Happy Easter! Lately, I have been really craving potatoes. I love potatoes any style: baked, boiled, fried or roasted. But, I have to say, these Lemon Greek Potatoes are one of my favourites. They have a lovely creamy texture. And they are loaded with lots of lemon, oregano, and garlic flavours. So good.
I’m a huge fan of Greek food; greek salad, feta cheese on anything, oregano, olive oil, lemon, garlic flavours. I love all of those. If you are too, then you might want to check out my Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad or my Alevropita Feta Tart.
My Lemon Greek Potatoes are quite simple to make, but you do need a bit of time. They are baked in the oven for a little over an hour. Of course, the great thing about baking in the oven is that it’s hand-free and you can spend that hour washing up, setting the table, finishing dinner or relaxing while someone else does all of that.
With only a few ingredients, this dish is so so simple to prepare. I like to use yukon gold potatoes because they turn out soft and creamy without falling apart.
What’s the difference between Yukon Gold Potatoes and Russett Potatoes?
Yukon Gold Potatoes are waxy potatoes. They are slightly sweet and have a creamy, moist texture. Yukon Gold potatoes are good for roasting, making french fries or just boiling. They retain their shape well. A very good, all-purpose potato.
Russett Potatoes have a neutral flavour. Russett Potatoes are considered starchy potatoes. They are best for baking, french fries or mashed. But they do not hold their shape very well, for example: for gratins or potato salad.
How do I know when my potatoes are done?
They are done when the potatoes are very soft. You can test this by poking them with a butter knife. There should be no resistance.
I cut each of my potatoes into quarters. I like this shape because the potato pieces seem to cook evenly. You could also cut them lengthwise, if you prefer. But, it’s personal preference. If you do cut them lengthwise, they may cook quicker.
Place all of your ingredients in the baking dish. Stir everything all around (I used my hands).
After a good mixing, all of the ingredients will be uniformly spread out in the pan. Cover your pan completely with tin foil and then pop it in the oven and check on it after about 45 minutes.
After about 45 minutes, the potatoes should be very soft and a fair bit of the liquid evaporated. If this is not the case, cover your pan back up and place in the oven until the potatoes are very soft (check them every 10-15 minutes, until very soft).
Remove the tin foil when the potatoes are very soft. Place the uncovered dish back in the oven for about 20 minutes. Continue to cook until the potatoes are starting to dry out and most of the liquid has evaporated.
Lemon Greek Potatoes go well with a number of dishes, but I especially like them with pork or chicken or vegetarian entrees.
If you’re a real potato lover like me, here is a great post to read about all the different types of potatoes.
This Fantastic Lemon Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad fits the bill for a meal anywhere, anytime…especially picnics. Horiatiki is the traditional greek salad made without lettuce. Many restaurants will list Greek Salad on their menu, but they always contain lettuce. This salad is chock full of crispy red onion, fresh cucumber cubes, briny black olives, salty feta, tangy tomatoes and vinaigrette infused pasta. This salad is sure to have your family reaching for more! It is perfect picnic food, but is also a treat as a packed lunch during the week.
This dish also perfectly solves the dilemma of choosing pasta or salad. So, with this easy to pull-together meal, you get both.
My first introduction to really really good feta cheese
My friend Bonnie and I visited Greece many years ago during our year long adventure. You can read more about our travels in my earlier post about Egyptian Basboussa. I had chosen Greece as the warm place that I wanted to spend my always cold January birthday. I can still recall the briny olives, the anise scented bread and the licorice flavoured ouzo. But what I can still vividly recall to this day was the amazing creamy, salty feta cheese that we ate at many outdoor cafes.
Feta cheese is a very important component of Greek food. And this pasta salad is loaded with it. While we were in Greece, Bonnie and I worked at an orchard near Corinth, Peloponnese picking oranges to make some money so we could continue travelling. After breakfast, we would walk over to the orange orchards from our campground. We always worked alongside a few of the local greek women. Everyday they would bring a packed lunch with them to share with us. Their lunch always included homemade Greek bread and big hunks of creamy, salty sheep’s milk feta cheese for lunch, as well as bottles of red wine. Heavenly! And so kind.
Different Types of Feta
There are many different types of feta cheese available in Canada and other countries around the world. But, it’s very difficult to get true Greek feta cheese outside of Greece as they just don’t produce enough. If you would like to learn more about Greek Feta Cheese or want another delicious recipe using feta cheese, head over to my blog about Alevropita.
A tip for raw red onions
My recipe for this Fantastic Lemon Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad also has raw red onions in it. If you love onions, but don’t always enjoy them raw, I have included a really handy tip in this recipe for people just like you. If you soak diced red onions for ten minutes in boiled water, it removes the strong, bitter onion flavour, but maintains the crunch and the sweeter milder flavour of onions. I love this technique.
This salad comes together in a snap. While the pasta is cooking, you can slice the tomatoes, cube the cucumbers, crumble the feta and drain the olives. After you have drained the pasta, pour in the lovely veg, drizzle on the vinaigrette and lunch is ready!
You can eat this salad slightly warm or at room temperature.
Greek food is one of my favourite cuisines. I was lucky enough to visit Greece many years ago. Of course, it’s the food that I remember particularly well: sitting in outdoor cafes sipping espresso coffee in the tiniest cups, nibbling on appetizers of anise scented greek bread, dipped in the best olive oil I had ever tasted alongside small bowls of the blackest olives and the most creamy tangy feta cheese with a big glass of red wine. Pure heaven.
