Discover the cretan diet!
1. Cretan Cheeses
It seems that almost every Cretan village has its own signature cheese. They are usually made from sheep or goat’s milk, or a combination of both and each cheese variety has its local interpretation. Of the legion of delicious cheeses, look for graviera, a harder cheese that’s sweeter when new, but nutty and flavourful after aging. Soft, creamy cheeses, abound like pichtogalo Chanion, which has AOC protection, or myzithra, a young whey cheese with a lovely mild taste.The best introduction to Cretan cheese is a walk through the market.
The ever-popular dakos is known by regional names throughout Crete…some call it koukouvagia (literally ‘owl’); in the east they call it kouloukopsomo (literally ‘puppy bread’). What is it? A fantastic Greek meze or salad reminiscent of bruschetta, but based on barley rusks or paximadi, not on bread. The rusks are lightly soaked in water or olive oil to soften them, and then they are topped with grated fresh tomato and myzithra, the creamy sheep or goat’s milk cheese. They are then drizzled with Cretan virgin olive oil and dusted with salt, oregano, pepper.
3. Fried snails (Chochlioi boubouristi)
It’s not only the French who treat snails as a delicacy. In fact, snails have been eaten for millennia. In the Cretan dialect chochlios means snail, and in this dish they are fried with flour and hot olive oil in a pan, then doused with wine (or vinegar), and voila, ready to serve. Some like to add a dash of wild rosemary. Locally, women collect the snails by hand and the creatures are cooked up live.
“Apáki” is made from pork in Anogia of Crete. It is first marinated for two or three days in strong vinegar made of Cretan wine. Then it is smoked with aromatic herbs and wrapped in a layer of spices and herbs in order to obtain aromatic taste. It can be eaten as it is or to warm up for a few minutes in the pan, in the oven or on the grill. It can even be added to an oily food such as green beans or bean soup or used on pizza instead of other meats, giving it a great flavor.
This dish is a traditional custom that is served at weddings. The rice, which is called “piláfi”, is cooked in broth of meat that is already boiled, usually lamb and chicken. The older animals give the most delicious broth. The rice is cooked with butter and lemon. Serve with boiled meat, which is very lemon, salt and pepper. This simple recipe owes its taste to the good quality of meat.
6. Lamb with stamnagathi
As with most Greek foods, Cretans have their own take on lamb. Their version incorporates stamnagathi, a wild green that has become trendy of late, and features on many top-end restaurant menus. The Cretan lamb is sautéed in hot olive oil and oregano accompanied with the stamnagathi green and the well-known avgolemono (egg and lemon-based) sauce, or, more simply, a squeeze of fresh lemon.
7. Staka with eggs
Staka is traditionally from Crete. It is made from the residue of clarified butter with an addition of flour. Staka keeps well in the refrigerator and is used for thickening all sort of dishes including soups and sauces.This dish is also one of those acquired tastes - not many people these days would be terribly interested in eating cholesterol-filled fried food. In fact, the only time we allow ourselves a dish like this is when we buy spring-fresh products. Try it with fried eggs and you will not forget this taste.
The number one dish in Crete when you talk about lamb is Antikristo. The name derives from the cooking method which literally means “across the fire”. This technique is very popular among the mountain areas of Crete where lamb is the predominant economic source. Shepherds cook lamb this way because it is easy to prepare and cook. The only thing you need is fire and salt. Before you place it across the fire you make sure you place salt everywhere.
Kaltsoúnia is one of the desserts which are very often served at the end of a meal in Crete. It is a traditional Cretan recipe, found throughout the island, with many different fillings.The ability of Cretan cuisine to combine the unique Cretan cheeses with excellent thyme honey, is magic. Kaltsoúnia are made of “myzíthra” cheese or greens and herbs and wrapped in pastry. Those containing cheese are usually panned and served with plenty of honey and cinnamon.
Marathópita is a delicious pie, cooked with a little bit oil in the pan. It is a traditional Cretan food but can be found in many different places. The pie is filled with fresh fennel, which gives wonderful flavor to this recipe. Spinach, sorrel and fresh onion are usually added in the pie.