History of Greek Food


  • With the autumn still in, quinces are in eating season….   And yes, I love quinces. Despite their declining in favour in modern times, I love their fine taste, the way they go into both savory and sweet dishes. Baked, cooked or poached they reveal a devine aroma and take a beautiful deep pink color.
  • The high acidity of quinces (gr. pl. kydonia ) counteract the greasiness of the foods, so they are ideal for fatty meats. KIDONATO, a dish that involves quinces and pork, lamb or veal was common in past. It was prepared mostly by the Greeks who lived in Constantinople, it could be found all over Greece though.This particular combination of meat and fruit appears to be derived from the Persian cuisine via Ottomans. In Persia the marriage of sour fruits, such as quince, and meats is found in many traditional dishes. Also, Persians stuffed the peeled and cored quinces with meat and transformed them into dolma. It seems that the Ottomans adopted these recipes in the 15th century. The following recipe of stuffed quinces is wonderful as a first dish. It  maps a little piece of personal history too.


In the year 1890, my grandfather left his family behind in Ottoman occupied Crete in order to study at the University of Athens. Having 2 older brothers already studing, 6 younger brothers and sisters in Crete, but not having a rich father, he soon started looking for a job. And indeed, he found the perfect job for a student. He was employed as a dog walker by the dioikitis, the chief officer of the National Bank of Greece.

Living in the house, he saw that the kitchen was the perfect place for night reading, after the cook and the servants were not rushing around to prepare meals and the sound of clattering pots and dishes had been disappeared. Besides, the cook was very fond of the boy and soon wrapped him up in the blanket of care. My grandfather could count on him to have coffe and cookies or a meze or fruits on the table, while was reading.

The daily diet of dioikitis and his family was based on traditional Greek food but the elegant banquets were based on French cuisine according to the upper class’s food fashion.  However, both categories were blended with some Eastern elements. Because the cook was French in culinary training but Constantinopolitan in origin and the dioikitis enjoyed his cooking. What a surprise for the guests to find savory stuffed quinces (kidonia gemista), a fruit dolma, on the menus of the elaborated banquets given by dioikitis!

My grandfather, for his part, encountered the novelty at the home of dioikitis and could not resist to cook it some years later, when he returned to Crete. You see, the cook had patience to teach and my grandfather was getting joy from cooking. And he did not only become brilliant with food but he also teached his children, so they all grew up in an atmosphere in which cooking is a pleasure for both males and females.





6 large quinces similar in size

400 gr ground meat (lamb or beef, or both of them)

1 tbsp rice

1 cup grape juice

100 gr. almonds, chopped and blanched

1 ½ tbsp raisins

4 tbsp butter

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

salt & pepper

Wash the quinces under cold running water to rub off any fuzz and peel them. Cut off the tops and hollow out, leaving 4 cm pulp on all sides. Save tops and set the quinces aside. Brown the ground meat in 2 tbsp butter. Add 2/3 cup grape juice, rice, salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon. Mix thoroughly. Cook until the liquid is absorbed. Let the stuffing cool and fill the fruits with it. Replace the tops and place in greased baking dish. Pour 2 tbsp melted butter over the quinces. Combine 2/3 cup water with the remaining grape juice and pour into the baking dish. Cover and place in preheated oven ( 190°C, 50-60 min.) Check to see if fruits are done. Serve them, while still warm.

UPDATE: November 16, 2008.

Here are two great quince recipes posted by two fellow bloggers:

A) Beef stew with quince (Kydonato kreas), by Food Junkie

B)Poached quince with manouri filling, by Kalofagas.

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  1. admin Post author

    Rachel, the fruit gives a devine sweetness to the meat filling and the dish becomes incredibly tasty. And when quinces are not available, firm apples are a common substitute.

  2. Laurie Constantino

    If it were legal to do so, my answer would emphatically be “yes please!” But, alas, the US does not allow fresh fruit to be brought into the country. Thank you for your generous offer!

  3. admin

    Jo, it is a very fine dish, indeed.

    Burcu, thanks for stopping by.
    I absolutely adore the Persian -Ottoman combination of fruit with meat.

    Maria, μερικά χιλιόμετρα πιο πάνω από το Φουρνέ, οι παλιές νοικοκυρές φτιάχνουν ακόμα κυδωνάτο κρέας. Αν το μαγειρέψεις μη βάλεις κρεμμύδια. Καταστρέφουν τη γεύση του φρούτου.

  4. maria

    thanks for the insight into your family history – clearly, a preference of fine food is a genetic trait.
    i only just bought soem quinces – and yes, they are old-fashioned; my husband looked at them, and wondered why i bought them…

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