Romance of the Greek Islands and their foods
The Greek islands straddle the Aegean, Ionian and Mediterranean seas, each having a distinct, yet still Greek, flavour. For centuries they have played host to couples looking for romantic hideaways from the world set in inspired and gorgeous surroundings. In the twentieth century, islands have featured in romantic dramas such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin set on Kefalonia and the musical Mamma Mia set on Skopelos island.
Spectacular settings, beautiful towns hung on the edges of cliffs, beaches of golden, white, black and red sand, the Greek islands have everything you could want from a romantic destination. But if you are anything like me, then when you are thinking of these romantic places, food isn’t too far behind.
Luckily the 4 islands I have picked below have all these things, including great food in spades.
Sun, sea and great food: A valentines day treat
The quintessentially romantic Greek island and for most of us it is probably the first which comes to mind. Sitting in the Aegean sea Santorini is the most idyllic romantic and honeymoon destination.Enjoy views over blue-domed churches, across the lagoon to the volcano, Thirassia and Aegean beyond as you sit in beautiful surroundings.
Famed for seafood, cherry tomatoes and Santorini fava. My recommendation is to try an indulgent dish which uses the best seafood and tomatoes, Prawn Saganaki. Saganaki is a dish of cheese cooked in a pan, in this case with prawns, onion and tomatoes enhancing its decadence. Not for the everyday, but then neither is Valentines’ day.
One of Greece’s largest islands, Corfu is filled with old world charm.
In the summer you can stroll hand in hand down one of the islands Parisian style arcades. Corfu’s charm comes from its eclectic mix of Greek, Italian and British influences having changed hands several times.
Talking of hands, a perfect romantic walk in Corfu town is through the Mon Repos Palace park.
When it time comes for dinner give into the islands speciality, Pastitsada which is traditionally served as a sunday dinner and made with chicken or beef. The dish consists of a slow cooked tomato based sauce with big chunks of meat. Think big flavours, just right for a romantic meal. Make it really special for Valentine’s Day by using lobster instead of beef or chicken.
Uncover a mythical world in Crete as you delve back in time and find a land of lost kingdoms drenched in history. Spend mornings seeing the former palaces of the Minoan civilisation before heading to Crete’s beaches.
Whilst most head to Rethymno beach, try Balos where white and almost pink sands gently give way to turquoise waters. Wade out through emerald green warm waters to the lagoon for a dip or edge beyond to try snorkelling, all that swimming should build up a good appetite.
Romantic food doesn't have to be a big special meal, sometimes it’s good to have something you can grab with your fingers and share just like Keftedes, luckily Crete has made these meatballs its own so order a big portion, some sauce and a bottle of red and share them with the one you love.
Hands down the prettiest of the Ionian islands, as well as the largest. Kefalonia was made famous as the star of the 2001 film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
See the islands picturesque and romantic side in the village of Assos, a beautiful horseshoe shaped harbour village overlooked by a venetian castle. The views of the harbour are some of the best in Greece.
And what food to enjoy with this vista? Well romance is all about treating you and the one you love so why not try Sykomaitha, or slow cooked spiced fig cakes (a speciality of Corfu but available throughout Greece).
A romantic recipe inspired by the flavours of Greece:
Sticky Fig Lamb Chops :This is a recipe I prepared for Valentine’s Day last year. Though not strictly a ‘Greek recipe’ I took inspiration from the flavours of Greece, its lamb, figs and cherry tomatoes to make a dish which is as simple to prepare as it is gorgeous to eat. The best bit is that it takes minutes to make, after all who wants to be stuck in the kitchen on Valentine ’s Day.
Ingredients for 2 :
4-6 Lamb cutlets
4 tbsp Fig conserve
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
200g waxy potatoes
100g green beans
Handful cherry tomatoes, halved
Cut the potatoes into bite sized chunks. Bring a pan of water to the boil and simmer the potatoes for 3 minutes, drain and pat dry. Meanwhile whilst the potatoes are boiling, rub a little of the oil and some fig conserve onto each chop. Coat the potatoes in a little olive oil and the dried oregano. Heat a frying pan and add the potatoes in a single layer and cook, turning to brown evenly for around 10 minutes.
Once the frying pan is hot again, cook the lamb for around 3 mins each side, basting with the fig conserve as they cook. Add the balsamic vinegar in the final minute of cooking. Pop the lamb on a plate and leave to rest. B
ubble any remaining juices in the pan until sticky, the reserve for later. Serve with green beans or a simple salad.
Any of these islands are perfect for Valentine ’s Day or romantic getaway.
By Russell Bowes