When one thinks of a Greek meal, a variety of pictures may come to mind.
A juicy souvlaki, a warm plate of moussakas, or a lamb being roasted on a spit.
But Helen Korakianitis, a former Greek Australian Master Chef contestant and founder of The Greek Vegetarian flood blog says that Greek cuisine can be delicious and flavoursome even when a dish is meat-free.
“The Greek cuisine is full of traditional dishes that stem back from the beginning of its culinary culture and are vegetarian and vegan friendly.
“Greeks know how to involve flavour into every dish they make. It’s about the flavour and not about whether a dish contains protein or not,” says Helen, going on to explain how her project, was born.
How the Greek Vegetarian journey began
“I woke up one day and my body simply refused to eat meat! My mum dropped off some delicious Greek style Makaronia me Kima and as I was licking my lips ready to start enjoying one of my favourite meals I simply couldn’t.
“It was a refusal that I was confused by, but after almost a week of this sudden phenomenon, I decided to stop fighting it. The Greek Vegetarian was born with uncertainty but soon flourished into a world that I wanted to share with others. I wanted to document what was happening and prove that being a Greek vegetarian was not only possible, but simply delicious,” Helen says.
Starting off with an Instagram account in 2018, Helen has made her passion her full-time job and she continues to work with many South Australian businesses.
“I couldn’t be happier with this change that happened in my life that has brought me so much fulfilment. Being Greek and vegetarian is not an oxymoron,” she says.
“Everyone should look into some Greek Vegetarian dishes to enjoy with their families and friends. When you are thinking of what to make for your fellow vegetarian/vegan – the Greek cuisine should be at the top of your list.”
Drawing inspiration from her migrant parents
Helen’s parents migrated to Australia, from the Greek island of Corfu for a better life and their journey has been one of hard work, family and dreams.
“By the time our first wedding anniversary had come around, we traveled to Australia on the ship ‘Patris’ had a baby and were living in a shed behind our landlord’s house. We had no bathroom facilities there and we were spending every moment working, juggling parenthood and learning English via correspondence.
“We worked so hard to set up the new life that we wanted and are truly blessed to have 3 children who we are so proud of and grateful for. We did the right thing by making Australia our home. The life we have had here for many years, makes us feel fortunate and proud of our roots as our values stem from our past,” Helen’s dad, Spiros Korakianitis, tells The Greek Herald.
Helen often talks about her dad, who loves figs and her mum Ioanna who “can cook for 100 people from scratch without getting stressed” and Mr Korakianitis thinks his daughter has inherited her mum’s cooking skills.
“I love eating Helen’s food. She was taught how to cook by my wife, Ioanna so I can always taste the love behind the dishes Helen makes for us.”
“My favourite vegetarian dishes include her moussaka, yemista, lahanodolmades and I admire the way she turns feta and saganaki into full dishes with sauces and accompaniments,” Mr Korakianitis says.
“I am so proud of Helen (Eleni). She has the Greek culture running through her veins and beating in her heart. I love her passion and enthusiasm for Greek cuisine.
“Seeing my daughter as a first-generation Greek-Australian immerse herself in food from where she was born along with food from her background and how she blends the two together, is something that always makes me smile,” says Spiros Korakianitis.
“Food connects people, nourishes not only the body and the soul and can feel like a great big hug from the inside. It means family gatherings, menu prepping for weeks, making with love and sharing with love,” Eleni concludes.