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Let's eat Greek for starters

- by Dabs Banner

Greek food is enjoying a bit of a comeback at the moment with several Greek cookbooks on the market including the excellent 'Smashing Plates' by Maria Elia, one of my favourites.

Holiday visitors to the Greek islands increasingly opt for traditional dishes and fewer restaurants have signs boasting roast beef and fish 'n chips, at least in those resorts not overrun by tourists.

The Mediterranean diet of olive oil, fresh vegetables, fish and fruit is now known to be notoriously good for you.

But there are plenty of tourists that hesitate to stray away from the traditional offerings of Greek salad, moussaka, souvlaki and gyros.

If you want to dip into Greek food but are not sure of what you will like it's a good idea to try our a few starters first.

Here are a few suggestions of food appetisers you might like to taste on a Greek island holiday. They will be favourites of the locals and are not to be missed on a trip to the Greek islands.


Grape leaves stuffed with minced lamb and rice make a great starter, especially with a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Grape leaves have a light cabbage flavour but less earthy and easier to chew.


Made from yellow split peas, fava is not particularly Greek, but the locals often serve it in the Greek way, warm with a sprinkling of spring onions and a drizzle of olive oil. Creamy and rich to the taste buds it makes another great starter, especially when served with warm pita bread.


Saganaki is the process of dipping food in flour and deep frying. Fried cheese doesn't sound either healthy or appetising, but once you have tried it, you will find it hard to resist. Served in small quantities as an appetiser, this traditional Greek dish is prepared in minutes and if you prefer something less fattening than cheese try shrimps.


Another deep fried starter found in many Greek tavernas, keftedes are crispy meatballs, baked rather than fried, and often served with a creamy sauce and pita bread. They can also be made from vegetables; the most popular being courgettes (kolokithokeftedes), crispy outside and creamy within, and tomatokeftedes, very popular on Santorini and served with mint and onion.


Pita is Greek for a pastry pie and spanikopita is a traditional Greek pie of filo pastry stuffed with wilted spinach and melted cheese, usually feta. Baked to a crispy, golden perfection spanikopita can make for a very filling starter or bought from the bakery as a snack.


Tiro is Greek for cheese so tiropita is a Greek cheese pie, popular throughout the islands, that can be eaten as a starter or as a snack any time of the day. Tiropita comes in all shapes and sizes but is often served as small triangles.


Tzatziki is one of the classic Greek appetisers. Usually made with Greek yoghurt, garlic and cucumber it comes in as many variations as there are Greek cooks. It often includes a dash of olive oil and a sprinkle of dill.


A traditional starter of Greek stuffed tomatoes yemista adds a splash of colour to any meal. Large juicy tomatoes are scooped out and stuffed with rice, lamb mince and herbs. The variations on this dish are endless, but all come with that comfort food aroma and flavour that can only be found in Greece and the Greek Islands.