Cooling yogurt cucumber dip pairs well with so many things, but especially with anything fried -fritters, patties, pakoras, bags of chips or crudites for something healthier. I like it on my fish fingers sandwich. 

For Tzatziki recipe, scroll right down.

Otherwise, you will be reading about my trip to Greece:
(1) the wonderful hotel that I stayed in Grecotel Pallas Athena
(2) shopping at the Central Market (Varvakios Agora) in Athens
(3) a terrific and authentic lunch spot with no signboard (or name that I know of ) but I have included directions to get there
(4) Mokka, a place also within the vicinity that I am dying to get back to

I was in Greece in June (2015) and whilst in Athens, I would walk to the Central Market everyday. I love food in all forms. No holiday is complete without a trip to the local markets and supermarkets. I can spend hours looking at food. Here are some of the food items that came home with me. I bought another luggage just for them.  There were bottles of Greek wine, a wine carafe, glasses, etcetera but I had already kept those. Those cucumbers you see went into the Tzatziki. Of course it was good.

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Glorious Greek food products that I put into my luggage!

Grecotel Pallas Athena
We chose to stay at GrecotelPallasAthena, at its XL Loft Suite. The hotel is less than 5 minutes from the Central Market that runs along Athinas Street. It is a much more pleasant area to stay in and I have never felt unsafe. Less tourist, more locals but still walking distance to the shopping streets. I have to tell you that the Grecotel Pallas Athena is one of the best hotel I have stayed in and I have stayed in plenty. My backpacking days are long over and if the prices suit your budget, please stay here. The staff are genuinely interested in your well being and will make sure you have the best time there possible. I really didn’t want to leave the hotel as I was so comfortable. Everything was immaculately clean. There was always drinks and refreshments when we got back to the suite. I am not talking about paltry and boring refreshments. Take a look at the images below.

The food served in the hotel restaurant is also way better than a lot of the restaurants and cafes frequented by tourists. When I do get back to Athens, this is the place I would return to. Mary, the General Manager, is such a warm hearted bundle of energy. I have no idea where she gets her oodles of energy from but she is doing a great job keeping her guests and staff happy. In my many hotel stays, I know of very few General Managers who would be out of their office to greet, mingle and help guests out at the front desk, in the lobby,…. She’s doing over and above what she needs to do and she is doing it well.  Mary was there to send us off in the taxi to the airport (and I have seen her doing the same for other guests and not just because we stayed in their XL Loft Suite). She had also had the kitchen staff prepare takeaway brunch for all of us (done quite often for all guests). The nicest bit was she bought some lovely Greek items for me because I had told her I was on a hunt for them. How sweet. So give those hotels near the touristy strip a miss and stay here instead!

 

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Complimentary fruits and sparkling or still water would be set out for us in the afternoons and evenings.
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Complimentary afternoon snacks. They kept us so well fed. There was always 2 full plates of different kinds of tasty morsels and, a bottle of wine. With tea? Yeah!

The Central Market (Varvakios Agora) in Athens
The Central Market runs along Athinas Street, closer to Omonia subway station. It houses dedicated areas for selling vegetables, fruits, seafood and meat. Dotted throughout the peripheral of these 3 fresh produce areas and fanning out into adjoining side roads are the many shops selling herbs, spices, desserts, sweets, kitchen sundries, nuts, grains, charcuteries, cured fish, olives, cheeses, bakeries, eggs, …

There was a particularly fascinating herb and spice store located a short distance from the main thoroughfare. (I’m afraid I can’t give you directions there). In that narrow shop space was a smorgasbod of all the herbs and spices you could possible want. They even sold the hard to find ‘salep’, powdered orchid bulb. Now, that’s a special shop.  I had been wanting to make ‘Kaimaki’ ice cream, a greek egg-free ice cream with a distinct stretchy texture and now I can! I had been through 5 shops before and none of them had stocked it.

It’s a tight space but they have that hard to find orchid bulb powder, salep, that I was after.

I love these windowed drawers!

On the top of the drawers are salep, mastic gum and mahlep. Spices difficult to obtain if you are not in Greece.

The store helper was generous with dishing out tasting sample. I ended up buying generous bags of dates, golden berries, dried beetroot strips, dried raspberries, apricots, figs..  I have since hidden the dried raspberries in the depths of my refrigerator as someone in the house has been eating them a bit too quickly for my liking.

Mokka
I left the shop with 2 very large bags. My shopping partner was not too thrilled though but I made both of us happy by stopping at one of our favourite coffee places in the world, Mokka.

The very best Turkish coffee served with a cube of wobbly Turkish Delight.

It serves very good black coffee, cafe latte and certainly the best Turkish coffee. As you walk out from the meat market, it should be to the left, on Athinas Street. Click on the Mokka link above, browse their history and wonder no longer why their coffee is superior. I would frequent it everyday, often twice a day. At times, I would order both a cafe latte and a Turkish coffee. I especially miss the Turkish coffee.

Always busy and always good coffee.

