Skordaliá, skordhalia, or skorthalia (σκορδαλιά) is a potato mash with olive oil, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, parsley and a small touch of sugar to round up the flavors.
This Greek specialty can be served as a mezzé, in a small dish among an assortment of dishes that are tasted, often with pita bread; but it can also be served as an accompaniment with fried or poached fish, fried vegetables such as zucchini and eggplant or cooked beets. The Greeks often consider it a sauce.
The national holiday of March, 25th
The bakaliaros skordalia is the traditional dish of the national holiday of March 25th. That day, the Greeks accompany their skordaliá with cod for a perfect pairing.
March 25 is one of the two national holidays in Greece, the second holiday is celebrated on October 28th. This day commemorates the beginning of the Greek War of Independence of 1821 against the Ottoman Empire which culminated in the creation of the Greek state.
It is also a religious holiday since it is coincides with the day of the Annunciation of the Virgin which corresponds to the announcement made to Mary of her divine maternity by the Archangel Gabriel. On this day, the fast observed during the Lenten season is less strict and fish is allowed.
What are the variants of skordalia?
Skordaliá was formerly called skorodalmi, from the Greek word skórdo meaning “garlic”.
Skordaliá would be a compound word, a pleonasm in modern Greek that could be translated “garlicky-garlic”, skórdo in Greek for “garlic” as we have just seen and agliata in Italian for “garlicky”.
And indeed, skordaliá has an intense taste of garlic. It is added raw and left to rest so that the garlic is infused in the perfumed purée.
Skordaliá is the ancestor of mayonnaise in the sense of an emulsified sauce. It is made by mixing crushed garlic with a thick base of mashed potatoes, almonds or soaked stale bread, then oil is added by beating to emulsify everything and obtain a smooth mixture.
The almonds and the bread would have been added during the medieval period. It is also probable that at that time, verjuice, the acid juice extracted from unripe grapes, replaced the vinegar.
Today in Greece, there are different recipes of this preparation, varying according to the regions. It is sometimes made with taro, purslane to replace parsley, nuts, and some cooks even color it with beet juice. We will focus here on the recipe based on mashed potatoes.
All around the Mediterranean, you can find cousins of the skordaliá. Starting with aioli, an emulsified sauce made of olive oil and garlic, that is very popular from Catalonia to Italy via Provence and the region of Nice.
The original recipe contains nothing but these two ingredients but depending on the cook, egg yolk, potato or breadcrumbs will be added to facilitate the emulsion.
In Italy, you will find agliata, a garlic sauce dating from ancient Rome, made of crushed garlic, olive oil, breadcrumbs and vinegar.
It is also an emulsified sauce, slightly acre, which perfectly complements the meats, fish or vegetables. It is associated with the region of Liguria.
You can also find similarities with ajo blanco, a cold soup from southern Spain, since its ingredients include garlic, almonds, bread crumbs, olive oil and sometimes vinegar.
What are the benefits of garlic?
Garlic has been used for 5,000 years in the Mediterranean region.
It has many medicinal virtues. It is thus anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, immuno-stimulant, or anti-cancer.
The Greeks have used it to treat almost every ailment, from colds to pneumonia, indigestion, rabies, leprosy, coughs and wounds, among others. So the Greeks and Romans gave it to their soldiers who went to the field and the Greek athletes ate it to improve their sports performance through its vasodilatation properties.
According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the very first social conflict would have occurred during the construction of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, following the suppression of the garlic ration for the Egyptian workers.
Now you know, do not avoid garlic as it is good for your health. In addition, this recipe is really easy to execute. Simply, do not use a food processor to mash the potatoes as it will bring out the starch and make your mashed potato too sticky.
καλή όρεξη (kali órexi), or bon appétit!
- 1½ lb potatoes
- 1 small bunch parsley , chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Juice of a lemon
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon caster sugar
Peel and steam the potatoes in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes or for a longer time in a standard steamer. They must be melting.
Place the potatoes in a large salad bowl and season them with salt. Mash them with the parsley and garlic while drizzling the lemon juice, vinegar, and then olive oil.
Add the sugar and mix.
Add a little boiling water if the purée seems too thick.