Sugar, spice and all things nice
You’re coming to the end of your Greek sojourn and want to return with edible souvenirs that, with one bite, will bring you back to the Aegean. Or perhaps you live here, but are heading home for holidays, and need some tasty treats to bestow on friends and relatives. Peerless as Greek olives and olive oil are, they use up valuable weight in one’s luggage, and there’s always the worry that the lids will ease ajar under pressure, and you’ll arrive to find your clothes liberally doused with indelible stains and smelling more potent than a freshly-blended tapenade. Instead, for the gourmet gallivantor, Cordelia Madden-Kanellopoulou picks out five goodies that are light, spill-safe, and quintessentially Greek.
1) Raw pistachio nuts from the isle of Aegina pack a powerful energy punch, and are loaded with vitamins, minerals and heart-healthy fats. Just a handful a day can keep the doctor away (more, and those calories start adding up). You can buy them up in their shells at most supermarkets, but for a more irresistible proposition, visit Carpo to choose a bag-full of beautiful dusky-pink raw kernels. While you’re there, try the energy nut mix with pistachios, walnuts and wild-flower honey too – ideal to scatter over your morning yoghurt to kick-start the system. Shops in Kolonaki, Psychico; www.carpoathens.com
2) No matter how good your tomatoes, olive oil and feta, your Horiatiki salad just won’t taste authentic without a generous shake of oregano across the top. Eschew the tame versions from cultivated crops, and instead pick up an elegant 10gr cylinder (which fits neatly into even the most overstuffed holiday holdall) from Harmonian, packed full of rigani from wild shrubs on the Pindos mountains. For details on stockists, see www.harmonian.cc
3) They’re nicknamed Greek nachos, but these more-ish baked snacks are a far cry from the additive-laden pseudo-Mexican bites that the name conjures up for most of us. Marcitos ‘lazanofyla’ (lasagne sheets) from Hiotiko Kellari are handmade with fresh potato and spinach, and free from artificial colours and flavours. Try them with the wonderfully intense Black Olive and Walnut spread by Simply Greek. From Krokos, Vyronos 6, Plaka, and delis around Athens.
4) Their frail looks are deceptive: just a pinch of saffron threads adds a pungent, mysterious tang to everything from tea to desserts to traditional pilaff. Pick up a pocket-sized packet of organic saffron from the Krokos Cooperative in Kozani (the only region in Greece to produce it) at your local supermarket or organic store.
5) The Ancient Greeks thrived on seed and honey snacks, while for generations of modern Greeks, flat packs of pasteli were a childhood staple. The original energy bar, for a quick pick-me-up there’s little to rival roasted, honey-pressed sesame crunch. Some are brittle enough to chip a tooth, but the flaked version by Ergon gets top marks for taste and texture, as well as presentation. From selected delis and at Ergon, Nea Erythrea.