During Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, many Greeks cut out meat and dairy from their diets. During any other day of the year, meat and dairy are basically among the Greeks’ favorite ingredients, so how do they deal with the annual fasting?
Basically, once they’re over the sadness of the first weekend spent without souvlaki, practising restraint becomes easy thanks to the many traditional vegan dishes that are absolutely delicious. Ladera (food cooked in oil), gemista (stuffed vegetables), and various lentil and bean stews are popular. “Bloodless” seafood like shrimp and squid is also allowed.
Spanakorizo (spinach rice) is traditionally a homecooked meal. Kids often dislike it in its purest form, while adults wolf it down nostalgically – especially when prepared by their grandmas. In the last few years, the dish has also become popular at contemporary Greek restaurants, where it’s often enhanced with expensive or unusual ingredients such as saffron or some hard-to-find artisanal cheese.
Made without the use of meat or dairy, spanakorizo is “nistisimo”, meaning that it is acceptable to be eaten during the Lent fast and is suitable for vegans. Traditionally made using just rice, spinach, olive oil and flavorings, the recipe below also contains mushrooms and tomato, two popular additions that we think you’ll love.
Sauté the onions in half of the olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the spinach to the pan and, and cook for another 6-8 minutes, or until the spinach has wilted.
Add the tomato purée and the water, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the rice, the mushrooms, the herbs, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for 15 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Remove from the heat.
In a food processor, mix together the mustard, the zest and juice from the lemon, and the oil until smooth.
Pour the sauce over the spinach rice and serve.
This recipe was first published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.
800 g spinach, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
250 g tomato purée
400 ml water
170 g Carolina rice
200 g button mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp. dried mint
1/2 bunch of dill, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tbsp. spicy mustard
1 tbsp. lemon zest
30 ml lemon juice
90 ml olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper