The first thing that sprung to mind when I decided to go to Greece was: “YES! Greek food!” I’ve always been a fan of the Greek cuisine. Feta is one of my ‘go-to’ cheeses and moussaka happens to be my signature dish. When my friends and I are at an impasse on what or where to eat, a Greek restaurant always seem to be the choice that has everyone’s agreeing happily.
When I travel to a new country I try to learn to cook a couple of dishes or at least the basic principles of the local cuisine. I slip backstage of a small restaurant or hang out in the kitchen while a family mom is cooking, but I had never taken a real class before. So I was psyched to join the cooking lesson organised by Athens Walking tours with a group of travel bloggers attending the TBEX conference.
The “Greek Sunday dinner course took place in a quaint tavern called Klimataria, where they’ve been serving traditional homemade meals since 1927. What an honnour to learn some new cooking skills in one of the oldest taverns in central Athens!
The host and cook of the evening, the lovely Maria Sotou, greeted my classmates and I with a warm smile and a shot of raki. That’s when you know you’re welcome!
We threw on our aprons and gathered around a table filled with fresh, colourful ingredients. This was going to be a good experience, I could smell it. After washing our hands -of course- it was time to get them dirty again. We had a loaded agenda; we were going to make 6 starters and one main course in just a few hours. And upon completion, we would taste our creations.
Maria showed us the tricks of the game by explaining everything we needed to know about fresh produce, Greek culinary traditions, herbs and spices… She even let us in on some of her kitchen secrets. Part of the learning process was tasting some of the regional specialities. We sampled several types of cheeses, nibbled on savoury pastries and were introduced to some herbs I had never even heard of.
After a seemingly short amount of time, we had whipped up mini eggplant pies, learned how to make some fabulous dips and prepared dolmadakia from scratch. The entire class was so excited and eager to learn we got sidetracked by our questions, jokes and -what else could you expect from a bunch of bloggers- extensive photographing. Therefore, we ran out of time to make all the dishes we had planned to prepare. Luckily for us, Maria had all the dishes prepared by her staff while we were learning so we still got the chance to savour them and took the recipes home.
As our stomachs started to growl we were invited to settle down at a large dinner table, our hard work (and mostly the work of the kitchen staff) was about to be payed off. We started with some homemade wine and then the food started coming in. Dish after dish, “ooh’s” and “aah’s” followed. There was so much food! Apparently it’s the Greek thing to do: spending a very long time at the dinner table, talking, drinking and enjoying copious amounts of deliciousness. As I mentioned earlier, I thought I knew Greek food, but this… This was something else. What I had eaten before almost seemed like garbage compared to what was lying on this table. This meal was undoubtedly one of the best I’ve ever had. Just the way I like it; simple comfort food with fine and pure flavours. As Maria thought us: “The main ingredient for cooking is love”.
I can only recommend this cooking class if you’re ever in Athens wanting to dig a little deeper in local traditions. The class doesn’t come cheap at €68 per head, but it does come with wine and a meal you will not soon forget.
Should you be on a tighter budget or have too little time to take the lesson, do consider dining in the Klimataria tavern. A meal for two including salad, appetizers, two main courses and wine will set you back about €25-30, a good deal I recon. They also host live music a few times a week, check out their website to find out more.
Have you ever taken a cooking class abroad? Which cuisine(s) did you learn?