Today, I am sharing a dish that smells like the caress of the sun and the summer. Briam or briami (in Greek μπριάμ), is a classic dish of the traditional Greek cuisine based on summer vegetables, cooked in the oven in an extra-virgin olive oil sauce for a long time, which can be compared to the famous ratatouille of French cuisine.
What is briam or tourlou-tourlou?
Briam bears another name: tourlou-tourlou. Actually, tourlou-tourlou is more of a cooking process than a recipe. It is a Greek expression of Turkish origin that is used to define assortments and mixtures, especially in the kitchen.
You can say tourlou for a stew of Greek vegetables, which can mean something like “several different ingredients” or “mixed”. The word comes from Turkish türlü türlü, and translates into “confusion”, “different types” and “waste”.
A tourlou tourlou of vegetables can be composed of many types of vegetables, according to the tastes and the season but a real briam consists only of the following ingredients: eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.
Greece is located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea at the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula. It is considered the cradle of European civilization and Western democracy.
Greece and its immense cultural heritage are not limited to philosophy and architecture, or the history and art of ancient Greece, its culture is also gastronomic. The traditional cuisine of Greece is an invaluable heritage for the traditions it carries and for the history of each dish.
Greek cuisine has four secrets: fresh ingredients, the judicious use of herbs and spices, its simplicity, and the famous Greek extra-virgin olive oil. Greek cuisine is one of the oldest culinary traditions in the world and one of the finest examples of Mediterranean cuisine.
The history of Greek cuisine goes back more than 4000 years. Indeed, the first cookbook in the world was written by a Greek named Archestrate in 350 BC. In antiquity, Archestrate (or Archestratos) was a poet, gastronomist and great Greek traveler of the fourth century BC. He was also called “from Gela” or “from Syracuse”. His work titled Hedypatheia (Ηδυπαθεια), the oldest Greek cookbook, is written in the form of an epic poem to which five names were given by the ancients: gastronomia, gastrologia, opsopoiïa, deipnologia and hedupatheia.
What distinguishes Greek cuisine from the food culture of other Mediterranean countries is above all its simplicity. The cuisine is characterized by old traditions and the recipes have remained relatively unchanged for several centuries, which is often due to the fact that much of the food is based only on typical Greek foods such as olive oil, olives, sheep cheese (feta) and fresh vegetables. There are also a large variety of Greek vegetarian recipes.
Like the Spanish tapas and Italian antipasti, Greece also has a light diet: the mezzé, which are delicious dishes, served in small portions, are very important in Greek cuisine and are a great way to discover it.
The main dishes of Greek cuisine use lamb or pork. Among the most famous dishes, you will find:
– Gyros, very similar to the kebab called sheftalia.
– Souvlaki, a dish made of skewers of pork, lamb or chicken.
– Moussaka is another great dish of Greek tradition, with eggplant and ground meat.
– Tyropita is a crisp pastry stuffed with cheese.
– The ubiquitous Greek sauce is tzatziki, the famous yoghurt, cucumber and garlic sauce, but besides tzatziki, there are very good sauces with eggplants (melitzanosalata), or fish eggs (taramosalata).
– Keftedes are the famous Greek meatballs always served with sauces and vegetables, sometimes in the form of briam.
– Yemistà: peppers or tomatoes stuffed with meat or rice.
– Pita is the popular round flat bread that is usually served with various sauces such as tzatziki or with gyros.
– In Greece, you will find the typical phyllo (or filo) dough, with which the Greek cooks prepare sweet or savory pies or desserts, including the prásopíta, a specialty prepared mainly from phyllo sheets and feta and/or graviéra, or the spanakòpita, a pie made of filo dough stuffed with spinach and herbs.
No Greek meal would be complete without the tzatziki sauce.
The different versions of briam
Let’s go back to our briam recipe which is a dish that bears many names and even more variations, depending on the country or the region. For example, the term ratatouille is used in the south of France. Ratatouille is a traditional French dish of Provencal cuisine. But, many countries have their own ratatouille or briam.
– In Bulgaria and Romania: ghiveci,
– In Catalonia: samfaina,
– In Croatia and Serbia: đuveč,
– In Spain: pisto,
– In Hungary: lecsó,
– In Italy: caponata
– In Genoa: ratatuia,
– In Mallorca: tombet,
– In Malta: kapunat.
The Greek version, the briam, is simple and delicious. Note that this roasted vegetable casserole is much better if it is prepared the day before to allow time for the flavors to develop. This Greek vegan dish is eaten warm or cold, but never as it comes out of the oven as it will have much less taste.
As fáne !
- 2 eggplants (about 1½ lb/700g, sliced)
- 4 potatoes (about 1½ lb/700g, sliced)
- 3 zucchini (about 2 lb/1kg, sliced)
- 4 firm tomatoes (about 1½ lb/700g, sliced)
- 3 ripe tomatoes , peeled, seeded and crushed
- 2 red bell peppers (or green bell peppers), sliced
- 4 onions , cut into strips
- 15 olives (black or Kalamata)
- 2 cloves garlic , pressed
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill
- 2 tablespoons oregano
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil (preferably Greek)
- 1 cup water
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 170 C.
In a skillet, heat ¼ cup (50 ml) olive oil and brown the onions over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, and sauté for 3 more minutes, stirring very regularly. Set aside.
- In a large salad bowl, combine all the raw vegetables, the remaining olive oil, water, parsley, oregano, and dill. Season with salt and pepper and mix well by hand or using a wooden spoon.
- In the bottom of a baking dish, spread half of the onion and garlic mixture and half of the crushed tomatoes.
- Place the vegetables on top and spread the rest of the onion and garlic mixture and the rest of the crushed tomatoes on the vegetables. Pour all the juice from the bowl where the ingredients were mixed.
Bake at 350 F / 170 C for 1h30 stirring gently once halfway through cooking.
- Set aside for a few hours before serving hot, warm or cold.