The Mediterranean table is one of the most delicious and healthiest you will find in the world. The crazy thing is, not many know of the goodness of this way of eating. It’s all about fresh, seasonal produce pulled together to create a healthy and tasty dish, just like the vegetarian pizza pictured above.
I grew up eating Greek village salad, Moussaka and baklava. It was a way of life to sit down with others and eat food made from scratch, every time. It wasn’t until I met my Aussie husband and discovered people ate canned spaghetti, they poured salad dressing out of a bottle and they spread tomato paste on their pizza base (I know many still do this so no offence meant here, just emphasising how different it was to what I was used to).
Maybe you’re one of those lucky ones where your parent or grandparent would always cook from scratch…you can remember the aromas wafting through the house, that chocolate caramel slice, or the lamb roasting slowly in the oven or the smell of buckwheat pancakes early in the mornings.
During the winter months, my mum would make flat bread on the weekend. This bread was extra delicious because instead of baking it in the oven, mum would fry it in a shallow frypan with a little olive oil. If I was being a little lazy and staying in bed that little bit longer on a Saturday morning, the smell of olive oil heating up in the pan and knowing there was creamy feta cheese on the menu, I would jump to my feet and race into the kitchen ready to feast on this deliciously good food.
But my fondest memories of food in our home was when my dad would fire up the barbecue with coals and kindling and prepare lamb chops, spicy sausages and his delicious marinated chicken wings – oh those were the days! We used to proudly proclaim to our friends he was the Barbecue King and if they were lucky enough to visit us during a barbecue in our backyard, they too would wholeheartedly agree with us.
Gathering around the table with loved ones has a way of creating long term memories not only for you, but also for your children, something that is important for their wellbeing as kids and as they step into adulthood. When you gather around the table, you have a captive audience, an opportunity where everyone can talk with each other, share your own stories when growing up, have a laugh together, a place where natural connection is developed and not forced.
One of the many gatherings I treasure is Greek Easter. It’s a time where we celebrate our faith in God and our gratitude for the family we have. In our home, the Saturday before Easter Sunday was often filled with music as we prepared traditional Greek savoury and sweets for Sunday lunch. It was ‘all hands-on deck’ as most times we had 30–40 guests joining us the next day and you know what they say, ‘many hands make light work’ and truly it felt easy because everyone got involved. The whole lamb (as pictured above) was the centre of all our celebrations as we gathered around it waiting for the first cut to test if it was cooked through – oh we would all squeal with delight as soon as that succulent tender lemon infused lamb hit our taste buds!
Today, with our three daughters all grown up and we now have a couple of grandkids, we are making sure we continue these traditions centred around our Mediterranean table so they too will grow up with the best of memories, and a healthy way of eating!
One great love of ours is Haloumi cheese. The traditional way many Greek families prepare this cheese is to make Haloumi Saganaki. Saganaki simply means to fry. We slice the cheese first, then dip it in a bowl of water to wet it, before dredging it in a bowl of plain flour. We add a little oil in a small shallow frypan (okay a lot more olive oil) and once the oil is heated, we fry the cheese on both sides and then serve with a squeeze of lemon and freshly baked crusty bread. So delicious! But there are so many ways you can use Haloumi and one of them is to add it to a salad once you’ve fried it. Below I have included an easy recipe I love to share with everyone. Seriously, it’s so easy and so delicious, I hope you try it and if you do, please send me photos – I always enjoy seeing your creations!
Chickpea and Pumpkin salad with Haloumi (Serves 4)
400g pumpkin seeded, peeled and diced into 3cm cubes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons olive oil for drizzling on pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
2 cups baby rocket
2 cups of chickpeas, cooked and drained
3 spring onions, finely sliced
¼ cup sliced sundried tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
Olive oil for frying haloumi
8 slices haloumi, lightly coated in plain flour
Sesame seeds (optional)
Honey Mustard Dressing
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of honey
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 180*C and prepare a lined baking dish. Place cut pumpkin on tray, drizzle with oil and sprinkle spices on top. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
In four small salad bowls, evenly distribute baby rocket, chickpeas, spring onions, sundried tomatoes and pumpkin.
In a shallow frypan, heat oil and cook halloumi for a couple of minutes on each side or until golden. Place two slices of halloumi on top of each salad.
Mix together dressing ingredients and pour evenly over salad. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and serve immediately.