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Updated: May 23, 2010 19:26 IST

Peppered with love

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HEALTHY LIVING: Lola says Greek cuisine is refreshing. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.
The Hindu
HEALTHY LIVING: Lola says Greek cuisine is refreshing. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

?We eat sea urchins raw,? says lovely Lola. ?We just scoop the meat and eat it. There is sweetness of the sea to it and it tastes incredible,? says the animated chef, throwing her hands in the air. ?My favourite is fish and octopus on charcoal, eaten with lemon,? there's a glint in her eyes that you can't miss.

Visiting India for the first time, the vivacious Alexandra Lola Koutoudi or Lola brings authentic Greek food to the Bangalore palate, all home-style preparations, peppered with love.

?Greece is famous for summers. Ours is basically island food and it is simple.? Though, a big procedure ? beginning with spreading out the wine leaves for the base of a salad, filling zucchini and tomato with stuffing, and making pita bread filled with spinach and feta cheese ? goes into the preparations making it unique and complex. ?My grandmother makes it. Probably, I wouldn't have known the recipes if I hadn't asked her. Every Greek knows it,? says Lola, a student in arts and architecture.

Greek cuisine is refreshing, light on the stomach and packed with loads of fresh ingredients, olives, olive oil (the only oil used in cooking), oregano, herbs and tomatoes, meats and fish. And is full of salads and dips. The greens are slightly uncooked or raw. No chillies. But lots of cheese and diary products. The spices are minimal and restricted to cinnamon sticks and bay leaves.

?We get cheese from different regions, from the milk of sheep, goat and cow and in different textures as soft and hard. Our cheese is more rustic, fresh and very good in taste. Every dip is unique, of different colours and smells. We use a lot of lemon, parsley, garlic, pepper and yoghurt.?

Some of the dips such as aubergine, fig with feta, garlic, and potatoes and nuts, red pepper and cheese, which we sample with pita bread (stuffed with olives and cheese) and crackers lived up to the freshness and tastes great.

The ingredients, many herbs and fresh greens are put together to bring a unique flavour. Fresh olive oil and lemon lend a special touch. ?My country is full of bushes and if you want herbs you will find them. The meats are cooked in red sauce, because we have good tomatoes. We grow them.?

In Greece, the restaurants which serve traditional recipes have given up because of the growing tourism. ?I'm disappointed about not having quality food. Fifty years ago, food was much more natural. It is very important to keep the traditional recipes alive in any culture. Young people do not cook any more, they go in for pre-cooked fillings and stuffing. They eat differently and faster.? The festival is an attempt to revive those recipes and introduce authentic Greek food to the Indian palate. ?When I was living alone in New York, I started cooking as it has to do with a healthy living, which has been a part of my growing up in the islands. All my influences come from the island,? Lola tells you, rather unusual views for someone so young.

Fresh olives are used is salads (such as authentic Greek salad prepared with onion, capsicum, pepper) and also eaten with fish and meats, along with feta. ?Our beans are smaller but very tasty. Nobody can understand how a traditional Greek food tastes.?

Though there are a million ways of preparing the Greek food, Lola has retained the authentic method. In the main course, rice is combined with wine leaves, meat and fish, lentils, and beans. The desserts are syrupy because of the Turkish and Greek influences.

Eating healthy food is a way of life for Lola. She is fascinated by the Indian food. ?It is very rich. There are great breads and many lentils and dals. I had biriyani and was surprised by the number of ingredients that go into the preparation, from ginger to garlic to spices, and the different ways of using them to bring out the aromas is amazing.?

?Lola's Kitchen? is on till May 23 at Olive Beach, ala carte dinner menu available between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. For reservations call: 41128400/9945565483.

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