23.09.2017
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03.03.2017

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A fish salad with wine poached perch, vegetables boiled in the stock, and lots of mayonnaise. Traditionally styled as a large fish with garnishes, here I’ve opted for little individual fish which are quicker to put together. Ok, if not quicker, then cuter!

Retro Fish Salad with Mayonnaise, aka “Athinaiki” www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: One green/yellow plate with a pretty pattern, sitting on a marble surface. On it, one «fish» made of fish salad. The body has a pea for an eye, some pieces of carrot as gill slits, some celery leaves as skin behind the carrots, and some slices of lemon as fins and tail. A thin strand of celery acts as its mouth, in a grumpy downward direction.

Going back to the 80s with something a bit retro today. The Greek version of this post is part of a virtual recipe party and since this is quite an interesting dish, I thought I’d share it here as well. “Athinaiki” (meaning Athenian) is a classic that immediately brings to mind the somewhat weird recipes of the 80s in Greece.

During the 80s a lot of new “Western” things finally showed up on supermarket shelves, such as cans of whipped cream, new pasta shapes, self raising flour, jelly (jello) powder and all sorts of ready made, convenience food stuffs. See, in 1981 Greece officially became part of the European Union. So imports flourished and life became more colourful and modern!

Retro Fish Salad with Mayonnaise, aka “Athinaiki” www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: A closer look at two of the plates (one blue and one turquoise coloured), each with a «fish» on it. At the top of the picture the bottom part of the third plate is visible. The fish on the blue plate has a pea for an eye, and three curved layers of vegetable pieces for gill slits (one layer of carrot, one of peas and one of corn), celery leaves as fins and a half slice of lemon as a tail. The one on the turquoise plate has skin made of celery leaves and a layer of peas as gill slits. Fins and tail are lemon slices.

One thing you can say about this salad is that is can be as colourful as your imagination can stretch to. The décor is a major part of the whole concept, otherwise it could just be another dip or sandwich filling. Back in its time, it was something one would find on a party buffet, so the more elaborate and fancy, the better.

Traditionally, the salad is laid out on a platter, shaped into a fish, and slathered in more mayonnaise. Then all sorts of chopped veggies and leaves are used to make it look pretty. The more hardcore versions use the original fish head and tail! Um, yikes. I don’t shrink away from the sight of a fish head (I am Greek after all) but in this context, I don’t know why, it seems too creepy. Here is a pretty version, where only the tail is used and that is also covered with mayo so it looks nice. Yes, everything looks nice when slathered in mayo.

Retro Fish Salad with Mayonnaise, aka “Athinaiki” www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: A closer look at the fish on the green/yellow plate (described above) and the fish on the blue plate (described above). Both plates are on a white and grey marble surface.

Anyway, I was going to attempt something like that last one, and I was seriously worried about the time it would take to cook and put together. The past month has been super busy and I’d left it till last minute (not by choice this time!). What you are supposed to do is boil veggies and then add a whole, large, fish to the pot and boil that as well, then clean the fish from the bones and mix it with the rest of the ingredients. The fish-cleaning thing alone was going to take ages. So I thought I would do some adapting to this retro recipe, and make it more realistic and suitable for the busy lives of the 00s.

Enter the fish fillet. Yes, we have to make our lives easier where we can. I poached it in water and wine, boiled the veggies in the liquid, and then flaked it nice and quickly with my fingers. I’ve used perch which is nice and meaty and tastes good, and doesn’t have more than a couple of big bones you can easily spot and remove.

Retro Fish Salad with Mayonnaise, aka “Athinaiki” www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: A closer look at the fish on the blue plate, before I put the layer of mayonnaise on the «body» which is made of fish salad with bits of potato and carrot visible. Gill slits are corn kernels and the fins are celery leaves. Tail is a half slice of lemon.
(Here is one without the mayo layer, so you can see what the salad looks like)

When I first chose this recipe Mrs. D. said she thought they used to have special fish shaped molds for making Athinaiki. She had never made it herself, but she did remember it being popular. That got me thinking first of all, “where the hell am I going to find a mold”, and then, “what else could I use?”. And that is how the cute little round fishies were born. I used a round mold for fried eggs! It’s the perfect size for a portion of Athinaiki as a starter. You’d want more if you were eating it for dinner like I did last night (someone has to eat up all my blog experiments), but this is supposed to be party food. So 4 to 8 portions is what these quantities yield. If you use the fried egg thingy you should get 8 fish.

