Crete has an ideal geographical location. The mild climate, the sea breeze and the abundant sunlight make its soil fertile and blessed. All kinds of excellent products of the Cretan land are either native or are being cultivated here. Some of them are: wild greens and herbs, vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes. At the same time the island produces nuts, bread, meat and dairy products of excellent quality. The excellent wines are produced by domestic and foreign wine varieties. Moreover, «tsikoudia» (or raki, which is made from grapes) has a world-wide reputation. But the premier product that has made the island worldwide famous is olive oil. Thirty million trees have been recorded on the island which produce this elixir of longevity and health. A number of international scientific studies worldwide have highlighted the Cretan diet as the healthiest and its residents the longer-lived on the planet, because olive oil is a key ingredient in the traditional Cretan diet.
The Cretan traditional cuisine is considered one of the healthiest in the world. The richness and quality of the products of the island over the centuries have created a cuisine with unique taste, nutritional value and authenticity. The nature of Crete offers all this variety of necessary raw materials and the Cretans have gained a long experience in creating unique flavors, combined with the seasons and the natural environment of the island in a harmonious manner.
Cheese, honey, aromatic plants, herbs and many more products of the Cretan mountains form the basis of the Cretan cuisine. Characteristic specialties of Crete are the «Ntakos» or «owl», made with barley flour, tomato and feta, the «skaltsounia» (pies with cheese mint, cinnamon and honey). The famous «pilafi» is served at weddings and is rice which is boiled in meat’s broth. Also spaghetti boiled in meat’s broth is served with dry ricotta and is also a unique dish. Other popular delicacies of the Cretan cuisine are snails with rosemary fried with wine, cuttlefish cooked with fennel and the «xynochondros» or frumenty, a fully nutritious dish made from milk and wheat.
The Cretan diet is now recognized by the international scientific community as the most representative example of the so-called Mediterranean diet, which is based on vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, in combination with the use of olive oil and it contributes to longevity and welfare. The Cretan cuisine is one of the oldest and most delicious culinary traditions in the world with a variety of culinary and aromatic delights. The secret of the Cretan diet is on the one hand the rich variety of products of the Cretan land and on the other hand the olive oil which is used in almost all dishes.
Fresh Artichoke Salad – Aginarosaláta
Artichokes, which grow in abundance in the Cretan countryside in spring, feature in floral motifs on Minoan frescoes.
Wash the artichokes cut into pieces and put in a bowl of water. Add the juice of two lemons to prevent discoloration. Cut the remaining lemon in half and rub the surfaces of the artichokes.
Place on a plate and serve with salt, oil, a little lemon or vinegar.
Cretan Dakos Koukouvágia (Owl)
Cretan Dakos Koukouvágia (Owl)
Wet the rusks and dry with a clean towel. Grate the tomato and feta and spread on the rusks. Add the oil, salt, oregano and (optional) a little grated onion.
Decorate with olive halves.
Stuffed Courgette Flowers – Kolokythanthí
Place the courgette flowers in cold water to open and make the preparation easier. In a large mixing bowl place the rice, all the chopped and grated ingredients and half of the olive oil. Mix well. With a small spoon, take small amounts of the stuffing and fill the courgette flowers. Fold over the ends to seal the stuffing inside. Place on the bottom of a saucepan with the openings towards the bottom. Pour in enough water to cover. Add 1 pinch of salt, 1 pinch pepper, 1/2 of the lemon juice. Cover and simmer gently for approx. 30 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.
SECRET OF SUCCESS
Place the potato slices at the bottom of the pan so that the stuffed courgette flowers do not stick or split open during cooking. Place a plate (upside down) on top of the stuffed courgette flowers before cooking so that the parcels cannot rise or move.
Octopus with Fennel
Octopus with Fennel – Htapódi me máratho
If you buy a frozen octopus, simply defrost it, wash it and then boil it in a covered, nonstick saucepan over low to medium heat without adding any water. If it’s fresh, have the fishmonger clean it. Fresh or frozen, it will cook in its own juice, but if it stops exuding liquid before becoming tender, pour in a little of the wine. Watch the pan carefully as it will reabsorb its liquid. Add wine whenever the pan appears to be drying.
When the octopus is tender, remove it from the saucepan, allow to cool and cut into bite-sized pieces, removing the eyes and beak. Add the oil to the saucepan, gently sauté the fennel and parsley for a few minutes before you return the octopus pieces with the rest of the wine.
Simmer until you have thick sauce. Stir in the olives and cook another 10 minutes.
You can use squid instead of octopus. Vary the cooking times accordingly.
The octopus was a popular motif on Minoan pottery.
Grouper with Okra
Grouper with Okra – Rofós me bámies
Trim the tips pf the okra, if desired and toss them in a bowl with 1-2 tablespoons salt and 120 ml (1/2 cup) of lemon juice. Set them aside (in the sun, if possible, or in a very slow oven) for 1-2 hours.
Marinate the fish in another bowl with the rest of the lemon juice, salt and pepper and refrigerate until 30 minutes before cooking.
Sauté the onions and garlic in the oil until soft and translucent, then add the okra, tomatoes and pepper and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring in the chopped parsley at the very end.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190o C (375o F) and lightly oil a baking pan large enough to hold the fish. When the vegetables have released some of their liquid, line the pan with half of them, place the fish on top, and cover the fish with the rest of the vegetables. Bake for about 1 hour or until the fish flakes easily and is cooked close to the backbone.
Rabbit with Onions
Rabbit with Onions – Stifádo
Wash and cut the rabbit into portions. Peel the onions and stick a clove into some of them. Sauté the meat in hot oil and add the onions. Cover the pan for a few minutes and then add the glass of red wine. Add the tomato, bay leaves, salt, pepper and 2 cups of water. Simmer for about an hour.
Serve with fried potatoes.
Snails in Tomato Sauce
Snails in Tomato Sauce – Hohlií
Place the snails in a bowl of water to soften the outside and then scrape clean the shells.
Rinse well and leave to drain. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onions and garlic.
Add the tomatoes, vinegar, rosemary, salt, pepper and 1 cup of water.
Simmer for about 10 min before adding the snails.
Cook for a further hour.
Boureki – Kolokythobúreko
Slice the courgettes and potatoes, season with salt & pepper and coat in flour.
Spread the pastry sheets in a baking dish and place a layer of courgettes on top, adding crumbled feta cheese, mint and oil.
Arrange a layer of potatoes on top, continuing with alternate layers of courgettes and potatoes.
Finally pour over the fresh cream and bake in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours.
The following abbreviations have been used in the recipes:
|cup||liquid e.g. honey||140 gr|
|cup||rice / sugar||200 gr|
|cup||cheese (grated)||120 gr|
|cup||nuts (chopped)||150 gr|
|Gas||O F||O C|
|oz / pints||ml|
|5 (1/4 pint)||150|
|10 (1/2 pint)||275|
|20 (1 pint)||570|
|25 (11/4 pint)||725|
|13/4 pints||1 litre|