Thursday, 21 February 2013
Many years ago, when I was an innocent young teenager, my sister Shamu and I travelled to Greece to delight in the wonders of the Mediterranean. We had a wonderful time exploring the ruins in Athens, getting a bit wild with Norwegians on the “Party Island” of the time, Ios, playing at sophistication in Santorini and embarking upon an impromptu road trip with three French girls across Crete from Heraklion to Chania.
In Crete I became incapacitated, throwing my back out from carrying my gigantic backpack, but luckily our travelling companions were trainee physiotherapists who were happy to massage me back to health each evening (merci à Caroline, Julie and Melanie - mes amies française).
It was a fun gaggle of girls posing some interesting language challenges since they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak French. After living in Italy for the past 7 months I miraculously understood their French and they understood our English, so we each spoke our own languages and somehow we communicated quite efficiently.
It was on this multicultural roadtrip that we stopped off on a deserted beach for lunch. Between two quiet cafés on the beach, we chose the one without any patrons because we could sit under the shade of an umbrella. The menus were all in Greek so the rest of the crew traipsed into the kitchen where the cook pointed out different ingredients in an attempt to mime meal options. When they came back Shamu confessed she’d ordered me something, but wasn’t quite sure what.
As we waited for our mystery lunch to arrive, our empty café started to fill up with locals and by the time they set the food on the table the place was buzzing and alive with vibrant activity. It was so stereotypical and romantic, it was as if we’d stumbled on the set of Greek film. Absolutely magical.
But even more magical was the food they served us. A tomato sauce filled with plump prawns and scattered with melting feta cheese. It was amazing. Pure perfection in a beautiful setting.
We asked the waiter to tell us the name of the dish and when they spoke I wrote down the sounds, perplexed that the dish sounded more Japanese than Greek: saganaki.
Now that I have much more experience with Greek food I know that saganaki, in its various forms, is one of Greece’s most famous dishes and has been successfully exported worldwide.
The prawn version, known as Garides Saganaki, is surprisingly simple to make, and the perfect lunch or dinner whether it’s summer or winter.
Garides Saganaki / Γαριδες Σαγανακι
Anna’s recipe. Serves 4.
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
400g canned tomatoes
1 roasted red pepper, finely sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 dried bay leaf
150g Greek feta
24 large peeled green prawns
Olive oil, for frying
Crusty white bread, to serve
1. Preheat oven to 220’C.
2. In a frying pan, heat olive oil in a saucepan then sauté onion and garlic until soft.
3. Add bay leaf, tomato and peppers and simmer for around 5 minutes.
4. Add ouzo, oregano and thyme and simmer for another 5 minutes.
5. Transfer the sauce to a baking dish and crumble over the feta.
6. Bake until feta just starts melting, about 15 minutes.
7. Push the prawns into the tomato sauce and cook for another 5 minutes or until the are opaque and cooked.
8. Serve hot with crusty white bread.