Only lunch served at the place down the stairs – restaurant with no sign board
These is an excellent place to have lunch within the area. That is if you can find it. I don’t even know if the restaurant has a name. You can’t even see the restaurant from the street level. It is quite elusive.  Thomas, a driver/guide we had engaged took us to the seaport of Nafplio and had recommend we try the no frills food cooked by an elderly gentleman. The latter had been cooking there longer than anyone can remember. His eatery is located at one end of the vegetable market in a building that looks like it is in want of some support structures.

In the picture below, the market is to the right. If I recall correctly, this end of the vegetable market is where you will find the dumpster. Doesn’t sound like a promising start I know but stay focus and walk past it. Cross the road and walk confidently down the short flight of stairs.

Follow the arrow and go down the short flights of steps for authentic Greek food cooked by a charming older man. The market vendors and shop keepers have been heading there for lunch for years.
Walk down the stairs and you will see the pretty sight of copper coloured wine decanters rather precariously stacked.  Look a bit further back and lined up against the back wall will be 8 wine barrels. They are not for show. They are filled with house wine!

This place has 10 little tables and whatever the friendly, white haired chef decides to cook for the day is what you will eat. You walk past the wine barrels and there on the concrete counter (left background) will be aluminium covered pots of lunch. The counter is tiny but the chef can fit a lot of pots in that space. He removes the lids, you smile and nod if you would like it. He makes a mental note and continues to uncover pots to show you all he has to offer. Such an uncomplicated way of ordering. Who needs menus?

See the white counter with the stacks of plates? Right behind there, what is available for lunch is displayed in pots. Really, who needs a menu?

 

I want to eat that lunch all over again.

And, how was the food? I would eat there everyday if I could! Simple dishes cooked immaculately. Chickpeas were so tender yet held its shape and just lightly flavoured. The vegetable stew? I have never tasted better. I could taste the flavour of each vegetable and they were cooked to perfection. No mushiness and all the cut vegetable kept their shape. This is quite a feat as this dish can be easily overcooked. Sardines are my favourite fish when it is served fresh. This had a touch of garlic, extra virgin olive oil and lemon was there to help yourself too. The Greek salad, was simplicity as its best. Dressed with extra virgin olive oil, oregano, pepper and salt.

I wished I had tummy space for more. There must have been another 5 dishes I had not tried. Pity this place is only open for lunch.

This is the third in a series of 10 Greek meze recipes inspired by my holiday in Greece. Link, Greek Meze, Another Selection Of Wonderful Little Bites. For your easy reference, at the bottom of this post, is an image of  the 10 meze spread across a table with links to the respective recipe.

That’s an image of my Greek meze dinner party table.

Tzatziki

Prep: 15 minutes 
Cook:
Inactive: 5 minutes
Level: Easy
Makes: ~1 and 1/2 cups
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes.
Make ahead? Keeps well covered and refrigerated up to 3 days.

Ingredients

4oz (113g) cucumber
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 +1/8 teaspoons finely diced dill*
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/4 cup greek yogurt**
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
* For suggestions to use up the rest of the dill, scroll down to ‘Tips’.
** If you cannot get greek yogurt which is thicker. Strain the yogurt to remove excess whey. For instructions, click on this post, Labneh, Thick Creamy Yogurt Cheese. For suggestions to use up yogurt, scroll down to ‘Tips’.


Method

1. If the cucumber has thick skin, peel it off and discard. If the cucumber seeds are large, scoop them out and discard.
2. Grate the cucumber into short strips. I keep mine between (0.4″ -0.8″)(1 – 2 cm) long. Sprinkle the 1/4 teaspoon salt over the cucumber and set aside for 5 minutes.
3. Squeeze the cucumber to get rid of excess liquid. Be gentle. You don’t want to squeeze it bone dry. I usually end up with slightly over 2 Tablespoons of cucumber.
4. Place in a large bowl, the cucumber, minced garlic, minced dill, ground black pepper and yogurt. Fold in all the ingredients. Add salt to taste. You may not have to add all 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Adjust the other seasonings/ingredients: pepper, garlic, dill to suit your taste.
5. The tzatziki I had in Greece was always thicker than what is usually served outside of Greece. If you like it thinner, just add cold water or milk. I know of quite a few people outside of Greece who like to add sour cream. Some recipes will ask for either vinegar or lemon which I don’t find necessary. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil if you like. I like it without.

Tips

What to do with leftover dill?
Use them in my Smoked Salmon With Dill Butter Tea Sandwich. Click on the link and you will find more suggestions to use up the dill.


What to do with leftover labneh (yogurt cheese)?

You could make these lovely dessert. Just drizzle little bowls of labneh with honey or soft brown sugar or spoon over my Simple 30-minute strawberry jam. Terribly easy and so satisfying to eat.

What to do with leftover yogurt?
If what you have is yogurt (undrained), then make yourself some Iced cold yogurt drink in whatever flavour you like!

yogurt drink

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

Since you now have the recipe for Tzatziki, you must have my recipe for these Greek pork kebabs, Souvlaki. They go hand in hand and if you were to make gyros, you must have a recipe for Tzatziki. You cannot have one recipe without the other. In Greece, pork is the meat of choice for these grilled nuggets. Chicken also works well. Whatever your meat option, this uncomplicated recipe will have your meat tasting lemony, garlicky with a good flavour of dried oregano, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil. There, that’s really pretty much the recipe.


Here’s the rest of the Greek meze

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