It’s the second Sunday of the Great Fast here in Athens; we’re still trucking along down the highway of penitence called sarakosti, forty days of blood free meals until 12am Easter morning. It’s true that practicing a perfect lenten diet is waning with modern times, but everyone benefits from seasonal dishes, delicious in their simplicity and widely available until Easter. Cuttlefish with spinach, or soupies me spanaki, is one that shouldn’t be judged by its less-than-savory presentation. If you’re okay with calimari, you’ll be fond of soupies.
What exactly is a cuttlefish? First of all, it’s not a fish but a mollusk like squid and octopi, with qualities that make it sound like an uber-villain: intelligent, can camoflage itself before attacking its prey, has the most highly developed eyesight of the animal kingdom and eight tentacles equipped with deadly suckers. Unfortunately for the cuttlefish it’s also oh so very tasty and quite popular in Mediterranean gastronomy. As it doesn’t have red blood nor a backbone, it’s considered A-OK for Orthodox lent.
Look for soupies me spanaki (soop’YES -meh- spa-NA’-kee) in traditional tavernas around Athens. They’ll be advertising it on their boards showing the plates of the day- meaning it’s prepared in advance and served until it runs out. In other words don’t be concerned about the speed in which it arrives at your table. Some good places to try are Kentrikon or Paradosiako in Syntagma, Tou Psara in Plaka, and Ta Vrahia Tis Peiraikis in Piraeus.
Should you be well acquainted with a stove, here’s a recipe taken from this article in Athens News. Read the original article to learn more about squid and octopus.
Cuttlefish with spinach and fresh herbs
Soupies me spanaki ke freska mirodika
1kg fresh cuttlefish
1 scant cup/200ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
5 small onions, sliced into rings
1 bunch dill
1kg fresh spinach
2/3 cup/150ml dry white wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Gut and clean the cuttlefish, cutting off the head with the tentacles,
extracting the insides and carefully removing the ink sac. Dilute the ink in a
little warm water and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and saute
the onions, dill and fennel. Cut the cuttlefish into rings, add to the onions
and herbs and herbs, and saut? lightly. Season with salt and pepper and pour
in a little water. Add some of the ink and simmer over a low heat for one
hour. Wash the spinach, chop it up finely and add to the saucepan. Pour in a
scant cup/200ml of water and a little more ink and simmer for a further 40
minutes. Pour in the white wine and season. Serve hot with freshly baked white
*Marianthi Milona is the author of the book Culinaria Greece