Greek-Indian one pot vegetarian meal (spring ladero)
The spring is finally here! What a strange winter that was for most of the people in the Northern hemisphere. A lot milder than usual, with just a few bursts of colds in most places. Greece had a very warm winter this year as well, we only got to see a little snow for 2-3 weekends in Central-South and it didn’t last long.
Most of February was unusually warm and sunny. The March was rather rainy though, to verify a very old Greek saying which goes like this “Martis gdartis kai kakos paloukokaftis”. It means that March is the most unpredictable month of the year and may lead to burning whatever you may desperately find around, in your stove, to keep you warm, since you didn’t expect such cold weather in this month.
But now April is here, and so is spring, on full swing! We have A LOT of sunshine, the daylight saving time started, which means we get to enjoy the sun for 1 more hour each day and this definitely helps lifting our spirits! We celebrated the Aprokries (which is the Greek Halloween, which is about fun, costumes and partying, much like the Brazilian version) and then the 40-day Lent started on Clean Monday.
Clean Monday (called Kathari Deftera here) is a day we celebrate the beginning of Lent. Families gather together and feast on taramosalata, pickles, fasolada, and shellfish/mollusks, like octopus, shrimp, squid, mussels and clams, cooked in various ways. Halva (a dessert made with tahini), is also a must. On Clean Monday children and their parents fly kites in various shapes and colors, a tradition that also marks the beginning of spring.
Fish is not allowed in Greek Orthodox Lent, with the exception of the 25th of March which is a big holiday. We celebrate the Greek Independence Day and the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. On that day specifically, you will find fried cod and skordalia in every Greek household and every tavern all over the country. This year for some strange reason we ate so much of the stuff, we were bloated until late at night :)
The good thing with Lent is that it’s a great opportunity to detox by abstaining from dairy and any meat (except shellfish/mollusks like we mentioned). A lot of pulses/legumes are served in this 40 day period and a lot of veggies. Vegetables play a pivotal role in the traditional Greek diet. They’re not blunt though. Cooked with extra virgin olive oil, herbs and usually tomato, they’re not served as a side but as a main course.
This type of vegetable dishes are called ladera (or lathera), literally meaning “oily”. People always enjoy them with a lot of bread to soak up the oil and the sauce which has concentrated all the flavors of the vegetables and the spices. Examples of ladera dishes are: green beans (fasolakia) dishes, spinach and rice (spanakorizo), cabbage and rice (lahanorizo), leeks and rice (prasorizo), peas (arakas), artichokes (agginares), tomatoes and peppers stuffed with rice (gemista) and okra (bamies/mpamies).
During the summer, there are many ladera dishes that combine different vegetables. One very popular dish like that is briam/mpriam, which is the Greek version of ratatouille. We love the yumminess of this dish, and many times we experiment with different combinations of veggies.
We didn’t had a similar delicious dish with spring veggies though and the summer is still 2 months away. So, instead of waiting we tried a different combination, with vegetables that are abundant during the spring: mushrooms, potatoes, onions and scallions and sweet long red peppers which are essential for this dish.
Instead of cooking this the classic Greek way, with olive oil and tomatoes (and perhaps some herb like dill), we chose a different path though. As you may have noticed from some of our other recipes, like this one or this one, we LOVE using Indian spices. This humble peasant dish needed something to enhance its flavors. And what could be better than some turmeric and garam masala? If you never tried those before, you’re definitely missing out! Those two elevate every stew/ladera to a whole new level AND they’re excellent for your body. Especially the turmeric, a spice which comes from the dried root of the turmeric plant, has many fantastic benefits for your health and may also help you lose some weight since it makes you feel full.
In fact, research continues to prove how great that stuff is for you every time they put it to the test. It seems that it has anti-cancerous, anti-depressant and anti-aging properties, it’s a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, plus it also lowers your cholesterol levels. Isn’t that amazing? Look it up and ask your physician or nutritionist, you’ll be amazed by it.
As for the garam masala, if you can’t find it, you can easily make your own. See under the list of the ingredients below how to make garam masala at home.
Anyway, let’s get back to cooking though; The combination of Indian spices with EVOO and the veggies was a revelation. If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you’ll definitely enjoy this recipe! If you like dairy, serve this with a side of feta or simply sprinkle a bit on top. You won’t believe how amazing that is!
Did we mention that this is a one-pot recipe? Yep! No big fuss here, simply chop the veggies on your wooden board, place a pot/pan on the stovetop and you’re good to go! In about 30-40 minutes you’ll be having a really taste vegetarian dish and no one will be complaining for the absence of meat. To ease the pain of the hardcore carnivores add the feta (cubed or crumbled) on top (like we mentioned) and they will devour the whole thing and ask for more bread to clean the sauce from their plate :)
So let's see how to make this simple vegetarian dish!
- 4 sweet red peppers (450-500gr/16-17.5oz), sliced or diced in 2.5cm/1in pieces
- 2-3 scallions (160-180gr/5.5-6.5oz), thinly sliced
- 1 large (or 2 smaller) onion (200-250gr/7-9oz), thinly sliced
- 1-2 medium sized potatoes (450-500gr/16-17.5oz), diced in 1cm/0.5in pieces
- 250gr/9oz common mushrooms (you can also use Portobello)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup (125ml) white wine
- 2-3 tablespoons (45-70gr/1.5-2.5oz) tomato paste
- 3/4 cup (375ml) olive oil
- 2-3 teaspoons dry oregano
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala*
- 1 tablespoon paprika (preferably smoked)
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup hot water
- a little crumbled/diced feta for topping (optional)
- a little fresh dill for topping (optional)
* You can make your own garam masala (it’s very easy). Mix: 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. Store in sealed container in a dry place.
Add the oil in a medium sized pot or a large, deep pan (preferably non-stick), on medium to high heat. Once hot, add the onion and the scallion (pic. 1). Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often until they’re softened. Add the potatoes (pic. 2) and reduce the heat to medium. This is very important, as potatoes take some time to be cooked and we don’t want to burn them on the outside or mash them. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add the peppers (pic. 3). Continue cooking for another 5 minutes (stirring often again). Add the mushroom slices (pic. 4) and continue cooking for another 5 minutes (stirring often).
Add the garlic (pic.5), stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the oregano, the turmeric, the garam, the paprika, salt, pepper (pic. 6) and stir well. Cook for 1 minute more.
Add the wine (pic. 7), the tomato paste (pic. 8) stir and cook for 3 minutes.
Finally, add the cup of hot water, stir, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 10-15 minutes, until most of it has evaporated and sauce has thickened.
That’s it. You can serve this with olives and some crusty bread on the side, and you can sprinkle some dill and/or feta on top as well. Kali oreksi!
1. Try to use smoked paprika in this recipe, it’s so much flavorful than common paprika.
2. Be gentle when stirring if you want your veggies to keep their shape, otherwise you will mash some of it.
3. If using a non-stick pan, make sure to also use a wooden spatula to stir, to avoid scratching its surface.