Fasting for forty days leading up to Easter may seem extreme to a non-religious person. However, it’s worth considering that aside from the spiritual reasons for the Lent fast, spring is also a suitable time to eat healthier and lighter meals, as nature provides vegetables in abundance.
To be clear, eating light is not equal to going hungry. A fundamental part of Greek cuisine are healthy, hearty vegetable stews, dishes made with legumes and cereals – and, of course, for the last two hundred years, the filling tubers we all love fried, baked and boiled: potatoes.
This recipe for potatoes “yachni”, a simple dish of potatoes cooked with onion, tomato and spices, is from Brother Epiphanios, the head chef of the famous Mount Athos monastic community. It’s an excellent example of how Greek cooks take the simplest ingredients and effortlessly transform them into a tasty meal.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, and sauté the onions until slightly brown.
Add the potatoes and the garlic and cook, while stirring, for 1-2 minutes.
Add enough water to just cover the potatoes, and bring to a boil for 5-10 minutes.
Stir the tomato paste into half a cup (about 120 ml) of water, and pour it into the pot. Add the salt and the spices (leave out the oregano). Cover the pot with a lid and cook for about 15 minutes.
Take the lid off the pot and lower the heat. Keep cooking for about 15 minutes more, or until the potatoes are done and excess liquid has evaporated. Be careful to make sure the food doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Sprinkle with oregano and serve at room-temperature.
Tip: To give your dish the right flavor and texture, make sure you cook the onions well.
This recipe was first published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.
1 kg potatoes, roughly chopped
3 onions, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic (or to taste), sliced
160 ml olive oil
2 tbsp. tomato paste
4 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/3 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 tsp. cumin
salt and black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. dried oregano