Seasonal Food: Fresh is Best!

Has anyone else noticed how expensive it is to purchase ingredients from our giant supermarkets?

I’ve been asked to cater a couple of large events, an engagement party and a wedding, and I am still picking myself off the ground by the high prices!

I suppose if you are set up for regular catering you would have a supply of bulk items and it may not seem so bad but really, does everything have to be that expensive?

On my first trip back to Greece as an adult over 20 years ago, my cousins took me to the weekly markets operating every Thursday morning. They were living in a suburb called Sepolia, a short train ride from the main city of Athens. Farmers would come in, set up their tables and sell their produce dirt-cheap. It didn’t cost much to eat healthy organic vegetables and the nearby butchers, well they are definitely nothing like the butcher section in the supermarkets here in Australia. I was amazed when my uncle walked into his local butchery in Karpenisi, Central Greece and ordered some mince. The guy grabbed a chunky bit of rump steak, put it through the mincer and tada…a healthy and wholesome kilo of minced steak. 

Then there was the butcher down the south of Athens. We loved to stay in apartments with a fully operating kitchen and purchase fresh ingredients to cook with. This one glorious day, armed with our fresh olive oil from our relatives olive grove (by the way, you’ve never tasted real olive oil until you have had it fresh from the olive grove…so good you can drink it by the cupfuls). Anyway, we headed into the small village town to find a butcher. We were craving lamb souvlakia and even though there was no real cutting knife in the apartment, we were going to find a way to cut a leg of lamb in chunks even if it took us hours!

We were in a hurry as it was just after lunch and we knew by 1.30-2.00pm, the shops would be closing and everyone would be off to their own homes for a delicious midday meal and their beloved siesta.

We found a butcher, and not only that, he was so kind, he cut the lamb into chunks so that we can thread them on skewers and enjoy our lamb souvlakia.

We marinated the lamb with olive oil, lemon, garlic and rigani. We were going to have a feast that afternoon and the anticipation of great food was high!

Our kitchen facilities were very basic but modern and really, it was a one-person kitchen. We didn’t let that hold us back and besides, the view was spectacular – overlooking the Mediterranean sea while busily preparing lamb souvlakia was food heaven on earth!

Let me ask you a question – have you ever heard anyone in Australia who has visited Greece tell you the tomatoes and cucumbers are full of flavour and so much different to the ones we purchase here? It’s all true – the flavour of even the feta and olives are extraordinary! Is it the climate? The old-school farming? I don’t know, but what I do know is that once you have eaten in Greece, life is never quite the same.

And that’s why I support our local farmers and visit our fresh food markets on a Sunday. It’s not the cheapest option, but it is the tastiest and healthiest option and when you love to cook from scratch, leaving all the nasties out of your food, it’s definitely the way to go.

So, next time you are in the supermarket, think about ways you can support our local farmers. Maybe start purchasing the little bit more expensive cooking butter or cream, start cutting out processed foods, a little at a time (you don’t want to shock your family too much!!). Get up early on a Sunday morning and get yourself to the local fresh food markets and stock up the fridge with healthy options for the week.

And while you are at it, I look forward to catching you at the Newcastle Show this weekend as I present a couple of my recipes from my recently published cookbook, In Sofia’s Kitchen: Mediterranean Flavours Down Under available to purchase on both days. Come say hi!

Newcastle Show - Seniors Pavilion (Entertainment Centre) 

Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th 10:30am - 12:30pm