Use your imagination for the decoration. Anything edible that catches your fancy is fine. Some more ideas I didn’t use here are slices of radish, parsley leaves, capers (they go nicely with the salad) and slices of boiled egg (ditto). Ok if you make these I definitely want to see photos so tag me or use #thefoodiecorner hashtag. Actually this might be a cool activity for children too, getting them to decorate their own fish!

Now if you really really can’t be bothered with decorating, this is still a super sandwich filler or toast topper. So make it anyway!

Retro Fish Salad with Mayonnaise, aka “Athinaiki” www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: The three plates described in the featured photo, only arranged closer together in the centre of the photo. They are all sitting on the white and grey marble surface.

Ingredients

720ml (3 cups) water

240ml (1 cup) white wine (or 2 cups water, 2 cups wine – I preferred to drink the second)

1 bay leaf

1/4 – 1/2 tsp tarragon, dried (depends on how much you like it, it’s quite strong)

500gr perch fillet

salt and pepper for the fish

1 largeish potato (about 300gr peeled), cut into 2cm cubes

2 carrots (about 60gr topped-tailed), thinly sliced

1 celery stalk (about 30gr) without the leaves (keep them), thinly sliced

1/2 tsp pepper + 1 tsp salt

4 cornishons (pickled cucumbers) finely chopped (about 5 Tbs)

4 Tbs mayonnaise + extra for decor

2 Tbs lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 tsp pepper, freshly ground (I used mixed colours)

For the decoration

lemon slices

celery or parsley leaves

small pieces of vegetables (I used pieces from a bag of frozen veggie mix)

anything else you fancy (like capers, radish slices, boiled egg slices etc)

Show me more ideas and suggestions

You know, this would probably be nice with fresh salmon. Straying quite a bit from the original Athinaiki, but it would be really tasty. I might give it a go at some point.

Step 1

Heat the water and wine in a large deep frying pan. When it comes to the boil add the bay leaf and tarragon. Season the fish fillet and gently slide it into the pan. Turn the heat to medium/low and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through (mine took 16’). You may want to start taking out some of the thinner parts around the edge of the fish a bit earlier. If your fillet is thick and isn’t entirely submerged, you should also flip it once while cooking. When ready use a slotted spoon to take out the fish and set it aside.

Step 2

Turn up the heat and when the liquid comes back to the boil add the potatoes, and two minutes later the carrots and celery. Add half a teaspoon of salt. Cook on medium heat till the veg is tender but holding its shape (about 15-20 minutes depending on how large the cubes are). Strain the contents of the pan using a colander and let the vegetables air dry for a few minutes, flipping them carefully in the colander so there is no liquid left.

Step 3

While the vegetables are cooking, shred the fish with your fingers and put the pieces in a large bowl together with the pickled cucumbers, the mayonnaise, the lemon juice, the pepper and the one teaspoon of salt. Add the veg and mix gently but thoroughly.

Step 4

To make the individual fish, use a large round cookie cutter or a fried egg mold. Place it on a small plate, fill it with fish salad and press it down well. Carefully lift the mold and slather extra mayo over the top. Pop a half slice of lemon on one side to look like a tail and use small pieces of vegetables as eyes, gill slits, scales etc.

Step 5

Serve with crackers, or tortilla chips, or baked pitta bread pieces. I added extra mayo to be honest. But I can eat the stuff with a spoon, so I’ll let you decide if it needs it! Oh by the way, the salad is even nicer the next day.

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Here are some more recipes from 80s Greece! In English of course.
Campari & Sanguini (Blood Orange) Jelly by Eat Yourself Greek
Tomato Jelly with Egg by The Healthy Cook (for English scroll down)

So, what do you think? Leave me a comment!

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