A classic summer meatless meal in Greece, briam is a medley of seasonal vegetables slow roasted in the oven with lashings of olive oil. Courgettes, aubergines, potatoes, red pepper, tomatoes and onion, all come together in a super easy, yet scrumptious dish.
Recently I was invited to participate in a blogging action organised by WWF Hellas. The theme was “Flavours and Aromas of Greek Summer”, and was part of a wider campaign called Better Life. Our mission was to write about what summer time means to us, concentrating of course on the element of food. The idea is to promote healthy eating habits that include using seasonal, local produce. What better way to represent this concept, than with a dish like briam?
In my article I wrote about how I remember my childhood summers. I sat and wrote down the first few words that came to mind. Karpouzi (watermelon) was one of them, tomato, balcony (as a place where many meals take place in the summer), beer (always ice cold in Greece), were some others. Thinking of karpouzi, I was taken back to the days when we would eat huge slices of it, with our fingers, on the beach. The stickier we got, the better. It would all wash off in the sea anyway! Eating it with a knife and fork is great, but if you don’t get your face covered in pink watermelon juice, you can’t reeeeally appreciate the stuff. Most Greeks will remember their makeshift coolers, i.e. a plastic bag secured with a couple of rocks in the shallow seawater. Warm karpouzi is not acceptable.
Snacking on the beach reminded me in turn of seaside meals. While many families would bring their little tupperware containers filled with goodies, we were one step ahead. In the morning we would leave our summer house with a giant roasting dish filled with food. This would be dropped off at the local bakery. (Bakeries in Greece will take your prepared pans and cook them in their ovens for you. The results are amazing and cannot be recreated in a kitchen oven!) So our lunch would start cooking in the morning, we would go off to the beach, and at lunchtime Mum would pop over and collect it. Upon arrival of the roasting dish we would –finally- emerge from the sea and attack it with glee. No plates, and usually no forks were necessary. With oily fingers we would grab roast potatoes, meat patties, gemista (stuffed tomatoes and peppers) and of course, my beloved briam. Then, seriously messy but completely satisfied, we would wash off in the sea and lie in the shade for some afternoon down time, while counting the minutes before we were allowed to swim again.
So here is a recipe for briam. Every Greek family has its own take on “the best briam in the world”. I think the best briam is the one eaten straight from the roasting pan, on the beach, regardless of the recipe. But the next best thing for me is this one. And of course it’s the way my mum made it. Following that, I have also included two ideas for either jazzing it up if you’re bored with it (yeah… that’s not going to happen) or for eating up the leftovers (if you have any).