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.