Greek Fire


I love history, and the more time I spend in Greece the more I appreciate the subtleties and excesses of Byzantine history. Greek Fire was a closely guarded state secret, so secret in fact that the true formulation has been lost over time. Essentially it acted like pressurized napalm that could burn on water. A formidable weapon that inspired fear in their enemies and created a perception of invincibility. It was deployed though siphons mounted on the prows of their ships via the mouth of a carved hideous beast, giving the impression of a fire breathing monster.
It is with this image in mind that I bring you to the recipes at hand. Although not a state secret, if you eat these dips it is guaranteed that you will breath fire like the mythical beasts of old. From left to right you have:

  1. Tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber, garlic dip) A versatile dip that is great to eat with anything from chips and veggies to grilled meats and fish.
  2. Skordalia (potato garlic puree) This is traditionally served with salt cod, but pairs well with any seafood. I usually order this to accompany fried sardines, anchovies or a nice crusty bread.
  3. Melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant spread) Smoky roasted heaven, this is my favourite of the three. Tasty enough to eat on its own, and it tastes good with just about anything (except for maybe cheesecake)
What you need for the Tzatziki:
  • 2 cups of strained Greek yogurt (balkan style etc. make sure that it has no gelatin)
  • 4-8 cloves of garlic (this depends on how much fire you want to breathe)
  • 1 English cucumber peeled, seeded and grated
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill (or dried)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
How it’s done:
  • Place the Greek yogurt in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  • Take your grated cucumber and with your hands squeeze out any excess moisture.  Add the cuke to the yogurt.
  • Squash your garlic with the side of your knife, remove the skins and mince.  Add to the yogurt.
  • Add your dill.
  • Add your olive oil.
  • Mix in your squeezed lemon, season with salt and pepper and Enjoy!
What you need for the Skordalia:
  • 2-3 med. sized potatoes
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup wine (or white) vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
How it’s done:
  • Peel the potatoes, place them in a pot and boil until soft. Remove from heat and cool.
  • When cool enough to handle, run the potatoes through a ricer into a medium sized mixing bowl. If you don’t have a ricer, give them a good squashing with a masher.
  • Smash your garlic, removing the skins.
  • Place garlic and vinegar in a blender or food processor, whisk until smooth.
  • Add vinegar/garlic mixture and oil to the potatoes, mixing thoroughly.
  • The consistency should be similar to applesauce.
  • Adjust your seasoning with salt and pepper and serve lukewarm. Enjoy!
What you need for the Melitzanosalata:
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 sweet red pepper (optional, I add for colour and flavour)
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 head of garlic (prepped for roasting, see below)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of wine vinegar
How it’s done:
  • Over an open flame (gas burner, BBQ, gas torch) blacken the skin of the eggplant. Yes, completely burn it. This is an essential step.
  • Over the same flame blacken the red pepper as well. When black, place under cold running water and remove the skin and rough chop.
  • Preheat oven to 200C or 400F.
  • Place eggplant on a sheet of foil. Wrap it up and place in the oven.
  • Take your head of garlic, cut off the top, place on a sheet of foil, season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Wrap up the garlic and place in the oven alongside the eggplant.
  • Roast for 30-40 min
  • While you are roasting the eggplant, place the onions, the 3 cloves of garlic and the red pepper in a frying pan with a little oil, gently cooking until the onions are translucent. Set aside to cool.
  • When the eggplant and garlic are done and cool enough to handle, scoop out the eggplant insides and squeeze roasted garlic cloves into a bowl, discarding the skins.
  • Take half of the eggplant, the roasted garlic, the onion/pepper mixture, and the vinegar, place in a blender and whisk until smooth but not pureed.
  • Roughly smash the remaining eggplant with a fork until chunky.
  • Incorporate the blended eggplant back into the chunky mashed eggplant.
  • Add the olive oil and mix well.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • This one is to die for… so be careful.  Enjoy!
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