After the merry-making and the hearty meaty meals enjoyed on Tsiknopempti (Meatfare Thursday) and during the Carnival Period, Clean Monday- the first day of the Greek Orthodox Great Lent- marks the beginning of fasting which lasts until the Holy Saturday.
However, do not jump to conclusions just yet! The Lenten festive table often takes place outdoors, as most people celebrate Koulouma in the countryside, and it is not any less savoury than the rich meat- based Carnival Period meals. On the contrary, it includes Lenten dishes and delicacies that satisfy even the most demanding palates. Read some of these below:
Traditional lagana, a kind of unleavened bread, is a typical side dish served on Clean Monday but also throughout the Lent. This crisp sesame bread has been prepared in every Greek bakery or in household ovens on that particular day for centuries.
Tarama is a choice food prepared from preserved fish roe, and it’s an absolute must for the Lenten table. There are two types of tarama; choose the white one, with the delicate taste that is considered to be superior in quality, and not the one with the deep pink color. A traditional recipe with tarama as the main ingredient is the well-known taramosalata and taramokeftedes.
3) Pickles and salads
Pickled vegetables (preserved in salt or vinegar) are a typical dish on the Clean Monday table. A type of pickled salad is politiki that contains cabbage, carrot, pepper, celery, red pepper and cauliflower. Other salads served at the Lenten table are boiled beets, radishes, potato salad with olive oil and lemon. etc.
Olives are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet and a meze (appetizer) served in every Greek household. They hold a special place on the Lenten table as well and appear in various kinds, throumpes, black or green, in brine, vinegar, or oil.
In a country surrounded by sea, such as Greece, seafood like shellfish (clams, shrimps, mussels, etc.), shrimps, squid, cuttlefish and octopus are food mostly prepared during the fasting period. They are eaten raw (shellfish), or cooked in traditional recipes such as steamed mussels, saganaki shrimps, grilled octopus or with a type of greek small pasta (kofto makaronaki).
Clean Monday and the entire fasting period is clearly associated with legume eating. They are cooked without oil in traditional recipes such as lentil soup, fasolada (bean soup) and chickpea soup, and sometimes they are often added –boiled- in a salad. The Santorini fava, a kind of creamy purée of split peas, is also a well known Lenten dish.
A Greek table is not fully dressed unless the proper dessert is placed on it: halva is made with tachini (sesame seed pulp) and it is one of the most important sweet dishes consumed during Lent. You will find the vanilla flavor halva (plain taste), or cocoa / nuts halva. Another type of traditional very tasty sweet confection is the semolina halva, prepared in the pot with olive oil, sugar, water and dusted with cinnamon and walnuts.