A homemade Greek feast with traditional Greek recipes
Two years ago, I visited Crete, the largest of the Greek islands and the capital Heraklion, getting a flavour of the country’s traditional dishes, which include tzatziki (yoghurt, cucumber & garlic), souvlaki (small pieces of meat & vegetables grilled on a skewer until succulent) and freshly made pitta. However, I knew there were more Greek dishes yet to discover.
So when Katerina, the chef behind the Cook Greek, invited me to sample her menu of authentic Greek family recipes, it was the perfect opportunity to learn more about the national cuisine.
It was a warm summer evening and the first week of Brighton Festival. People were tumbling out of pubs and onto the streets, but I was off to the quieter end of town, to Preston Road, home to Cafe Rust and regular restaurant pop-ups. My friend Catherine joined me for dinner and we made ourselves at home in my favourite spot in the window.
The meal was off to a bad start when we ordered drinks from our waiter and he didn’t know the price of a bottle of white vs a glass. He tried to reassure us that it would be cheaper to buy the bottle but then proceeded to guess the price by the glass, which certainly wasn’t more economical. Then, when the wine was served, it was warm and only poured a quarter full. We complained about the size and temperature and sent the wine back. 20 minutes later he returned with our glasses just as warm as before. Considering the event is pre-booked in advance at a location that regularly hosts pop-ups, there’s really no excuse for not having chilled wine at the start of the night. It’s just bad preparation.
We began with a platter of picking foods including Metsovone smoked cheese from the mountains of Epirus – a golden yellow, semi-hard cheese, that’s naturally smoked and pairs well with red wine, it was a good choice for the table. The platter also included Apaki smoked ham from the Island of Crete and a salty salami. The smoked ham was our favourite with a punchy peppered crust. However, the side of organic Kalamata olives, marinated in herbs and vinegar were pretty standard. They tasted like the sort you can buy in the supermarket in a jar, leave in the cupboard for a year and it’ll taste the same as the day bought.
Katerina then brought out the tzatziki, a dip made with Greek yoghurt, cucumber & garlic, served alongside traditional pitta bread. Fortunately, the dip was better, thick and creamy – a good accompaniment with the soft, fluffy flatbread.
Next came the tabbouleh salad, a circular form packed with mint, parsley, tomatoes, cucumber and feta cheese. It was a welcome fresh, light course but the flavours didn’t wow us and we found ourselves bored half-way through.
The main course was “Klefiko” also know as “Stolen Lamb” and featured lamb with potatoes, peppers, onions and hard cheese. The course had the potential to be the stunning highlight in a very average meal, but it was oversalted. Katerina and I discussed the salting of the dish and she explained that Greek food is traditionally very salty. Her original recipe would have used 3 teaspoons but she reduced to one, to cater for British taste buds. Catherine and I both agreed the salt was still too overpowering and not balanced with the other flavours. Setting aside the oversalting, this dish was clearly a great family recipe; the lamb was tender and juicy from overnight marination and slow cooking at a low temperature, and its rich, wholesome flavours danced in my mouth. I liked the presentation too, served as cooked, wrapped in baking paper to lock in the juices.
Katerina also went to the trouble of making us an additional dish to try, although by this point we were stuffed. The additional dish was a Greek veggie moussaka made by layering eggplant, zucchini, potatoes and spiced Quorn mince topped with a creamy béchamel sauce. Moussaka is a favourite of Catherine’s but this moussaka was strangely sweet, stodgy and tasted of cinnamon. In Catherine’s words, “If I’d been wearing a blindfold, I wouldn’t have guessed it was moussaka”.
Dessert was the final failure. A homemade mastic panna cotta served with sour cherries syrup. The panna cotta was firmly set, almost jelly like and the sprinkle provided a welcome texture in the dish, but the coulis was sickly sweet. We both had two mouthfuls and could go no further with it.
My expectations for the evening had been high as I’ve always had great or good experiences with Tabl pop-ups, but to my disappointment, this wasn’t one those times. There were highlights, such as the pitta and yoghurt and the “Stolen Lamb” had potential, but for £32pp I wasn’t dazzled and I’ve had more enjoyable meals for the same price from the likes Andy Freedman and Priya of Deccan Tiffin. So, my rating for Cook Greek’s ‘Homemade Greek Feast’ can only be ‘Give It A Miss’.
PRICE: £32pp (not including wine)
RATING: Must Go | Worth A Try | Give It A Miss
Need to Know:
If you want to try Cook Greek for yourself, Katerina’s next pop-up is scheduled for 30th June at the reduced price of £25, bookable via Tabl.com.
*Disclaimer: I was invited by Katerina to review Cook Greek, but as always, my opinion isn’t swayed by freebies and you are getting my honest opinion on the whole experience.
Have you been to a Cook Greek pop up yet and did you enjoy it? Or do you have a favourite Greek dish? Leave me a comment just below, it gets lonely here without your comments… 🙂