Most of us have had the experience of trying to reproduce much-loved holiday meals back at home. The memory of delicious food, eaten in some warm, seaside setting can be difficult to recreate on an overcast day in your own kitchen. After all, we’re up against a lot. The lack of gently lapping waves, dismal outdoor temperatures, and a general deficiency in ultraviolet light, can all play a part in these disappointing results.
One thing that really does help the situation is not compromising on the ingredients. Let’s face it you aren’t going to make an authentic Greek ‘Horiatiki Salad using those insipid, ‘just-about-red’ balls that some supermarkets try to pass off as tomatoes! So there are things you can do to replicate those holiday tastes, and a lot of it is down to shopping well. Just to make you all feel better, my mission is even harder – recreating the flavours of home for my expat Greek husband is a pretty high bar to clear! I have learnt that apart from following good, authentic recipes, sourcing the right ingredients is really important.
Thirty or forty years ago this did mean carting ridiculous amounts of stuff back from Greece every time we went. Trips to London would always require a pit stop at ‘The Athenian Grocery‘ on Moscow Road in Bayswater – it’s still there and still one of the best Greek delis in London. Any new ethnic supermarket was trawled, just in case there was, by some miracle, any Greek products. Difficult to imagine now, but there was a time, and not so long ago, when Greek feta and yoghurt were completely unknown in British supermarkets.
But things are much improved and good Greek produce can be found in most of the well-known grocers. Most large towns have an ethnic store that will have some Greek products, or good substitutes from other mediterranean or middle eastern countries. The real game-changer though is the burgeoning amount of online Greek supermarkets, and I thought it might be useful to give a review of some of them. Obviously, it’s not a definitive list by any means, and there has been absolutely no sponsorship . These are just the ones I have tried and my reviews are those of an unbiased punter.
As Kouzina’s strapline is, ‘Greek Recipes from an English Kitchen’, I have only listed sellers that deliver in the UK. There are some that don’t deliver outside a certain area (usually the boundary is the M25). I live in the north of the country, so I can’t give an opinion one way or another on those.
Hopefully this helps you with sourcing those essential Greek ingredients!
For over 30 years Panos Manuelides’ company ‘Odysea’ has been providing top quality Greek products to the British market. Their selection of cheeses, yoghurts, olives and dips are readily available in most good supermarkets and delis. The well-known ‘Karyatis’ brand is part of the Odysea family. In recent years they have also operated an online shop, which has a wider range of products.
They have a good selection of honey under the ‘Odysea’ label. There are various flavours – thyme, orange blossom, spring blossom and oak. Their own brand of olives, savoury ‘meze’ pastes, pickled capers and peppers are second to none.
The website is very attractive, well-laid out and easy to use – though you have to ‘accept cookies’ more often than you’d expect….
Free standard delivery is over £50. Allow 4 days for delivery, though mine have usually come quicker. Deliveries come well-packaged.
- Look out for:
- Extra virgin Greek olive oil – their own label is excellent.
- Cheese : Feta – their own label and Dodoni – a market leader in Greece.
- Good selection of quality Greek vinegar – red and white wine and balsamic. I’m a particular fan of Odysea red wine vinega
- Agrino pulses
- .Real Greek pitta bread – as opposed to the Cypriot, ‘pocket’ version widely available in UK supermarkets.
- Cretan ‘Amari’ myzythra – sweet and salty and graviera
- ‘Mastelo’ – the traditional cheese from Chios
Opened in 2012, Maltby and Greek have a retail presence at the Spa Terminus in Bermondsey, London. Fortunately, for those of us outside London, they have a really excellent on-line store.
They prize themselves on sourcing the finest quality food from all over Greece, and specialise in working directly with small, artisan producers. The range of products, from unusual cheeses to handmade pasta is vast. They really do have some of the more unusual ingredients that you will struggle to find elsewhere in the UK, including a lot of artisanal Cretan specialities.The premium quality that they go for, does mean that they do not always have the cheapest brands, but they will invariably have the best and the most unusual.
They also carry a really excellent selection of Greek wine.
The website is very appealing, engaging, clear and well laid out.
Carriage paid is quite high at £75 – but this is for delivery with a courier, rather than Royal Mail. However, paid delivery is reasonable – from £2.99 – £4.99 (depending on weight). Obviously it’s best not to order just one item ! Deliveries are very well-packed.
- Look out for:
- ‘White’ (ie.not artificially coloured) taramas.
- ‘Staka’ – the traditional Cretan butter, essential for gamopilafo.
- ‘Siglino’ – the unusual Cretan cured pork.
- ‘Marianna’s’ vine leaves for the perfect dolmadakia.
- ‘Agrino’ rice – 5 types.
- ‘Three Cents’ – premium Greek mixers and sodas.
- A really excellent selection of unusual, regional cheeses.
‘Greek Market’ has been in business since 2005 and supplies customers not only in UK, but in Europe and all over the world. Basically, scrolling through the various sections of ‘Greek Market’s‘ website is like visiting a Greek supermarket – the brands and the products are all the most familiar ones. It really does offer a taste of home for the Greek community here.
For anyone missing the Greek staples, they will be happy to see brands like Misko, Melissa, Kyknos, Yotis, Papadopoulos, Barba Stathis, to name but a few. They carry some frozen/chilled products – mainly meat cuts that Greek cooks will be familiar with.
The cheese selection is restricted to feta and halloumi but the rest of the product range is incredibly comprehensive. They even stock Greek baby food, toiletries and some Greek cleaning products. They run a lot of special offers which are worth looking out for.
I bought a very nifty electric ‘briki’ from them. Quite a find!
The website is fairly plain but is completely functional, with clear product areas.
Delivery is carriage paid over £49, which makes ordering easily cost-effective. Under £49, it’s £7.97. The lead time for delivery is 3-5 days but, personally, I have received parcels well before 3 days. Packaging is excellent.
- Look out for :
- Nounou milk in various sized tins
- Ion chocolate – all the varieties, including ‘Noisetta’ ‘sokolatakia’ (if you know, you know)!
- Elite ‘friganiés’
- Yotis ‘Krema’ baby food – various flavours.
So that’s my roundup and I think those three give a good range of choice. Personally I duck and weave between them, so that I can get the best that each offers.
Would be lovely to hear your experience of any of the others …
Happy shopping !