Recipe For a Greek Wedding

IMG_8100In less than two weeks, I’ll be back in Greece again for my vacation. This will be my 20th time and I still get excited about going.

I still have some experiences to share from last year’s trip. One of the most cherished memories has to be when I attended a traditional Greek wedding on the island of Naxos.

Naxos is located in the Cyclades cluster of islands in the Aegean Sea. I was cordially invited my a reader of my blog, Maria Degaitas. I would like to also thank the Fragoulopoulos family for their endless hospitality during my brief stay.

Regardless if you’ve attended a Greek wedding or not, attending one in a remote village on a Greek island is as fairy-tale as they get. I’ve attended numerous Greek weddings in my lifetime and the memory of the day (and long night) will be etched in my mind forever.

For those that haven’t attended a Greek wedding, I urge you to  happily accept the invite and DO attend the church service and the ensuing reception. The wedding service is moving with it’s rituals, the ceremony ancient, historical, spiritual – always reminds me of how special it is to be Greek.

There are many, many details to relate about the Greek wedding. I share with you the “recipe for a Greek Wedding”, as the day unfolded in Naxos, last summer.

The first thing you need is family. IMG_6724

The Fragoulopoulos clan in Naxos is from Komiaki, a village clear on the opposite side of the island’s port town. Komiaki is the village of the groom. This old village is 700 metres above sea level and it was built barely in view of the sea, so as to not be a target of pirates.IMG_6751

The bride comes from the neigboring village of Koronos, for years dependant on emery mining. Today, agriculture, wine production and tourism are the main economic concerns of Koronos. It is written that Dionysus indulged and enjoyed the wine of Naxos most.

The next ingredient for a Greek wedding is tradition. Family and friends related to the groom met in Komiaki where Raki (Tsipouro), sweets and other offerings were laid out for guests. Like in any wedding of today, many photos are taken, video footage is shot, the old folks sit and wait and the sounds of young children can be heard.IMG_6737

The groom-to-be started shooting off his rifle – something I had previously only heard of happening in Greece’s southernmost island, Crete. This was a Kodak moment and I lost count of how many shells were strewn on the ground.IMG_6740

It was early evening and we had to get a move-on. Many of the men of the village bear the name, Agapitos. When it was time to get going, I heard alot of “Agapitos” being be called.IMG_6743

The next ingredient needed for a Greek wedding is music.

The bride-to-be was waiting in the Koronos. A procession was led by a traditional duo of lute and violin players. These guys played on our way to our vehicles, during the procession from the bride’s home to the church, then on to the reception and the band played on….to the wee hours of the morning.

The lute and violin duo took breaks only between travel to and from the villages, during the wedding ceremony and only stopping when the “glenti” or wedding reception ended.

An important ingredient to any wedding, is a beautiful bride. IMG_6749

At Koronos, friends and family of the bride gathered and soon they were met with the groom’s side of the family. Together we walked towards the church (also in Koronos) and although a small church (and overcrowded), most of us squeezed into the outdoor amphitheatre-style courtyard. The wedding ceremony took place just outside of the front entrance of the church and the couple-to-be were surrounded by all their family and friends.IMG_6757

For anyone that’s been to Greece, you know the evenings can still be hot and I’m sure this amphitheatre built just outside the church was Greek logic and its reply to the long hot summers.IMG_6755

After the wedding ceremony, the many, many photos that were taken and the long procession of well-wishers that had passed the newly-wedded couple, we were off to Komiaki where the wedding reception was to take place.IMG_6766

Every Greek wedding needs guests…lots of family and friends.IMG_6771

After finding roadside parking, we walked to the reception hall, kind of. In attendance for this wedding were some 1200 people! The reception was held outdoors in the courtyard of the town’s school. IMG_6776

The stage for the band was in the center, bride and groom seated up front with the “Koumbaro” and “Koumbara” and long tables were squeezed into the courtyard with immediate family nearby and other relations seated further and further back.IMG_6777

At a Greek Wedding, you know that you will be fed…fed well!

I was lucky enough to be seated with immediate family and each table had a table cloth, bottles of water, bottles of homemade village wine, the tastiest crusty bread I had in years, plates of Myzithra and Feta cheeses (some of Greece’s best cheeses are made in Naxos), olives and Greek salads.IMG_6773

The main course would be a what Mrs. Elisavet Degaitas-Fraboulopoulou would call a Goat Kokkinisto. In Greek cuisine, there are many variations on a Kokkinisto, which is a dish simmered in tomatoes and other aromatics.

When I first arrived at the village, I had passed two large, simmering cauldrons that were cooking over burning embers and under the watchful eye of village elders. FIVE HUNDRED KILOS of goat meat were being cooked up for the 1200 guests. The main ingredients of the dish were goat meat, onions, garlic, tomatoes and famous potatoes from Naxos.

