Exploring the Flavours of Mediterranean Cuisine: 5 Must-Try Recipes

Mediterranean cuisine has long captivated food enthusiasts with its vibrant flavours and healthy ingredients. As a leading hospitality consultancy, COLUMBIA signature appreciates the popularity of this culinary tradition as well as the fact that the concept of hospitality management aligns perfectly with the essence of Mediterranean cuisine, emphasizing the importance of warmth, generosity, and attention to detail in creating memorable dining experiences.

In this food blog post, we explore Mediterranean cuisine’s history, ingredients, regional variations, and popular dishes. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or an aspiring home cook, these insights and must-try recipes will inspire you to embrace the Mediterranean culinary experience.

A Brief History

Mediterranean cuisine has a fascinating history that spans centuries and encompasses diverse cultures, from ancient civilizations to modern-day influences. Trade, migration, and cultural exchanges have shaped its unique flavours and techniques. The foundations of Mediterranean cuisine can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. The Greeks valued simplicity and emphasized the use of fresh, high-quality ingredients. Over the centuries, new ingredients and cooking methods were introduced creating a rich tapestry woven from cultural exchanges and a bounty of ingredients. Mediterranean cuisine continues to captivate food lovers worldwide with its vibrant flavours, healthy ingredients, and celebration of the Mediterranean way of life.

Ingredients and Flavour Profiles

Central to the allure of Mediterranean cuisine are the distinctive ingredients that define its flavour profiles. Olive oil is a key ingredient and is used generously in dressings, marinades, and sautés. Rice and citrus fruits are emphasized as well as the use of fresh herbs, tomatoes, pasta, and cheese. Seafood, such as fish, shrimp, and squid, also plays a prominent role. Fresh herbs like basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme are widely used, as are garlic and onions, which provide depth and aroma to dishes.

Another important ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine is grains, particularly wheat. Bread, pasta, and couscous are common staples in many Mediterranean countries. Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and beans are also widely consumed and are excellent sources of protein and fiber. From the earthy aroma of oregano to the tangy sweetness of sun-ripened tomatoes, each ingredient contributes to the vibrant and balanced flavours that Mediterranean cuisine is renowned for.

Regional Variations and Influences

The Mediterranean region encompasses a diverse array of countries, each with its own culinary identity and regional specialties. Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Morocco have shaped these culinary traditions, from the Arabic spices of North Africa to the Greek and Roman legacies that permeate Italian cuisine.

Tips for Cooking Mediterranean Cuisine

To help you make the most of your Mediterranean culinary adventures, use fresh, high-quality ingredients. Opt for seasonal produce, ripe fruits, and vibrant herbs. Seek out quality olive oil, cheeses, and seafood. Embrace herbs and spices by experimenting with aromatic herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and parsley to enhance the flavours of your dishes. Explore spices like cumin, paprika, cinnamon, and saffron to add depth and complexity. Balance flavours by aiming for a harmony between salty, sweet, acidic, and savory elements in your dishes. Use ingredients like olives, capers, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar to add tanginess and brightness.

Avoid overcomplicating dishes with too many ingredients or heavy sauces. If possible, incorporate fresh seafood into your Mediterranean dishes. Focus on wholesome cooking methods such as grilling, roasting, or lightly sautéing ingredients to preserve their natural flavours and nutrients. These methods enhance the taste and texture of the dishes while maintaining their health benefits. By following these tips, you can bring the essence of Mediterranean cuisine to your kitchen.

Popular Mediterranean Dishes to Try at Home

No exploration of Mediterranean cuisine would be complete without sampling its most beloved dishes. We present a curated selection of five popular recipes that showcase the diverse range of flavours and cooking techniques within this culinary tradition. These recipes offer a gateway into the world of Mediterranean cooking, allowing you to bring the vibrant tastes of the Mediterranean to your own kitchen.

Greek Salad


  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 200g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, bell pepper, and olives.
  • In a separate small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, salt, and pepper.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine.
  • Sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese over the top.
  • Serve chilled and enjoy this refreshing and tangy Greek salad!

Italian Caprese Salad


  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 250g fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic glaze (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Arrange the tomato and mozzarella slices alternately on a platter.
  • Tuck fresh basil leaves between the tomato and mozzarella slices.
  • Drizzle the salad with olive oil and balsamic glaze (if desired).
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve this classic Italian Caprese salad as a refreshing appetizer or a light lunch.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine


  • 4 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for heat)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)


  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet or tagine over medium heat.
  • Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then brown them in the skillet for about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.
  • In the same skillet, sauté the onion and garlic until softened and fragrant.
  • Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Stir well to coat the onion mixture with the spices.
  • Pour in the chicken broth and diced tomatoes, scraping the bottom of the skillet to release any browned bits.
  • Return the chicken thighs to the skillet. Add the green olives and lemon juice.
  • Cover the skillet and simmer over low heat for 45-60 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.
  • Serve the Moroccan chicken tagine over couscous or with crusty bread. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Spanish Paella


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 lb chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lb mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In the skillet or paella pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the chicken thighs and cook until browned on both sides. Remove and set aside.
  • In the same skillet, add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté until softened and fragrant.
  • Stir in the saffron threads, smoked paprika, and turmeric, coating the vegetables with the spices.
  • Add the rice to the skillet and stir to coat it with the spice mixture.
  • Pour in the chicken or vegetable broth and season with salt and pepper. Stir well.
  • Nestle the chicken thighs into the rice mixture, cover the skillet, and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes, place the shrimp, mussels, and peas on top of the rice. Cover again and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until the rice is tender and the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
  • Remove from heat and let the paella rest for a few minutes.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy this traditional Spanish paella with family and friends!

Greek Moussaka


  • 1 lb ground lamb or beef
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups béchamel sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tender and lightly golden.
  3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until softened.
  4. Add the ground lamb or beef to the skillet and cook until browned. Drain any excess fat.
  5. Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, dried oregano, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  6. In a greased baking dish, layer half of the eggplant slices. Spoon half of the meat sauce over the eggplant.
  7. Sprinkle half of the grated Parmesan cheese over the sauce. Repeat the layers with the remaining eggplant, meat sauce, and Parmesan cheese.
  8. Pour the béchamel sauce over the top, spreading it evenly.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until golden and bubbling.
  10. Allow the moussaka to rest for a few minutes before serving. Slice and serve this classic Greek dish with a side salad for a hearty and flavourful meal.