The Saint Ladera

For those who don’t know, the word ladi (λάδι) means oil in Greek and a whole genre of Greek dishes are classified as ladera meaning ‘in oil’. All are vegetable dishes.

Greece has the best olive oil in the world and I will argue the best tasting vegetables, but we live in Australia and we have a plethora of vegetables thanks to the Italians, Greeks and South East Asians. With summer approaching it is time we talked about this exquisite aspect of Greek cooking. The peculiarities of the Greek culinary culture have endowed the gastronomical universe with this endless series of dishes called ladera.

Food cooked in olive oil without any animal content. It is an ideal diet for vegetarians and for Greeks fasting on those long forty day fasts. Ladera were originally created to cover the needs of fasting, but are also there because in the past meat was a luxury. Ladera is a category of food recipes exclusive to Greece. In a recent article I wrote on the food of the Mount Athos monasteries and their vegetarian exclusivity and some other orders who do include fish in their diet.

Recipe books bought out by the monastic orders have endless recipes for everything that nature grows from the earth. With the religious and creative backgrounds of these dishes we can classify them as ‘The Saint Ladera’ (Τα Αγια Λαδερά) as a Greek food magazine has called them. Cooked with fresh tomatoes and served with fresh crusty bread, rich feta and all the right herbs and spices to suit each vegetable, they are the ladera of our fasting, our mother’s recipes and the most Greek of all our dishes.

Even the difficult bamies (okra) are delicious if treated as they should be. These dishes keep in the refrigerator and are even eaten cold if you so whish. My favourite cold ladero is bamies. This week I will not give you recipes but will go over each vegetable and tell you the herbs and spices that suit each one.

Please, always use olive oil. Other oils will not give you the same results. Olive oil does not saturate when cooked, it is the healthiest and the tastiest…and always buy Greek! So here are some of the secrets of a perfect ladero dish: