It seems all sorts of crazy to post a recipe for a Greek Salad but then there are Greek salads and there are GREEK salads that zing so fresh that they deserve a little mention here. Years and years ago, I spent some time in the tiny fishing village of Gáïos on the verdant island of Paxos, the smallest of several tiny olive-covered land masses that quietly sit within the Ionian Sea. That trip was my first taste of Greece and it sparked a life-long adoration for the country and its warm, welcoming people. Here, slow living was the norm rather than an art form to be worked at (oh, the irony). Days started early marked by the sounds of cockerels all flustered by the sunrise followed by the chug chugs of the brightly painted fishing boats as they slowly made their way out of the still natural harbour into the sea. They would be back much later, their boats piled high with baskets of silvery fish which they sold – mostly to restauranteurs – from the harbour wall. We sat and watched them, listening to their chattering as they bartered and we sipped the icy bottled beers that marked the beginning of the hour that we would sit quietly reading our books before making our way back to our rooms to shower and, still glowing from the warmth of the Greek sun, dress for dinner. With nothing much to do or think about, the most important conversation of the day was the prospect of dinner and which of the handful of tavernas we would plan to settle on; Rosa’s for fish (if she was in the mood, she often wasn’t because the burgeoning tourist trade baffled her); Achilles’ for his foraged herb-filled Spanakopita – it amuses me that the Greeks name their kids after their mythical predecessors because, so often, they are not remotely God-like (I once met a guy named Adonis, most unfortunate); or, Dimitri’s for his sublime mezze table upon which there was always a huge bowl of this classic Greek salad. His is by far the best version I have ever tasted; the secret is to use the very best ingredients you can find. You can see that I’ve used a yellow pepper here; I really shouldn’t have because green is the correct way to go but I didn’t have one at the time and I came over a little bit Hecate.
2 very ripe plum tomatoes, de-seeded and cut into thin wedges
1 medium red onion, halved and finely sliced
Half a large cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and sliced into thick half-moons
1 yellow or green pepper, membranes removed and finely sliced
A generous handful of black olives, halved
3 tbsp capers or caper berries, rinsed
200g block of good feta cheese
1 tsp dried oregano
For the dressing:
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
1 tbsp good red wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
How I make it
In a large bowl, gently mix together the tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, pepper, olives and capers/caper berries.
Mix together the vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil, adjusting to your taste. Season, remembering that the cheese will add a salty kick so steady with the salt.
Dress the salad ingredients and tumble onto a pretty plate.
Sit the feta on top, drizzle with olive oil and scatter with oregano.
I serve this as part of a mezze table or alongside my Greek nettle, borage and dill Spanakopita.