The so-called Chiknopempti is the last day to eat meat, since on the Sunday of Carnival, after all the revelry from the Carnival and the float parades, we should consider very seriously the concept of lenten fasting for forty days. The Greek name for this time itself is indicative: “Apo-kreo”, which means “away from meat.” During the week following, which is known as “cheese week,” lenten fasters are allowed to eat cheese.
Clean Monday signifies the beginning of the forty-day fasting period (Sarakosti in Greek, Lent in English), leading up to the great celebration of Christianity, Easter. It is felt that lenten fasting is a chance for internal cleansing as well as an opportunity to test one’s faith, attempting to stand fast in the face of temptation, which begins with one’s diet.
Greek cuisine is overflowing with lenten recipes. Of course, the fact that the local ingredients are so many and so varied has allowed every region of Greece to develop its own local lenten recipes, and each type of dish can be cooked in many alternative ways.
The most recognizable lenten food is, of course, bread – a special kind of Greek lenten bread for is called lagana. This type of bread, which uses two or three different kinds of flour, is the most beloved lenten delicacy (one might wonder why it’s not eaten more often!).
There are so many foods eaten for Lent that you might ask whether it’s really not a feast, rather than a fast! Beans, pickles, halvas, seafood, and fava are some examples of dishes eaten during this time. Taramosalata, a dish made from fish roe, is ever present on the lenten table, as well as salad and black-eyed beans. There is of course fava-bean spread with olive oil and chopped onion, fried calamari, stuffed cuttlefish, octopus with chopped pasta and red sauce, mussel pilaf, giant beans with shrimp, and cauliflower croquettes. All that seafood…but isn’t fish forbidden? My mother’s answer: we can eat whatever has no blood. Nutrionists tell us that seafood is rich in proteins, and since these are necessary for a healthy body, especially during a period of fasting, seafood is one of the most important ingredients in a lenten meal. While the Church Fathers certainly weren’t working under the advice of nutritionists when they laid out the rules for fasting nevertheless lenten foods are based on the rule of having no blood.
In our era, more and more of the faithful are practicing the lenten fast. Their reasons are not only religious. Many people recognize it to be a good opportunity to detoxify their bodies. You lose nothing by giving it a try!
Main dishes during Lent: Lagana bread, olives, halva, taramosalata (fish-roe spread), pickles.
Delicious Lenten Recipes
Calamari with tomato
Ingredients: 1 kg calamari rounds — 1 cup of olive oil or sunflower oil – 3 small finely chopped fresh onions – 1 clove of garlic finely choped – 1 large ripe tomato cut into cubes – salt – pepper – the juice of half a lemon – a little rocket.
Brown the onion and the garlic in a casserole dish with the oil. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the rocket, and let boil for about an hour. Check frequently that it is not sticking (to avoid this, add water to the casserole dish, about half a glass each time). As soon as the sauce gels, remove from the burner and serve, adding the rocket, chopped, as a garnish.
Chocolates with tahini
Ingredients: 250 g baking chocolate, 250 g tahini (sesame seed paste), 200 g sesame seeds.
Break the baking chocolate into pieces and melt in a double boiler. Take it off the burner and mix it well with the tahini. Allow the mixture to cool, periodically mixing it, so that it becomes doughy and you can form it into balls. Then roll each ball in sesame seeds.