We hear a lot about fasting these days, currently intermittent fasting, to aid weight loss and ‘detox’! However, for those of us living in Cyprus, we all hear about Orthodox Lent, which is a 40-day period of fasting before Easter. The purpose of Lent is to cleanse the body and the spirit in preparation for accepting the Resurrection at Easter, which is the most sacred of all observances in the Greek Orthodox faith! In addition to cleansing the body and spirit, Lent is also a traditional time for spring cleaning, the houses get a whitewash outside and coat of paint inside along with cleaning out cupboards and drawers, etc.
In Cyprus and Greece Lent begins on Clean / Green Monday, it’s a public holiday celebrated with picnics, feasting and kite flying, marking the start of 40 days abstinence from meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs from Monday to Saturday. It’s a happy celebration with much cheer and joy and wishes of ‘Kali Sarakosti’ (happy forty days). Typically, in the few days before Clean Monday, the fridge would be emptied of non-fasting foods in readiness for many delicious vegan stews, dishes, salads and much more. One can see the health benefits of this type of fasting, the Lenten dishes consisting of delicious combinations of herb flavoured rice, black eyed peas, beans or lentils baked or as salads , pies with greens, pickles, spring onions, lettuce leaves, dips made with eggplant, chickpeas, fava (split yellow pea puree) and all vegetables.
So, whatever your reason for fasting, here are a couple of our favourite Lenten recipes for you to enjoy!
Stuffed tomatoes are another in the delicious line of traditional Greek stuffed vegetables, or gemistes. This recipe also features the very Greek use of sweet, dried fruits in savoury dishes.
8 large tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup (uncooked) rice
1⁄2 cup olive oil
1⁄4 cup currants
1⁄4 cup pine nuts
1⁄4 cup fresh mint
1⁄4 cup fresh dill
2 cups water
11⁄2 tsp salt and pepper
1 cup of tomato insides, mashed
3⁄4 cup warm water (in addition to 2 cups above)
Slice off top of each tomato to make small lids.
Scoop out insides of tomatoes and save 1 cup. Mash tomato insides well and set aside.
Toast pine nuts in pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until very lightly brown. Finely chop and combine fresh herbs. Set aside.
Sauté onions until soft then stir in rice and cook on low for 5 minutes. Add pine nuts, currants, herbs, tomato insides, rice and 2 cups water. Bring to simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Allow filling to cool for approximately 10 minutes before filling tomatoes. You can make filling up to 5 days ahead of time and keep covered in refrigerator until ready to fill/bake. Remember to bring to room temperature before using.
When ready to bake, fit tomatoes into a pan which holds them snuggly and fill each tomato to the top with rice filling. Cover filled tomatoes with lids and brush tops and sides with olive oil. Add 3⁄4 cup warm water to the bottom of the pan in between stuffed tomatoes and bake for 1 1⁄2 hours in 375° oven.
Greek Style Fried Zucchini
When your garden is overflowing with zucchini this fried zucchini recipe is a simple and easy vegetable dish that is great for parties and get-together.
2 lbs. Zucchini
Flour (Use gluten-free if following a gluten-free diet)
Olive oil for frying
Mix salt and pepper into flour. Dip each into the seasoned flour and shake off any excess.
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan.
Fry a few zucchini slices at a time in the hot oil until golden brown.
Serve with skordalia or tzatziki dipping sauces.
Skordalia recipe (Traditional Greek Potato and Garlic dip)
If you love garlic, then you have to try this amazing traditional Greek skordalia recipe! Skordalia is a rich and hearty Greek potato dip, which takes its name by the basic ingredient used to prepare it and is of course skordo (garlic).
5–6 medium potatoes
5–7 cloves of garlic (according to preference)
2 tbsps red wine vinegar
1/2 a cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a cup water (from the boiled potatoes)
1 tbsp salt
Wash and peel the potatoes and place them in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for about 30 minutes until tender. Drain them in a colander and keep 1/2 a cup of the boiling water.
In a food processor add 1/2 a cup of the boiling water, the garlic, red wine vinegar and season with salt. Blend until the garlic is diluted. Cut the potatoes in pieces, add them in the food processor and blend to combine. Pour in the olive oil a little bit at a time, whilst blending, like making mayonnaise. Blend until the oil is incorporated and the mixture is smooth and creamy.
When making a skordalia recipe, it is essential, that the potatoes are hot. If the potatoes are cold, then it will be difficult to combine the ingredients and the skordalia will become lumpy.