Clean Monday’s Menu Ideas

The first day of the Lent in Greece is called ‘Clean Monday.’ On that day, people get together and fast from meat, dairy and some even fast from fish and oil. You’d think that by excluding meat and dairy from the menu, things get pretty boring as far as food goes. Not quite true. Here follow some suggestions for such tasty fasting dishes that can inspire those of you that fast, or follow a vegetarian diet.

In our family a mushroom soup is always the best starter on this day. The meaty flavor of mushrooms matches beautifully with the spring onions, the pepper, dill and the lemon in this soup. So much so, that you think you are eating meat. Some tarama is always good to have on the side as well as some vine leaves stuffed with rice (dolmades). Olives are a necessity on this day, since even people who fast from oil can have them. An assortment of different varieties of olives compliments all the other dishes on your table and they are a lovely snack even when you just eat them with bread. Moreover, the dietary value of olives is immense; they are so full of good fats, vitamins and precious trace elements that will keep you strong even on the days that you fast.

The most popular dish on a Clean Monday is the octopus. Boil it in water with a couple of bay leaves, add a few pepper corns and finish it in a pan with olive oil. Drizzle with a little vinegar and serve with chopped parsley. Keeping up with the sea-food theme, let’s make the perfect calamari; after you chop the squid, throw all the extra juice away and add enough flour to keep them nice and dry. Fry them in a lot of olive oil for a couple of minutes and serve with lemon wedges.

You can expect a lot of salads on this day, but that doesn’t mean a bland slice of lettuce. My favorite is the Greek potato salad: boil the potatoes and as they are still hot, add to them a very generous amount of olive oil, a lot of lemon, a little white wine vinegar and a touch of white wine. Chop up a few green onions, some parsley and throw them in there with some salt and pepper. Add some capers if you like. A beet salad can be really delicious too; make sure you serve it with some crushed garlic and a splash of vinegar.

All these (and so many more) dishes are traditionally served with the special bread we make for the day (lagana; which is something like focaccia) and halva as a desert.


photo by strollers

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