It’s a given, of course, that lamb is definitely not the only meat. However, it seems to me that for most Anglo-Saxon food-writers and U.K. supermarkets, all people eat in Greece is lamb. Those of you who follow this blog will remember my hummus-rant – well, this is the next on my list of Greek food myths to bust.
NO – you definitely can’t make moussaká with lamb ! I would say that most Greek housewives would think you had well and truly flipped if you used it as one of its ingredients. Let alone, this heavenly Greek dish being a vehicle for using ‘left over roast lamb’ ! It’s NOT shepherd’s pie !
Obviously, there are high days and holidays when absolutely no other food will do. You basically cannot have Greek Easter without the best part of a lamb – or even two. And there is absolutely no other meat for the divine fricassée dishes – gorgeous, lemony adaptations of French classics.
Although a lot of traditional Greek food uses vegetables as the main ingredient, the changing food culture of the post-war years has meant that meat has played a bigger rôle, and, on the whole, that meat has been beef or veal. Having said that, traditionally there is another meat that is not completely obvious as an ingredient in Greek cuisine and that, of course, is pork.
So forget the ubiquitous lamb ‘kebab’ – your souvlaki of choice will be pork, of course. There is nothing to compare with crispy, but also juicy, charcoal-grilled pork chops. The base for the perfect bulgur wheat pilaff is, of course, a little chopped pork. And then there are the unlikely but totally authentic dishes, braised pork with celeriac and my personal, all-time favourite, stewed pork with leeks. Leeks don’t only belong to Wales – they are a major ingredient in Greek cuisine!
This is what I love about Greek food – you don’t just get one star, you get two. The perfect combination of gently braised pork and sweet, whole leeks. Here you get a plate of food that manages to be both subtle and gutsy. No shrinking away from any of the flavours, but the combination is so perfect. In the winter this is perfect with a dollop of creamy, mashed potato on the side, but this time of year you need no more than good bread for those sweet , sweet juices.
Pork with Leeks
1kg pork shoulder steaks – you do need a cut with some fat. Cut the steaks in half.
1kg leeks – the thinner the better. The dark outer leaves removed, and cut into pieces about 6cm long.
100ml olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 good handful of finely chopped celery – the leafier bits, if possible.
1 good handful of finely chopped parsley
200ml tomato juice
1 tsp ground coriander seeds – fresh coriander is NOT a substitute.
Salt and pepper
Put half the oil In a good sized casserole pan and brown the pork. Remove the meat from the pan and put to the side.
Add the rest of the oil and add the chopped onion and brown it a little. Add the celery and parsley and allow it to wilt.
Add the tomato and bring it to the boil. After a few minutes add the water and after a couple of minutes reduce the heat.
Put the browned pork back in the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste and the ground coriander.
Cover the pan with the lid, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 40 minutes. Alternatively, if you can, I find you get more depth in the flavour if you cook the casserole in the oven. In this case, put the covered pan into a pre-heated oven (about 180 degrees) for 40 minutes.
When the pork is almost cooked, add the leeks and continue to cook on a low heat (either on the hob or in the oven) until the leeks are soft.
Check the seasoning and serve with good crusty bread, rice or mashed potato.