Tonia Buxton: Reasons To Eat Greek (And Two Fabulous Recipes)
There is so much misinformation when it comes to eating well, I want to try & clear through the mist. But firstly I want to quote the ancients :
Aristotle said “If one way be better than another, that you may be sure is nature’s way.”
These are my basic rules for eating well:
Keep Ingredients Simple
Keep it as close to nature as possible, if you are looking at a chicken breast, the only thing in the ingredients list should be, chicken breast, if there are a whole load of other things, dextrose, E numbers & preservatives, then seriously that’s not the one to get.
Buy the best that you can afford, if you can go to your local farmer & get fresh eggs, brilliant, if not buy organic, if you can’t then get free range & so forth, good ingredients are the foundations of good eating.
Cook From Scratch
I know this sounds hard but it really isn’t. Start simple with a basic stir fry or an easy to make tomato sauce, which actually can be the foundation for many meals such as a simple pasta sauce, or the start of a chicken or bake or the sauce for homemade pizza or the base of a lovely vegetable mousakka. I try to make it in big batches & freeze & when I’m stuck for something to cook I know I have something to start with.
Think about flavours you like to eat, find a basic recipe with those flavours in & give it a go. I think one of the biggest problems is people are fearful to try, but it is a joy once you get the hang of it.
Read The Label
Do not fall for anything that has the tags ‘healthy’ on it especially if it also has, sugar-free (it will be full of synthetic sugars & nasty chemicals) or fat- free (ditto!)
I was so shocked when I realise how much sugar was in my child’s yogurts which had in bold writing ‘Full of calcium & healthy written on it’ rubbish! If you want a flavoured yogurt go buy a good Greek yogurt which has more protein & less fat than normal yogurts (it takes 4 litres of milk to make 1 litre of yogurt, this is because it is made thick through churning NOT through adding fillers ) and to that lovely yogurt add some fruit or honey or jam, at least then you know you are getting just the one teaspoon not the 6 the food producers are adding. AND these at least are relatively natural sugars rather than all the synthetic ones.
It is now common knowledge that the Mediterranean diet is the best for your health & within the Mediterranean, Greek is the best. I was lucky enough to grow up in a Greek family where cooking was a tradition, I had to cook like it or not, I learnt to love it. What is so wonderful about the cuisine is it’s simplicity, it is good rustic food at it’s best.
So why no give it a go? It really is not hard to eat healthily & well. Here are two lovely recipes from my new book, The Real Greek – I hope you enjoy them!
Warm Halloumi and Peach Salad
Serves 2 as a main or 6 as a meze
3 ripe, firm peaches, halved and stoned
2 tbsp. olive oil
250g halloumi cheese
3 red chicory, root intact, quartered
1 bunch of spring onions, trimmed and chopped diagonally into 5cm slices.
For the dressing:
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
½ large bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped
5 tbsp. white wine vinegar
3 tbsp. clear Greek honey
This is one of my favourite salads, especially when I can pick home-grown peaches ripened to perfection under the Mediterranean sun. The saltiness of halloumi goes so well with the sweetness of the fruit. Sometimes I use fennel instead of chicory.
First make the dressing: Place all the ingredients in a large, lidded jam jar and shake to mix well.
Cut the peach halves into 5 wedges. Cut the cheese into 1cm slices. Heat half the oil in a large frying pan and fry the halloumi for 3-4 minutes on each side or until a golden crust forms. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
Add the chicory and spring onions to the hot oil, fry for a minute or two to lightly colour and wilt the leaves. Transfer to a plate lined with absorbent kitchen towel.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the peaches over a high heat for 1 minute just to soften and colour slightly.
Now gently combine all the prepared ingredients onto a big plate and fold in the dressing.
100g dried cranberries
2 red onions, finely chopped
10 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
8 preserved lemons, finely sliced
1 Bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped
Juice of 3 large lemons
5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp. freshly chopped mint leaves plus extra, to garnish
5 tbsp. freshly chopped coriander
5 tbsp. freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Tomato and onion salsa, to serve (optional)
This is a healthy and vibrant salad developed by Tonia and a popular side dish at The Real Greek. Couscous soaks up flavours and this one has plenty going for it. It’s delicious with grilled lamb cutlets (see page 61) and lamb kefte (see page 63) with tzatziki (see page 37) for dolloping.
Prepare the couscous according to the packet instructions. Tip into a large bowl and stir in the dried cranberries. Leave to cool.
Stir in all the remaining ingredients and combine well. Cover and chill for 1 hour to let the flavours develop.
Serve at room temperature, topped, if liked, with tomato and onion salsa.
Kitchen note: A fresh tomato salsa is a great garnish for this couscous salad.
Finely dice and mix together 4 tomatoes,
1 red onion and a Bird’s eye chilli (deseeded for a milder heat). Season and spoon on the centre of the couscous, topped with fresh mint leaves.