"Avgolemono is just so important to Greeks. But maybe it's even more important to Greeks who've left Greece." Simon Gloftis
I haven't done a first recipe post for a long time and this one has been sitting on my desk for ages. This time I'm going to concentrate on the recipe rather than the book, because it's a rather tempting looking and sounding soup. I love soup. We are having soup for dinner tonight. But this one is a fish soup, so I might not be making it any time soon because of David's reluctance on fish, and he's not really all that keen on soup either.
A tiny word about the book first though. It's a companion volume to German Cooking by the same author, and German Cooking was not a favourite. Indeed I meant to take it to the street library, but suspect I still haven't. Greek Cooking, on the other hand is rather better and there are a couple of recipes in there that I use on and off. This is where I first learnt to make baklava I think, and I have made several of the lamb dishes, but the one I like the most is something she calls Palamida plaki, which she translates as Palamida cooked with tomatoes. Palamida being a fish. It's simple but somewhat surprisingly delicious. I tried to find a photograph of the dish but either she has misnamed this dish or it is not a popular one. Eventually I found something that looked a little bit like it, but not really. See below.
Now I have never been to Greece, and so have no romantic memories of Greek islands in the sun but I have dined in lots of Greek restaurants. We have a lot of them here in Melbourne. At one point in time Melbourne was the second largest Greek city after Athens. When we first arrived here a particular street in Melbourne was exclusively Greek. Then it became Vietnamese and still mostly is although there is also a lot of Chinese there too now. The Greeks have dispersed all over the vast area of Melbourne, with little concentrations here and there. Around here is one of those - we have Greek Australians living next door for example. My point is though that although I do enjoy Greek food, on the whole I find it somewhat plain, although then when you think of some of their delicious dips, souvlaki and so on I perhaps should eat my words.
Robin Howe has a few words to say on this:
"I would not be honest if I did not admit that there are two distinct schools of thought regarding Greek food. For and against. There are no half measures ... Greek food is apt to be served lukewarm and with too much oil for our taste. Many non-Greeks do not like olive oil but as it is an essential part of all Mediterranean cooking - there it is. I have lived long enough in olive oil producing countries to like it very much. But I do not like all my food smothered in oil. Some Greeks do."
She also has a word or two to say about whether Greek food is really Turkish food or vice-versa.
"The Greeks base their claims to their own cooking on an older civilisation. They say that when they were inventing exquisite sauces the Turks were nomads grilling bits of meat on skewers and turning milk into yoghurt in gourds slung over their saddle bags."
Enough said, probably. Maybe another time.
The first chapter of this book was dedicated to appetisers, but there were not really any recipes - it was more a guide to what the Greeks did in terms of appetisers with all the different kinds of food available. And so I turned to soup and a fish version of egg and lemon soup. I gather that mostly the egg and lemon is associated with chicken soup, and there is also a plain egg and lemon soup, but here we have a fishy one.
The recipes I found online varied in how complicated they were. Some went to great lengths making a fish stock first. Some cooked whole fish separately, some just put pieces of fish in the soup. When I'm looking for recipes online, I have decided, I'm probably a bit of a snob, and begin by ignoring all the recipes that first pop up from all the thousands of bloggers like me out there. Well not like me - most of them have lots and lots of followers and make money from the enterprise. But I do ignore them because I'm not really very familiar with the blogosphere as they call it. This time though I decided to check them out. That very delicious looking version at the top of the page is from a lady called Diane Kochilas for example. Then there is one from Dimitra's Dishes and another from LSL.com. And don't they look gorgeous? Lemony. And we all know that lemons go with fish.
I couldn't resist though and tried really hard to find 'name' cooks' recipes. And I was astonished at how few there were. There wasn't even one from George Calombaris, although there was a rather annoying video of him on MasterChef demonstrating it. The Guardian had nothing really, and neither did Claudia Roden. She may have a recipe somewhere in her books, but not in any that I own and not online. And whilst we are on the old gurus - nothing from Elizabeth David or Robert Carrier either. But in the end I found a couple - Greek fisherman's soup with egg and lemon from Brigitte Hafner on the Good Food website; Fish soup - avgolemono from Martha Stewart and Avgolemono seafood stew from Rachel Gurjar on the Bon Appétit website - and that was a seafood version, so not really the same thing.
The only other difference to note between all the versions is the addition of rice or not. Some added rice, some did not.
And careful when you add the egg and lemon at the end. Beat the eggs with your lemon. Add some of the hot soup liquid slowly beating as you do so that it won't curdle. And when you think it's combined enough, then add it to the soup. Slowly again. The danger is that it will curdle.
I think I have actually made the chicken version sometime in the past. Maybe it's time to try fish. We haven't been eating much fish of late.