. This was the scene from last year at a beautiful Byzantine church on the grounds of our local monastery here in Athens.

Soon, it will be Orthodox Easter and once more meat will be on the menu, but we won’t be giving up fish.

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out other IMK bloggers, each of us writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month, hosted by Sherry @ Sherry’s Pickings. Earlier IMK posts can be found on former IMK host blogs: Liz @ Bizzy Lizzys Good Things, Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef) and the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who began the IMK phenomenon. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.

16 comments

  1. Good on you for making a path for yourself to understand the ingredients you can buy and which you have photographed so appetizingly. Am not a salt cod person but love the look of all else: any idea whether your salmon is farmed or line-caught ? Can’t get Alaskan salmon here and we are increasingly going without the farmed salmon with its health dangers. And would love to have a squid curry recipe when you get around to it. Eat squid ‘all;’ the time but almost always barely cooked 🙂 ! Your tagine still has to be made but also love anything from the ‘curry’ world, so . . . Happy Easter when your celebrations roll around . . . .

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    • I do like salt cod, but only in moderation. My husband is the one who really loves it. We both like squid, however. I usually enjoy the flash-fry form of calamari when we eat out, but when cooking at home, I find it satisfying to slow cook it. Am working on that curry! Salmon, I believe, is imported and I suspect farmed; as you know it is not a Mediterranean fish. I rarely eat it while here. In Greece they farm tsipoura (sea bream) and freshwater trout.

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  2. Look at all that gorgeous fish. yum to the skordalia. i do love garlic so hopefully it wouldn’t bother me too much. great idea to keep your own database of local fish. it can be quite hard to keep up with all the differing terms in different places. thanks so much for joining in IMK this month and being the first poster for the month! I know it’s hard over the easter period. Happy Easter to you and yours sherry x

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    • Thanks Sherry. I tried to comment on your post, but it just wouldn’t let me! Am very envious of your wonderful new fridge-freezer and loved all the things in your kitchen. Happy Easter to you too! While in Greece, we tend to celebrate on Orthodox Easter which is next week.

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  3. All the things I love in one lovely Greek post. I love fish markets and would kill to visit yours in Athens. I love my squid slow cooked in wine and tomatoes, and I love skordalia with anything, but especially fish. I am growing more green weeds to do some of these boiled greens dishes and pies. That weed in the pic- what would you call that in English? Anna ( my Greek next door neighbour when I’m in Brunswick) gave me her wild anise seeds which she uses mostly in dried bean dishes. Now it’s everywhere but I don’t mind.

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    • The greens in the picture are tamarisk. Does your neighbour Anna call that wild anise maratho? If so, it is wild fennel and used quite extensively in bean dishes. We have some in the garden, but like all wild things, it tends to take over. I remember your comment last year about my wild artichoke and you are right – they spread! But, we have a great crop of little artichokes. Any time you are in Athens, we’ll visit the central market and all the fishy stalls.

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  4. During a short stay in an apartment on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, I also found the names of local fish in markets to be confusing. Sometimes the same names are used for different species in different seas (North American Atlantic, European Atlantic, Mediterranean, and others). This really doesn’t help! During times when I cooked in France, I sometimes just asked the fish seller to tell me how to cook the fish I bought.

    Your photos are beautiful!

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    • I’m also making notes on the types of fish and how they are generally cooked here. You are absolutely right – for example, what they call cod here (Bacaliáros) is completely different from North Atlantic cod. Bacaliáros is also word used for Hake (which is in the cod family). I still recommend Alan Davidson’s Mediterranean Seafood. He discusses all of this – physical variations, terminology as well as traditional recipes in France, North Africa, Italy, Greece and Spain.

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  5. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be thrown in the deep end with a new language. Your phone database is such a clever idea!

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  6. I was very surprised to see the salmon in your photo, it isn’t yet in season here on the West coast of the US. But the fish is lovely. I agree with you that slow cooking squid at home is easier. My kitchen walls still tell the tale of my deep fat frying adventure with it.

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    • Salmon is very popular here, but it is an imported fish from the North Atlantic (Europe) and most likely farmed. We tend to avoid it – for this reason, plus it cost twice as much as local fish. So, it’s salmon only in the UK for us.

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  7. Debi, what a wonder your local fish market is, and your “homemade” Greek translations! I love the “culture” your posts impart, as well as your continuing awe of them. (Me, too!) Well done, my friend… and belated Happy Easter! xo

    P.S. Sounds like you’ll be warding off vampires for awhile. 🙂

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    • Hi Kim – The fish market here is a wonder to behold. I am enjoying shopping here, particularly now that I am getting the hang of the produce. And all that garlic sauce that goes with the fish will definitely keep vampires away!

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