Tomorrow is a double-celebration for Greeks. March 25th is a holiday in Greece where we celebrate Greek Independence Day. The inspiration is drawn from one of the most holy days in the Greek-Orthodox calendar, the Annunciation of the Theotokos. This is the day that Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a child. Back in 1821, Bishop Germanos of Patras seized the opportunity and led the charge for the beginning of Greece’s struggle for independence. An act of defiance after being under Turkish rule for some 500 years.
Cries of “ZHTO h ELLAS” (Long Live Greece) and “ELEFTHERIA h THANATOS” (Freedom or Death) are still heard today. These freedoms fighters (Klephts) sacrificed their lives for the freedoms Greece enjoys today. Kolokotronis, Nikitara, Karaiskakis, Bouboulina, Botsaris are just some of the heroes of Greek Independence.
You know the Greeks will always have a food angle with a holiday, right? In the old days, when there were but just caiques (traditional fishing boat) were used to haul in the catch of the day. Folklore has it that theÂ ‘fourtounes’ (storms) of the day caused the fishermen to remain docked and all that was available by way of fish was preserved salt cod.
Tradition dictates that battered and fried cod fish be served on March 25th, served with a side of a Skordalia, an aioli made with a base of with wither bread or potatoes. Many Greeks have been cooking up little twists here and there and I’ve also seen cod cakes being featured on some Greek cooking segments recently.
If you want to go old school, my Bakliaro with Skordalia is very popular and it’s been made and enjoyed by my family, friends and readers of the site.
You wish to go the cod cakes route? I recently posted a Spanish-inspired recipe where I avoid frying and make good use of the oven, removing the step of frying the patties.
Today, I have yet another way to eat some cod fish tomorrow. Fried hake or whiting, the smaller cousin of the cod fish. This mild-tasting fish is found in the Atlantic and is often labeled as whiting. In Europe and the Mediterranean, the species is known as hake. This fish is often found at your fish monger, it’s affordable an this slender, small fish is ideal for frying.
This has a flaky, white meat that’s light tasting and sure to be popular with adults and kids alike. Whiting also has a firm spine column and it comes out in tact with a light touch of your fingers. In keeping with the whole fish with a garlicky condiment, I’ve adapted another family favourite, Makalo.
Makalo is a kind of gravy that traditionally gets most of it’s flavouring from scraping up the brown bits of a skillet and making a type of gravy. It’s usually made to accompany keftedes/biftekia or serve as an accompaniment to eggs/poaching liquid. Makalo is enjoyed in many households of the Kastoria and Florina regions of Greece. In other parts of Greece it can be called “kourkouto”.
To match the fried whiting, the Makalo has a a backbone of garlic flavour, some tomato paste for colour and more flavour and some chopped fresh parsley to balance the garlic and brighten the sauce.
Fried WhitingÂ With Makalo (ÎœÏ€Î±ÎºÎ±Î»Î¹Î±ÏÎ¬ÎºÎ¹Î± Ï„Î·Î³Î±Î½Î·Ï„Î¬ Î¼Îµ Î¼Î±ÎºÎ¬Î»Î¿)
16 whole whiting (or hake), scaled, gutted and trimmed
fresh ground pepper
vegetable oil for frying
- Rinse your gutted and scaled whiting in cold water and pat-dry. Season with coarse salt and pepper and let stand for 20-30 minutes. In the meantime, have a large bowl with all purpose flour, another platter lined with kitchen towel prepared and a large skillet to fry your fish.
- Add about 1 inch of vegetable oil (I like sunflower) into your skillet and pre-heat the oil. A candy/oil thermometer is a good tool for measuring temperature. You want your oil to reach between 365-375F in temperature.
- Dredge your whiting in the all-purpose flour and then carefully drop in your hot oil. Fry the fish for about 4-5 minutes a side or until crisp and golden. Reserve on the platter lined with kitchen towel and fry your remaining fish in batches.
- Serve with wedges of lemon, Makalo for dunking the fish in and some fries on the side. Serve with a chilled bottle of Kechri’s “pine’s tear” Retsina, made of Assyrtiko grapes.
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. of tomato paste
2 1/2 cups of hot water (or stock of your choice)
4-5 clovesÂ cloves of garlic, minced
pinch of smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. of chopped fresh parsley
- Over medium-high heat, add the oil and flour to a large skillet and stir constantly with a wooden spoon to cook the flour and toast it a bit. Continue to stir until the roux has turned to a light brown colour.
- Add the tomato paste and a pinch of smoked paprika and stir for a minute. Now add the hot liquid (water or stock) plus the minced garlic and bring to a boil while stirring. Simmer with the occasional stir until you’ve achieved the desired thickness (enough to coat your wooden spoon).
- Season with salt and pepper and add the chopped fresh parsley. Serve alongside your fried whiting and some French Fries.
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