When I’m feeling nostalgic for the time we spent in Greece, I like to prepare a Greek dish at home, like a simple greek salad or this Alevropita feta tart.
To make this dish really shine, try to buy the best feta that you can. I don’t know about you, but in my grocery store there is a wide variety of different feta cheeses to choose from. And I’m never sure which one to buy. As I was writing this post, I thought I would do a bit of feta cheese research and let everyone know a bit about this amazing cheese..
There are many different types of feta available in grocery and specialty cheese shops. I’ll start with Greek feta, as that’s where it all began.
Greek feta was actually granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) by the EU in 2005. So, the only place in the world to buy true genuine Greek feta cheese is Greece.
In 2005, the EU’s highest court set very strict specifications for making and selling feta cheese. Genuine Greek feta cheese can only be made in the regions of Macedonia, Thrace, Epirus, Thessalia, Mainland Greece, the Peloponnese peninsula and the Island of Lesvos. Feta cheese is made with sheep and goat’s milk and where the animals graze affects the taste of their milk. This in turn affects the flavour profile of the cheese. If feta is made from sheep and goats that graze in a different geographical region, the flavour of the milk would be different and so would the cheese.
True feta can be made with either 100% sheep’s milk or as much as 30% goat’s milk, but not higher. Also, the average composition must be 52.9% moisture, 26.2% fat, 16.7 % proteins, 2.9% salt and 4.4% pH.
You can still buy feta cheese in the EU, outside of Greece, but any other country in the EU must label it feta-style chesese, or some such label. Outside of Greece there are no specifications for this cheese which can be produced using whatever percentage of sheep, goat or even cow’s milk that they prefer.
Greek feta is salty and tangy with a bit of a lemony flavour. It can be dry and crumbly or rich and creamy depending on how much goat’s milk is in it. The more goat’s milk, the more crumbly it is. It is made using the slower traditional method, not the ultrafiltration method which is used in Denmark. Not very much Greek Feta is exported, there just isn’t enough of it to go around.
Even though the origins of feta cheese began in Greece, you can still buy some wonderful tasting feta cheeses that are made around the globe. Here are a few.
Bulgarian Feta: This is made with sheep’s milk and a yogurt culture. It has a very tangy flavour.
Israeli Feta: This is a full-flavoured, creamy and not overly salty feta. It is usually made from sheep’s milk.
French Feta: This is often made with sheep’s milk. It is mild and creamy. Some feta in France is made with goat’s milk and is usually drier and more tangy.
Danish Feta: This is made from cow’s milk. It has a milder flavour and a creamier texture compared to other feta cheeses. It is made using the ultrafiltration method. This method is used to speed up cheese making. It produces a cheese that is smooth, creamy and closed (no openings between the curds).
Australian Feta: This is usually made from cow’s milk. The texture and flavour can vary. It usually tastes in between salty greek feta and a creamy feta.
American Feta: This is made from sheep, goat or even cow’s milk. It is usually tangy and crumbly.
If you can’t find greek feta cheese in your shop, but want to get one that is as close to genuine feta as possible, the following are some tips for finding a good feta.
Tips on Choosing Feta Cheese
Ingredients: Feta should be made with only sheep’s milk or with some goat’s milk, rennet and salt. Never cow’s milk.
Tasting: If you buy your feta from a cheese shop ask the sales clerk if you can taste some feta. Feta should taste tangy and salty and have a lovely rich aroma. It should not taste sour, bitter or have no taste at all. These are signs that it is old. Feta comes in 3 different textures; hard, medium-hard and soft. Choose the one you like best.
Colour: Feta should be white. If it is a bit yellowish, then it’s been out of the brine for too long and has dried out a bit and become sour.
Holes: Feta cheese should have a few small holes on the surface. This shows that the feta was made in the traditional way with slow even turning and draining.
If feta is too salty for you, rinse it with plain water and then soak a piece of feta in some milk for 1-3 hours, or overnight. Then drain and store in plain water.
Nutritionally, feta cheese is lower in fat and calories than cheddar or parmesan. However it is high in sodium. If you are on a sodium restricted diet, feta cheese probably isn’t a good choice for you. Feta has twice the amount of sodium than cheddar cheese. An ounce of feta has 300 mg of sodium vs 170 mg in cheddar. It also has 75 calories, 1 gram carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 6 grams of fat (4.2 grams of saturated fat).
Ok, now that you know a few things about feta cheese, you’ll be ready to make this delicious feta tart. Make sure you use really good tasting feta, as that’s the primary flavour in this tart. The other strong feature of this tart is the crispy crust. Make sure that you preheat your oven with the baking pan inside, so that the pan gets really hot. This is what makes the tart crisp.
Make sure you have your oven mitts nearby for taking the empty pan out of the oven and be very careful not to touch the pan with your bare hands. It’s hot!!!
This recipe for Alevropita Feta Tart is very quick to make as the base is made from a batter so there is no rising involved. Yay! The feta cheese will not melt and spread, but will brown nicely in the oven. The salty tangy feta cheese paired with the eggy crispy crust is such a delicious combination. This tart will soon become a family favourite.
And the crust gets nicely browned and crispy.
It is delicious with soup, or greek salad, or even with a pasta dish.
Here are some fun links for additional information about feta cheese and greek culture: