Fat Thursday (“Tsiknopempti”) is a traditional Greek Orthodox Christian feast marking the second Thursday of the three-week Carnival period, in which it is customary to consume large quantities of meat! Fat Thursday traditions in Greece abound and vary, but the general rule is grilled meat over charcoal, with its characteristic aroma (hence the word “Tsikna” in greek), accompanied with dance, song, lots of wine and “kefi”, the unique Greek word for fun! The carnival decoration with garlands and masks, together with lots of confetti and smiling friends and relatives complete the picture. All those elements, if driven by special flavours and a good mood, create beautiful moments and deliver enjoyment to all.
The Fat Thursday menu is classical, almost traditional and rarely does anyone escape the usual, albeit tasty dishes. Everyone is expecting them impatiently and the “grillers” sharpen their knives to win first place in this year’s taste race.
Let’s see some special ideas and suggestions for this special day so we can share the flavour with friends and relatives.
Keep up the tradition and opt for a Greek salad with tomato, cucumber, onion, olives, capers and of course, feta cheese. Olive oil, salt, oregano and two drops of fig balsamic cream make it just right.
Another traditional salad that accompanies meats very nicely is a simple green salad with lettuce, spring onion and dill. With olive oil, classic balsamic vinegar and coarse salt, you will make a difference. Alternatively, mix finely chopped white and red cabbage, grated carrot and a clove of garlic with a dressing of olive oil and orange & lemon balsamic cream to give colour to your table.
And while you have a charcoal grill going, roast some vegetables: Peppers in all colors, courgettes, aubergines and onions garnished with balsamic cream, coarse salt and grains of mixed peppercorns will add another touch to the day. Be careful not to leave them too long on the grill or they will dry out.
The Condiments and Side Dishes
Tzatziki, spicy cheese dip, aubergine dip. There can be no Fat Thursday without them. This year, for a change, make your own. It’s much simpler than you think; make sure to use your biggest serving bowls because your friends will be blown away by the flavours.
For the tzatziki, you will need strained yoghurt, coarsely grated cucumber and garlic to taste. Balsamic vinegar with olive oil and freshly ground salt are also necessary. It is equally easy to make the aubergine dip. Just sear the aubergines first, skin on, on your stove’s burner, or alternatively bake them in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes. Then halve them and use their flesh – discarding most of the seeds inside – mashing it well with a fork. To give it the nice smoky flavour that it would have, had it been seared over a fire, try adding some smoked paprika. Add a finely chopped roasted red Florina-type pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Your friends will be asking for the recipe!
Side dishes must definitely include potatoes: fried (to keep children happy too) but also oven roasted so you make the difference. In the oven roasted potatoes, add two tablespoonfuls of oregano&thyme mustard before cooking. It will create a lovely crispy crust and give a more golden colour.
It’s time for the star of the night: The meat!
The protagonist of the Fat Thursday menu is the meat and specifically that cooked on the grill. You can grill pork or beef steaks, kebabs, burgers, sausages but you may also go for more hard-core traditional meats such as lamb or kid on the spit, kokoretsi (a rotisserie dish made up of skewering seasoned lamb or goat organ meat, wrapped in caul fat and then by yards of cleaned intestines) and kontosouvli (an extra-large pork souvlaki traditionally slow roasted on a spit over an open charcoal pit). Even if you have no way to light charcoal, you can bake all this in your oven grill.
As you well know, it is the marinade that gives extra flavour to meats. For best results it is advisable to marinate meats a day in advance. A marinade with allspice, peppercorns, coarse salt, olive oil, wine, pepper and paprika mustard – or mild for the less adventurous – and a few drops of BBQ balsamic cream, will take the meat to another dimension: that will become obvious as soon as the meat starts cooking. Do not forget to accompany sausages with caramelized onions. For a perfect caramelizing result, trust the pomegranate or fig balsamic cream.
For the vegetarians or those who don’t prefer meat
Of course there is room at the table for those who do not eat meat. Except for the side dishes and condiments that they can enjoy alongside the rest of the gang, you may serve pies (cheese pie, spinach pie etc) and plan a larger quantity of grilled vegetables. An excellent option is roasted mushrooms. When mushrooms roast, their texture becomes very similar to that of meat. Alternatively you may make vegetable burgers or try making minced mushroom sauce instead of minced meat.
Finally, leave them longer in front of the desserts buffet. They are entitled to it! We recommend yoghurt with honey and nuts to calm the stomach or authentic and traditional semolina halva that is most suitable for the day! Whatever you choose, the most important thing is that your friends feel you gave them the opportunity to be with you and did not forget them because of their dietary choices.