Our Favourite Greek Christmas Recipes

Photo by Nicole Michalou on Pexels.com

There are some cuisines which always leave you wanting more. With its vivid colours, rich, seasonal ingredients and delicious flavours, Greek gastronomy will always provide you with a meal of wonder. From the fantastic freshness of perfectly ripe tomatoes, tossed into a salad, to the rich creaminess of a traditional moussaka, there is something for everyone.

Rich, local and delicious: explore the heart of Greek gastronomy

With the Greek Wine and Cooking Holiday offered by Experience Zakynthos, you’ll be introduced to a cuisine seasoned with love, culture and tradition. No matter if you are an experienced chef, or simply want to indulge in a taste-tingling adventure, this seven-day holiday will help you to discover the beauty of Greek cooking. Renowned for its beneficial health properties, discover the secrets of a Mediterranean diet directly from local chefs and taverna owners. Join Effie, your host, to create stuffed vegetables, oozing with goodness, and succulent souvlaki, served with freshly-warmed pitta and salad. Imagine the smell of moussaka, rising from the oven, and watch it slide gently onto your plate.

Learn about the processes of producing fresh, high-quality ingredients during your excursions to local, family-run businesses. From sampling wines at the esteemed Grampsas Winery, to exploring the traditional and modern processes of olive oil production, at the Aristeon Olive Oil Museum and Press, you’ll discover the importance of a strong relationship with tradition, culture and the island’s natural abundance itself. 

From cooking and experimenting directly in the heart of local culture, you’ll gain an appreciation for the traditions and age-old recipes handed down from generations. Join Grandmother Athina, in the traditional mountain village of Orthonies, and discover the delights of stuffed chicken, in a soft tomato sauce. With the recipe adapted and altered throughout the family, it’s an incredible opportunity to experience the vividness of the culture and the strength of the local community.

With Christmas rapidly approaching, why not get a taste of Zakynthos’ local cuisine with these traditional recipes?

Avgolemono Soupa: Egg and Lemon Soup

Egg and Lemon Soup, Avgolemono Soup…Greek Chicken Soup with Lemon (girlandthekitchen.com)

Your hosts, the Vythoulkas family, love this recipe, making it throughout winter, and in particular, eating it on Christmas Day. It is a classic Greek soup, incorporating the citrusy tang of local lemons with eggs and rice. This recipe is quick, easy and versatile, with egg and lemon sauce also frequently incorporated into other traditional dishes, such as dolmades, and vegetables.

The Vythoulkas Recipe

  1. Cut the chicken into big pieces and boil it with two carrots, seasoned with parsley and salt.
  2. When the chicken is boiled, remove it and the carrots from the pot.
  3. Drain the broth with a sieve to remove any bones.
  4. Place the broth back onto the fire or stove, adding soup rice.
  5. Make the egg and lemon mixture by separating five eggs from the yolk. Beat the egg whites for 3-4 minutes, before adding the yolks individually. After beating for three minutes, add the juice of two fresh lemons to the mixture.
  6. Once the mixture is made, take about two cups of hot broth, and beat with the mixture for one minute.
  7. Pour the mixture slowly into the pot of broth, stirring all the while.
  8. Let the soup cook for ten minutes, before turning off the heat.
  9. Leave it for ten minutes to rest, with the lid on.
  10. Serve the soup with pepper and cheese sprinkled on top.

Melomakarona: Greek Christmas Cookies

Imagine the taste of Christmas, in a single mouthful. Cinnamon, orange, honey: all within the crunch of one biscuit. Melomakarona are traditional Greek Christmas cookies, and are seen throughout all of Greece (sometimes called ‘finika’).

Ingredients

  • 3 cups/720 ml organic extra-virgin Greek olive oil
  • 1 cup/200 g plus 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp mastiha mastic crystals (available online or in Greek shops)
  • 1 tbsp. soda
  • 1/2 cup/120 ml freshly strained orange juice
  • 1 cup/240 ml water
  • 11 cups/1.2 kg all-purpose/plain flour

Syrup

  • 2 cups/480 ml Greek honey
  • 1 cup/200 g sugar
  • 1 cup/240 ml water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Strained fresh juice and 1 strip of zest from 1 large lemon
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups/170 to 228 g finely ground walnuts for sprinkling

Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C (gas mark 4) and lightly oil several baking sheets.
  2. Pound the mastiha and 1 tsp of the sugar together in a small mortar with a pestle until the mixture is a fine powder.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer outfitted with a whisk, beat the olive oil with 1 cup of sugar at medium-high speed until creamy.
  4. Dilute the baking soda in the orange juice.
  5. Add the mastiha, orange juice mixture, and water to the olive oil–sugar mixture and whisk for 30 seconds.
  6. Replace the whisk attachment with the paddle attachment and add the flour – 1 cup/115 g at a time – until a soft, malleable dough takes shape. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Shape the dough into oblong mounds, about 2 in/5 cm long and 1 in/2.5 cm thick. Using the tines of a fork, prick the tops lightly to form a decorative pattern. Place on the oiled baking sheets, mounded-side up, about 2 in/5 cm apart.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  9. Remove from the oven, cool slightly in the pan, and transfer to racks to cool completely.
  10. While the melomakarona are cooling, make the syrup. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  11. Dip the melomakarona in the hot syrup and place on a platter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and ground walnuts and serve.

For information and bookings for the Greek Cooking and Wine holiday, contact us at experiencezakynthos@gmail.com


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