Dr Valia Avgoustidi, who lived in Scotland’s capital until recently, wants to see closer links forged between Scotland and Greece – reflecting a long association that goes back to the times of Ancient Rome.
Not least amongst the links binding the two countries is that both have St Andrew as a patron saint, and Valia believes that a love of traditional food and drink should be harnessed in celebrating the saint’s Day by rekindling the St Andrew Feast Day.
She has created a menu which combines some of the most traditional dishes and ingredients from the two countries, and hopes the idea will catch on and lead to other connections being forged.
Valia, a highly qualified scientist, has created a unique food tourism business, Hand Picked Greece, which she hopes will help artisan food producers survive the recession and economic uncertainty in Greece, as well as introducing Scots and other UK travellers to some of uniquely Hellenic dishes and flavours.
She said: “I lived and went to University in the UK and I really enjoyed the time I spent in Edinburgh. It is a beautiful city, and its position as the ‘Athens of the North’ made it even more special for me.
“I returned to Greece last year to set up the business and to date we have brought travellers from Europe and North America to one of the most beautiful and unspoilt parts of my country to learn how to make wine, olive oil, and to take part in some of the most memorable food festivals you can imagine. Now, we are launching in Scotland and I think that creating a St Andrew’s Feast menu is a way to get people to do something special.
“We are a UK company operating in Greece, organizing small group activity holidays in Greece, in places full of great people and great food. Our aim is always to promote responsible tourism and sustainable living, offering authentic agro-tourism and eco-tourism experiences. As well as holidays, we offer a whole range of workshops, so everyone can get involved.
“Travel is about experiencing and discovering places, people and flavours. Now you can discover Greece through our hand picked experiences, becoming part of a rural community where you participate, relax, taste and feel like a local.
“Food and drink are a fundamental and important part of our culture, cherished as people eat, drink, talk and enjoy spending time with their families and friends while sharing a good meal. I hope people try the menu, or create their own, and enjoy sharing food while they celebrate a Saint who has real international appeal.”
Starter: Scottish smoked salmon, Greek Green salad: (Romaine lettuce, dill and spring onion with a thyme honey, extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar dressing)
Main course: Lamb casserole with thyme honey and sage -- served with Steamed Carrots and broccoli - drizzled with extra virgin olive oil (An ancient Greek recipe originating from the Minoan civilization, 3650 to 1400 BCE); Rumblethumps, a traditional Scottish Borders dish made from potatoes, cabbage and onion; Cretan Boureki, a potato, marrow (or pumpkin) and chopped fresh mint bake, with feta and riccotta cheese. All served with steamed carrots and broccoli drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and coarse sea salt
Dessert: Cranachan with Greek thyme honey , served with Drambuie
She said: “We’ve already tested out the menu, as have friends in Edinburgh, and we all think the combination is delicious. I had great fun coming up with the menu, but people should experiment and have fun. There are other countries for whom St Andrew is very important, including Romania and Russia, so people can be even more international if they choose to.”
The menu along with recipes and photographs of the cooking process are all available via the Hand Picked Greece website, at www.handpickedgreece.co.uk