When it comes to minimalist dishes, pork bites nail it! This dish goes by the name tiganiá – an informal Greek word for shallow pan cooking, almost like a stir fry. Greek cuisine is teeming with quick, few ingredient dishes and tiganiá is the classic winter mezze you will definitely love.
Head straight to the recipe.
For such a simple dish, tiganiá has origins that are deeply rooted in our folklore. In olden times, as Christmas was approaching, families would slay their one pig to celebrate and preserve it so that it would see them through winter. It’s known as gourounohares, a pig festival so to speak, crucial for survival when food was scarce and an excellent way to celebrate with a pig feast. Tiganiá, is a very simple braised dish; small pork bites are cooked in their own fat, with a helping of dry wine, flavoured with thyme or oregano, bay leaves and served with a generous helping of lemon. It was made as part of the feast, the so called gourounohares. Tiganiá obviously was not a main dish, it is served as mezze to share on the table along with many other mezze.
This pork dish has many variations, local cuisines from North to South Greece have added their own mark to this simple recipe. In Crete, it’s called foukaki and it’s made with a very generous helping of lemon juice. In Northern Greece, Thrace and Macedonia they love complementing the pork with leeks. In its classic version, the meat is cooked in alcohol not simply deglazed, most often with dry white or red wine but other alcohols are also used, such as tsipouro, ouzo or raki. If the alcohol content is high, it is called bekri mezze, it gives an equally nice sauce.
Many modern versions of this classic pork dish have caught on. For better or worse, most versions give in the pallet of sugary impulses and pork is glazed with honey, sugar or various versions of balsamic creams. Others call for tomato, peppers, mushrooms or other seasonal vegetables. If used sparingly, these will help you achieve a taste close to tiganiá, not however the authentic pork tiganiá. Great dishes in themselves, but the original calls for a bit more simplicity. If you are looking just for one addition that would make this dish even tastier than it already is, add mustard, preferably spicy mustard towards the end of the cooking process.
- 1kg of pork, in cubes
- 200 ml dry white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 6-7 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 tbspn if using dried)
- 1 large lemon, for its juice
- 1 tspn of olive oil (if using fatty pieces of pork it’s optional)
- 1 tspn of mustard (optional)
- Hot water (if you want a lot of sauce)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Dry the cubes of pork thoroughly and season with salt and pepper.
- In a deep pan, add the olive oil if using, once heated up add the pork bites and brown for a couple of minutes each side.
- Add in the wine and cook until only ¼ of the wine remains visible in your pan. Add the lemon juice, the liquids should just touch the top of your pork cubes.
- Throw in the herbs, bay leaf and thyme, bring to the boil and then lower to a simmer. It needs approximately 30-35 minutes, with the lid on. Check again your liquids towards the last 10 minutes, if you think you are running out of liquids add some warm water.
- If using mustard, add it in the last 5 minutes, be stingy with it though.
What to accompany it with, I hear you say. Well, there are a great many mezze to cherish in Greek cooking, tzatziki is an obvious go, so are pita breads and don’t forget the salad!
from Athens with love,