Set It & Forget It

3 Classic Greek Recipes Get the Slow-Cooker Treatment

Lentil soup, chicken with orzo, and rice pudding for dinner tonight.

October 21, 2019
Photo by Eleni Vonissakou

Welcome to Set It & Forget It, a new series about all the ways we rely on our slow cookers, Instant Pots, and ovens during the colder months. Whether it’s a long braise on the stove or a quick burst in the pressure cooker, one thing’s for sure: Comfort food means comfort cooking.

I love slow cookers. I adore them. They are the best invention since the wheel. Oh, okay ... maybe there were a couple other good ones in between. But if you are reading this, then chances are you love your slow cooker too.

Before I tell my favorite story about how I got to know this wonderful appliance, let me introduce myself. My name is Eleni and I am half Greek (Dad) and half English (Mum). Although I was born in England, I was raised in Athens, Greece. The only time I've spent in the UK, apart from the holidays, were my student days. That is also when I started to cook, right about when my fondness for baked beans on toast started to wear thin, sometime in year three.

So how did my love affair with slow cookers begin?

Well, my brother, who lives in England, bought himself one a while back. I had already heard of these appliances but didn't know much about them. During a visit, he prepared a delicious slow-cooked stew for my mum and me. Since slow cookers didn't even exist in Greece, I never considered getting one at the time. However, on my mum's next visit, she went out and bought one, carried it in her hand luggage all the way from England to Greece and delivered it to my house. "You have to have one!" she said. And she was so right (as mums usually are).

After jumping on the slow cooker bandwagon, I gradually became more confident adapting conventional recipes, until I was creating my own. My best "high-fiving myself" moments were when I successfully adapted Greek classics and got delicious results. That's because Greek food is very well suited to the slow cooker. There will always be things that just don't work in it, like pastry for example. Fried foods also can't really be replicated. But anything made in a saucepan and most things made in the oven can be adapted with fabulous results. In fact, you might be surprised by what you can create.

Best Greek Crock-Pot Recipes

1. Greek Lentil Soup (Fakes Soupa)

When I was little, you could ask any child anywhere in Greece what their least favorite food was and the answer, 99 times out of 100, would be fakes. When Greeks say “fakes,” the word for lentils, they mean this soup, or something very similar to it, as it’s the most common way to cook them. I don’t know what it is that makes kids dislike the soup, maybe the color or the texture, but I do know that once grown up, almost all of them change their tune. A warm bowl of fakes with lots of vinegar and a good chunk of feta on the side is one of the best dinners you can wish for on a cold day.

2. White Wine Chicken With Orzo (Kotopoulo Yiouvetsi Lefko)

Are you familiar with the term yiouvetsi? If you are, you probably have in mind a dish with meat and orzo in tomato, something like my tomato-braised beef with orzo (yiouvetsi moshari). In Greece, we also have the so-called “white yiouvetsi” dishes—white meaning without tomato. The ingredients are simple, but create a wonderful, delicately flavorful result. Cooking the orzo pasta in the slow cooker at the end needs a little attention the first couple times, but once you get the hang of it the recipe is easy. A perfect midweek meal.

3. Easy Greek Rice Pudding (Ryzogalo)

This was the rice pudding of my childhood, or something very close to it.

Do you love your slow cooker, too? Let us know in the comments below.

Reprinted with permission from The Greek Slow Cooker: Easy, Delicious Recipes From the Heart of the Mediterranean by Eleni Vonissakou, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019. Photo credit: Eleni Vonissakou and Constantina Papageorgiou.

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Eleni Vonissakou

Written by: Eleni Vonissakou

1 Comment

Julia January 29, 2020
I am disappointed when recipes call for canned soup, such as the canned Cream of mushroom soup in the Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff recipe. Canned soups add too much salt.
Since we are cooking from scratch, why not make the sauce from scratch???