It’s been a toughish winter. Athens actually had snow a few days (well not anything crazy, but still). The city can have a bit of a temperature difference as the north suburbs are next to or on a mountain, while the south suburbs are next to the sea. So some areas are icy and snowy, while others are not. This causes nice traffic jams and school closures everywhere. But what has made this winter a bit more difficult is everyone getting sick. Cold, flu, whatever it’s making everyone feel lousy.
And when we feel lousy (or even lazy) we want comfort food and easy food. These potatoes are exactly it. Yes, this is a traditional meal from the area of Arcadia in Pelponissos, where my parents are from. It is so simple and so cheap. The beauty of the real Greek diet, making something out of nothing.
Potatoes along with celery leaves-yes the leaves, not the stalks- are the main ingredients. In Greece celery is small, the leaves are about the size of parsley leaves and we use them in a number dishes. This dish is called patates me selino.
These potatoes are “reddened” with tomato paste and olive oil. Tomato paste was made as a way to preserve tomatoes from the summer, so you will often see Greek winter dishes using paste.
This meal is vegetarian and it is often consumed during lent, and Greeks fasted over 180 days a year. But this is perfect with a chunk of feta and some crusty bread. My dad remembers eating this dish at least once a week when he was a little boy, it’s actually his favorite food.
This is a main course, not a side dish. It is a lathero dish which is consumed on its own accompanied with bread and cheese.
Nutritionally, it’s good. Celery leaves are a source of antioxidants. The tomato paste heated with olive oil increases the absorption of lycopene (another antioxidant), while the olive oil is another source of antioxidants. And potatoes make this meal filling.
Here is my mom’s recipe:
Potatoes and Celery Cooked in Olive Oil
- 1 pound potatoes cut in 1 ½ inch pieces
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 cup (or more) of chopped celery leaves
- 1 heaping tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1 pinch of sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
1. Heat the olive oil on low and add the potatoes, sauté for a few minutes.
2. Add the tomato paste and mix well so it is heated with the olive oil. Add the sugar
3. Add the chopped celery leaves and mix well.
4. Add the salt and pepper.
5. Add warm water until it almost covers the potatoes (but not quite).
6. Let it simmer covered for about 45 minutes-you want the potatoes to be very soft (it may take longer depending on the potato). Test with a fork. Once it is done it should be left with a reddish olive oil sauce, it should not be watery.
Serve warm or at room temperature with feta cheese and bread.
Makes 2 main course servings
Thank you for posting. I couldn’t find celery leaves, so I used celery seeds instead, and it was delicious. I used a ratio of 1 part dry to three parts fresh. I also used agave instead of sugar.
I shared the meal with my landlady and she loved it. It’s a keeper.
What do you recommend if you can’t find celery leaves?
I keep meaning to ask, what kind of pot or pan you use to cook this and other lathers-type dishes?
Oops Lathera : )
Hi Nick, I use stainless steel pots.
I have made this recipe twice now, and it has been a huge success with our house! I had to go to several markets to find enough celery leaves to do the recipe properly the first time since celery leaf is not commonly used here in recipes. I had no idea celery leaves worked so subtly as a flavoring. The second time, I used a mix of celery leaves and celery stalk. It was better the first time, but still quite good.
Thank you Thea! Yes, celery leaves are sold here in Greece in abundance but not really outside of Greece.
These were delicious!!! Will be making them again.
Thank you Cheryl!
I hadn’t got celery leaves so I substituted chopped up spinach leaves and that worked just fine.
This might seem like a stupid question… does the celery leaves taste like celery? I only ask as I cannot stand the taste.
Hi Sarah, Yes the leaves do have a celery taste.
Just made this tonight and it’s delicious! Thank you for sharing it.
I look forward to trying more of your recipes 🙂
Whether at the same meal or not, what would be the common protein sources for fast days? Is it mostly legumes? Personally, I’d be happy to eat Gigantes Plaki every day!
Protein is present in a number of foods not only beans etc Bread, vegetables are also sources of protein, which add up. Other sources include tahini, nuts but also seafood. The Greek fast allows seafood that supposedly contains no blood (it is actually blue blood) such as octopus, shrimp, clams, mussels etc. This post may be helpful: https://www.olivetomato.com/the-rules-of-the-greek-fast/
This is so good! I didn’t have enough celery leaves so I used some sliced celery as well.
When serving lathero on a fast day, would there be some kind of legume or other protein? We’re not vegan or vegetarian but I’ve recommended this site to vegan friends and I’d like to be able to address the protein question.
Recent studies have shown that you do not need to combine protein sources within the same meal. As long as they have more protein during the rest of the day they are ok.
Thank you Manthos
Celery leaves are filled with flavor! They taste delicious on potatoes, too. I find that onions and celery pieces also make a great addition to this dish.
Onions are also a great addition to the original recipe!