I have recently returned from the most wonderful holiday in Greece - a week in Mykonos and a week in Santorini. Unbelievably, I had never been there before! I don’t know what I have been doing for all these years? My family had a grandiose house in Spain for many years and as a Hispanophile and language graduate, Spain has enjoyed nearly all of my holiday budget over the years but things and people, and, thankfully incomes, change: now I’m ready to continue my new found love affair with Greece apace. Perhaps I’ll even learn Greek one day too, who knows?!
I have lost count of the number of Greek salads I have made in my career in restaurant kitchens and for myself at home. Thanks to my prolific herb garden, and especially rampant oregano, I relish countless Greek salads during summer when tomatoes are as good as they get. I am also less inclined to have cow's milk but I'm not ready for veganism so I love feta made with sheep‘s milk which is also much more authentic.
I remember an argument between two fellow chefs over which were the 'proper' ingredients in a feta salad, as they called it: they both agreed in their wisdom that there were no peppers. I am here to tell you, however, that every single Greek salad I have eaten in Greece in my admittedly short time, has featured green pepper, the Romano variety, not the bell peppers we find more commonly here, although they are a good substitute. Another surprise ingredient was capers and so I have modified my own Greek salad to include these two things and it is totally delicious; just when you think something doesn't get any better and you know all about it, it does!
One of the things I love about life and travel is the food we eat along the way. As with many good things in life, the key is in the simplicity and the simplest dishes rely on the quality of the ingredients alone. Here are my five rules for a good Greek salad:
1. The ingredients (tomatoes, cucumber, mild onion, green pepper, capers, oregano, feta, Kalamata olives, extra virgin olive oil) should all be at room temperature.
2. Never refrigerate tomatoes - it dulls their flavour
3. Use a good extra virgin olive oil and plenty of it
4. Good dried oregano is completely acceptable
5. You can never have too much of a good thing!