Carolina Doriti shares her favourite Greek recipes and ingredients

Author of Salt of the Earth, Carolina Doriti is a chef, food journalist, food producer and the Athens correspondent for Culinary Backstreets - a company that runs gastronomy tours around the world. Born in Athens, the food she makes is sun-kissed and full of traditional Mediterranean flavours. Photography: Manos Chatzikonstantis 2023

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently?

Fresh grilled artichokes drizzled with a beautiful olive oil, a few drops of fresh lemon juice, flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Perfection!


What ingredients are always stocked in your pantry?

  • Extra virgin olive oil – at least two kinds and always an early harvest, peppery one that I use in salads, or drizzle on dishes right before serving them.

  •  I am a HUGE fan of capers and I am always stocked up with both capers and caper berries as well as their pickled little leaves. I typically source these from islands I visit during my summer holidays.

  • Dried pulses are another essential ingredient in my pantry - at least 4-5 different kinds; usually butter beans, black-eyed beans, brown lentils, Greek yellow split peas (known as fava, but nothing to do with the fava bean!), and chickpeas. They are used widely and in various ways in Greek cuisine and they are an amazing plant-based source of protein.

  • A few kinds of rice are also stocked up for different purposes.

  • Honey is always present in the pantry as I am very particular with the types of honey (meaning from which plant or tree they come from) I use (how sweet or herbal, how creamy or runny I want it to be for each case and what I aim to pair it with).

  • I always have a variety of nuts particularly almonds, walnuts, and pistachios which I use a lot both in my recipes but also, I love having them as a snack, plain or with dried fruit.

MORE: Shop all Greek Food & Ingredients 

 

How do you balance tradition and innovation in your cooking?

Well, I base my knowledge on tradition and I try to develop the recipes with a more modern approach (both as far as the cooking methods I use are concerned and ingredients I combine together).


I am aware of traditional cooking methods and techniques and I have learnt a lot from older generations of professional and home cooks, producers, farmers and fishermen; I tend to bombard them with questions whenever I get the chance! When I am working on a recipe, the most important thing for me, apart from accomplishing good flavours and nice textures, is to learn how to properly use an ingredient, how to “honour” it by using the most out of it, and how to properly cook it in order to retrieve its maximum nutritional benefits. 

 

I am a fan of simplicity when my ingredients are fresh, I believe this is the way to enjoy them best and this is something I got to realise after I went through different phases in my ways of cooking and after I understood that the wisdom of traditional Greek cuisine lies in its humble simplicity and fresh ingredients. I also reconsider the concept of sustainability and zero waste through tradition. I find fascinating the urge to go back to our roots in order to learn how not to throw away literally anything and then incorporate this knowledge into what I consider a very contemporary way of cooking.


In other words, I often realise that the global “back to the roots” trend that has been going on for a while has made traditional cuisines more contemporary than ever!


What is one kitchen tip everyone should know?

Tomatoes should not be stored in the fridge. Not only they do not mature well but also their texture is affected and they lose their juiciness. Tomatoes should be ideally stored in room temperature, stem facing up (that’s where they “breath” from and mature).


What dish do you make most often?

Due to the nature of my work, I always experiment with new dishes and ideas and different ingredients, thus there’s always variety in my weekly menus, although at home I tend to mostly cook vegetarian and seafood and we enjoy meat once or twice a week. However, I love meat and my son particularly adores meatballs so about once a week I make

Soutzoukakia (wine meatballs in tomato sauce) or Yiouvarlakia (hearty meatball soup in egg and lemon sauce), which are both delicious and comforting. No matter how much I make it’s never enough!


What makes a great comfort dish for you?

All maternal food is pure comfort! It has to be warm, ideally involving a kind of broth or a velvety sauce and something you can eat with a spoon or just a fork, and it’s got to fill you up in a nice and satisfactory way. Bowls are a plus as well as they are more comfortable (and warming) to hold in my hands while I eat and you can easily hold it while you sit on a sofa, watching a nice movie. 


There’s something about the Greek “avgolemono” (egg and lemon) sauce that makes every dish extremely comforting and delicious – it really fills me up with a loving warmth, like a delightful lemony hug! This sauce can be adapted to be used in several ways like soups or stews (both of which to me are extremely comforting). Some of the most beloved comforting recipes for me that I have included in this book are the Chicken Soup, the Yiouvarlakia (hearty meatball soup) and the Goat Fricassee.


How did you decide what recipes you were going to include - and which to exclude?

That was painful! I still am not over the fact I had to exclude some really favourite recipes. I was so enthusiastic about this book I just wanted to include it all! But this was impossible so I am just keeping things for future books.


My chapters are ingredient based so my priority when choosing the recipes was to show the historical use of each ingredient in the Greek cuisine and the different cooking methods that are typically used for each of these ingredients. The recipes had to be a combination of what I just described, they had to complement and support the historical information that I am providing and they had to be delicious! Everything is adapted to my personal style of cooking and of course there are several tweaks and fusing elements in recipes that I have created (inspired by tradition). 


Still, I have got to admit that I am not over the fact I had to remove my favourite roasted chicken and okra recipe from the olive oil chapter!


Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! I am always alert with things I see around me, tastes and smells. I travel a lot whenever I can. Travelling is for me the best source of inspiration and education; it is mind- opening in every way, and discovering the local food is for me a priority in every trip. You learn about new ingredients and how people use them, about cooking methods and culinary traditions that you can then use, adapt or fuse into your own style of cooking. Farmers markets are a great source of inspiration. Looking at all the seasonal vegetable and fruit that

Greece is so abundant of fills me up with inspiration every single time – and I have been going to farmers markets ever since I was a small child. I also find inspiration in cookbooks, which I have always loved, in restaurants I eat, and the social media of course.


What recipes would you recommend we try first from the book?

It is very difficult to choose among so many recipes that are truly so dear to me. For the non-vegans I would urge you to try at least one recipe with avgolemono such as dolmades. My moussaka recipe is a big hit and I also love sougania - the stuffed onions from Lesvos island drizzled with a yoghurt sauce.


For vegan options try the Roasted Beets with Pistachio Skordalia (garlicky dip), the Spinach with Rice, The Stuffed Vegetables, the Baked Giant Beans with Spinach and Chard or the Clay-baked Chickpeas, which are simple to make, nutritious and just wonderful. For a gluten-free diet there are several recipes to try but I will spotlight my Vine Leaf Yogurt and Cheese Pie, a fresh summery dish I adore.


As far as the desserts are concerned first try the Milk Pie and Tsoureki (the aromatic easter bread) and get to know some new, wonderful spices. One of my absolute favourite treats is the stuffed quince with nuts baked in a rose and brandy syrup – wonderful with ice-cream, fresh cheese or yoghurt.


How do you source your ingredients and what do you look for when selecting them?

I shop primarily in markets, farmers’ markets or specialised food shops and delis. One of my favourite things is to visit the farmers’ market every Saturday, where aside from stocking up for the week I spend hours chatting to producers and grannies who shop. A fantastic source to learn old-school cooking tips and other culinary secrets! 


When I shop, I look for seasonality and where exactly the product was produced. I try to shop local products, fresh as possible, and as natural or organic as they can be. I am a fan of artisanal products and small producers so I support them as much as possible. I also often go foraging myself out in nature – my mom has taught me well!


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