Savouring Crete on a Platter
Various archaeological finds as well as Knossos’ wall paintings confirm the fact that Crete’s culinary tradition dates back to the Minoan Period. Four thousand years ago Cretans used almost the same food products as are being used today. Over the centuries, against all odds of their recipes being altered due to the various culinary traditions that came over with the island’s conquerors, Crete’s recipes practically remained the same. This continuity is what built a strong culinary tradition and formed Cretan Cuisine!
Less is More
Cretan Cuisine is based on products deriving from the motherland; fruits, vegetables, pulses, and herbs are deliciously combined with goat meat, creating most imaginative dishes that aren’t found anywhere else in Greece. Moreover, the local cheeses are offered in a big variety, but Cretan graviera cheese holds the reins and has been recognised as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product. To top it all, Crete’s extra-virgin olive oil, which is used in large quantities in all kind of foods and sweets, is the island’s champion!
"Don't look for a pill that can substitute the Cretan Diet. There is no such thing". Serge Renaud (Medical Researcher), 1998
In the past decades, Cretan Diet has become a research theme for medical conferences and it is suggested that it is linked to good health and longevity.
Let’s Set the Table
Cretan hospitality consists of eating on set tables with deliciously large quantities of food and delicacies: barley rusks with grated tomato, topped with xinomyzithra cheese; mashed broad beans (fava beans) with olive oil and finely chopped onion; graviera cheese; staka (butter-cream); simmered snails (hohlii bourbouristi in Greek) in vinegar and rosemary; aromatic fennel pie; vinegar sausages and apaki (smoked meat) are just some of the delicious stuff you’ll take pleasure in savouring right before the mouthwatering main dishes arrive!
Try out the lamb fricassee with spiny chicory (stamnagkathi) or golden thistle (a wild native plant, known as ascholymprous in Greek, of which Cretan’s use its bulb); lamb with artichokes; sauté or simmered rabbit in wine; wild goat cooked in a pan or roasted on a stick (you can ask for it “rifi tsigariasto or ofto” in Greek); gamopilafo rice (rice cooked in meat broth usually served at weddings); snails with trachana; sioufichta pasta with dried myzithra cheese and many more dishes you’ll definitely enjoy. There are large number of delicious recipes you must savour on the island but don’t forget to accompany them with Crete’s palatable strong aromatic wines.
Your Cretan culinary journey is completed only when you’ve tasted its ambrosial sweets where honey holds the leading role: lychnarakia and pitarakia pies filled up with fresh myzithra cheese; pie from Sfakia and crunchy xerotigana are just a few of the island’s savoury sweets. Finish off your meal with a shot of tsikoudia; it makes wonders! This exquisite, centuries old, Cretan alcoholic drink will help you digest all the scrumptious food you’ve tasted while at the meantime it will lift your spirits up. It is offered in all kinds of circumstances and is part of Cretan hospitality.