The meat fell off the bone, it was succulent, it was delicious and it had a slight smoky finish. I was sure some smoked paprika was added into the mix but on second thought, cooking over burning embers will give such flavour.

The band played on and on. I cut-out around 3am and slept with the sounds of wedding guests parting until sunrise.IMG_8095

I want to leave you with my rendition, my ode to this Goat Kokkinisto that was such a delight to eat on the occasion of this marvelous Greek Island wedding. I’ve substituted goat with lamb shanks, I’m braising and then roasting the dish to best emulate the flavours I experienced that evening.

I’ve added some smoked paprika, browned some lamb shanks, deglazed with wine and placed them covered in the oven to braise for about an hour. After that, the potatoes are added into the mix and everything gets baked (uncovered) for another 45 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and the meat flakes off the bone.

Braised Lamb Shanks with PotatoesIMG_8101

(serves 4)

4 large lamb shanks

1/4 cup olive oil

2 large onions

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 tsp. smoked paprika

3 bay leaves

1 cup of dry red wine

2 Tbsp. of tomato paste

2 cups of vegetable stock

6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges

salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heated 350F oven

  1. Season your lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Place your olive oil in a large skillet and over medium-high heat, brown your shanks on all sides. Reserve in a baking vessel/Dutch oven.
  2. Deglaze the brown bits skillet by adding your stock and red wine and bring to a boil while scraping/lifting with a wooden spoon. Reduce to medium, add your onions, garlic, peppers and bay leaves and simmer for for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Transfer the liquid to the vessel where your lamb shanks lay and pour it in (should just cover your lamb shanks). Put the cover on and place in your pre-heated oven for an hour.
  4. Take the cover off, take out your lamb shanks and place the potato wedges in the sauce. Gently toss the potatoes to coat and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Place the lamb shanks on top of the potatoes.
  5. Place back in the oven and bake uncovered for another 30-40 minutes. The lamb shanks will turn a deep-brown, your potatoes will cook through and your sauce will thicken.
  6. Remove the bay leafs and taste to see if any adjustments in seasoning are needed. Serve each plate with some potatoes and a lamb shank and spoon some sauce over.
  7. Serve with a dry red wine, like a Paros Moraiti.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis

© 2009,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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53 Comments for “Recipe For a Greek Wedding”

says:

Thanks for sharing! What a wonderful wedding and the setting is so breathtaking!

A scrumptious and refined dish!

Cheers,

Rosa

says:

Peter it is always a pleasure to read posts such as these full of life, laughter, tradition, food and all around good time!

Enjoy your vacation!

says:

Wow! What a celebration! I’ve often heard of island weddings being grand affairs and this certainly proves it! And that beautiful goat is to die for…great shanks too! Can I have extra patates?

says:

That looks a lot like my wedding and I’m not even a Greek!!! Lovely!!! This is the second lamb shank recipe that I am looking at this morning, both very interesting.The first one had tamarind paste as the star…..Lovely post, Peter!!!

says:

As I come from the beautiful island of Naxos, I really enjoyed your post and I felt emotional too! Thanks for that Peter, you really made my day !!!

says:

A fantastic post Peter!
I loved reading that and seeing all the pictures. I’m loving your lamb shanks recipe too!

says:

What a wonderful looking wedding. I am fortunate enough to have been to many Greek and Italian weddings and would NEVER turn down an invite to one. Your lamb looks incredible.

says:

I’ve always wanted to go to a village wedding! Here when you have 500 people at a wedding, it’s considered huge! In Greece having 1200 people is nothing! And the food! Yum!
Your lamb shank looks fabulous!

leonard

says:

You really do bake the best shanks and the potatoes are just mourlia! with one small problem , one shank is never enough.

says:

Peter! Thanks for inviting us to a Greek Wedding! I feel like I’ve been to one now, after reading your great post :) I just have to befriend more Greeks, and hope the invite me to one of their events for real! The traditions and ceremonies are beautiful. I’m very rooted in tradition, I think it gives us identity and a sense of belonging.
On to the food: this lamb looks great, so saucy and moist. I bet it was fall-off-the-bone!

says:

20th time to Greece – you lucky, lucky man! I hope I get invited to a Greek wedding someday, it looks like a great time. The lamb looks amazing – tender and full of flavor.

says:

That must have been a beautiful wedding! I am still hoping to get hired as a weddingphotographer one of these days in Greece!! (I have done a wedding in the south of france already, so just a little more south to go!)

says:

WOW! That was some amazing wedding! 1200 guests? How lucky to have had the chance to attend a wedding like this. Thanks for all the explanations. Your lamb dish looks fantastic!

says:

okay, so new addition to my bucket list—attend a greek wedding. if that means i have to marry a greek man, so be it. :)

says:

I want to go to a Greek wedding… but I am pretty sure if I went I would just sit at my table and eat EVERYTHING!!!!!

says:

I’ve never been to a wedding in any island but the shooting with the riffle is a tradition in other parts of Greece as well. The same happened in Sparta when our nieces got married. Only the food is different. The goat looks delicious.

says:

Oh, fantastic. I love food for feasts. Now tell me, was the music playing ABBA? Ha ha ha. Looks like another memorable trip is in the works! :)

says:

Wow, that looks like it was some party! What wonderful traditions… it looks like so much fun and your recipe, as usual, looks fantastic.

says:

Thanks for this beautiful post. I love weddings. I’m not ashamed to say that pragmatic feminist that I am, I still love ritual, the parties, the beautiful dresses. I had a white wedding of my own and loved every minute of it. You definitely have given us a new perspective here from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.

(I’m sure I would have loved it more if I had the goregoues scenery of the Greek islands behind me. You were quite fortunate to have such an experience. I need friends like that!)

20 times and you’re still excited? Well, I can dig that too. I’m going to the same place for the 14th time and I’m still all a-twitter with excitement.

Delicious looking recipe. I’m glad it requires fewer than 500 kilos of meat. ;-)

says:

Lamb is such a traditional wedding dish and this recipe I think really does it justice. I love smoked paprika and it will help take the smell off the lamb too!

says:

Great post Peter!
I’m a fan of lamb shanks, must try with smoked paprika.

Oh, love her wedding gown. What 1200 people? WOW!
LL

says:

Wish we could say we’ve been anywhere 20 times, let alone Greece. :) Oh we love lamb. That looks good! 1200 people though? 500 kilos of goat? Wow, that’s a party!

says:

Is it a year already? I had just started blogging and reading other blogs and I distinctly remember when you posted about the wedding. It looks scenes from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Happy anniversary to the couple and happy travels to you. P.S. The shanks look delicious.

says:

I’m sad I don’t have all the essentials of a Greek wedding, being 100% Asian, but I’m glad you shared at least the food aspect so I can indulge!
holy goat…500 kg of goat meat? YES PLEASE1

says:

An amazing and memorable experience Peter. Since you were on Naxos I hope you imbibed on “moderate” amounts of Citron as well from Vallindras Distillery.

says:

Honestly – I can’t think of a more joyful thing than a Greek wedding.

I lament the fact, sometimes, that I’m not Greek… but then I think about all my great Greek friends, and somehow I feel better! Living vicariously will just have to do!

says:

So jealous that you are leaving for such a beautiful place in a couple weeks. We were just talking the other night about how we have never been to Greece & we should definitely give it a try sometime soon. Would love to stay in one of those remote white washed villages.

Your shanks are to die for as well … WOW! We started eating shanks last winter and really enjoy them. I will have to add to our test kitchen!

Have fun Peter!

says:

What I learned from my first greek wedding last year, you need some serious stamina to make it through all the festivities. This looks like a great time and with some delicious food.

says:

okay i thought we went hard, u guys are on a different level! love that’s it’s a Greek wedding, very traditional, and yet a coke bottle graces the tables! classic!

thanks for sharing such great cultural experience!

says:

What a beautiful write up! the food, the number of people invited & the music reminds me of our Indian weddings.. here the number of guests look scant, we have the entire neighborhood & the friends whom we have never met invited for weddings.

says:

what a great treat for us: a delicious recipe and a lovely weddign post!! i’ll be in greece too this summer!! cant wait to enjoy all the good stuffs you made me drool for a long time!

says:

Thanks for sharing. Takes me back to a Greek wedding I attended in Veria, a city near Thessaloniki, for my cousin’s wedding back in 2002. Dancing, drinking and eating until sunrise!

Phyllis

says:

This looks like a wonderful celebration, oh, the food, the wine, the charming island and all the people. The lamb looks like it would be delicious and my mouth is watering. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience.

says:

Out of all the places in the world, the Greek Islands are the place I want to visit the most. Luckily I can virtually visit them through you!

says:

Family and traditions are what make events like this unforgettable, and good food too, of course. Once again I have to thank you for taking us along your trips through your blog. I am sure that you will have tons of more stories and pictures to share with us from your upcoming trip. :)

Patrice Berry

says:

I would love to try the lamb shank recipe. One question…in step 4 you have us take the lamb shanks out of the pot, but not return them to the pot. But then it sounds like they cook with the potatoes at the end? Can you clarify this? Thank you!

says:

What an incredible experience that was for you. and OMG….1200 guest? wow! The bride was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
The recipe looks fantastic. I’ve never cooked lamb before so this just might be my first (when the weather cools down)

says:

Wow what an experience. I’ve been to several weddings in Italy, but this one with 1200 guests takes the cake. It’s like something from a movie.