Greek cuisine, with its huge range of ingredients and its healthy reputation, has been enjoyed the world over for many centuries. For any foodie who desires to learn more, a visit to mainland Greece and an exploration of Greece’s beautiful islands should definitely be on the agenda.
The variety of ingredients grown in this beautiful part of Europe has got to be attributed to its incredibly diverse terrain and mild climate. But, despite the huge spectrum of flavours, several themes resonate throughout the country’s many regions.
Fabulous Flavours of Greece
When I think of Greece it is always feta cheese, olive oil, lemon and oregano that come to mind, but of course this wonderful country produces some excellent fish, seafood, meat, fruit and vegetables too. It is this incredible produce that is responsible for so many traditional dishes that have stood the test of time, but also for modern Greek culinary treats that have been taken and adapted by many a creative famous chef, putting Greek cuisine on the world stage.
Every region has its own gastronomic specialities. Read on for some hints on what to expect from four popular holiday destinations.
Macedonia has been blessed with an incredible fertility enhanced by the wonderful climate; it is home to extensive orchards of Edessa cherries, apples, peaches and apricots as well as fields dusted with purple Kozanis saffron crocus. Beans, Grevena’s mushrooms and pulses appear on every menu and if, like us, you have an appreciation for wine, you will love the sublime vintages produced around Naoussa and Drama.
As a fan of game, I know that Macedonia’s game farms provide plentiful succulent offerings that I can fully recommend you enjoy alongside the Xinomavro red wine. Preserved meats such as pastourma are also popular, as is the bountiful, freshly-caught fish that you can dine out on when visiting Halkidiki.
The Ionian Islands
There is a definitive Italian connection with the food of the Ionian Islands, whose most famous dish, Savoro (which means ‘sour’), is a marinade with rosemary and vinegar that is used to preserve fish and vegetables. Other delicious Ionian specialities include:
- Bourdetto – scorpion fish cooked in spicy tomato sauce
- Stifado – beef stew with baby onions
- Strapatsada – scrambled eggs made with tomato and feta
- Tsigareli – cabbage/wild greens in spicy tomato sauce
Not only can you indulge in wonderful wines here but there are other delicious beverages on offer too; kumquat liqueur is one you really must taste. Sponge cake soaked in syrup known as pantespani makes a delightful end to any meal on the Ionian Islands.
Crete is a destination with a rich history and fascinating culture, both of which are intrinsically entwined with the cuisine of the island. Fresh, vibrant salads are a mainstay on a Cretan table but they are usually only an accompaniment to other more substantial dishes. Ofto (roasted baby goat), the pilaf rice of Chania (made with chicken or beef) and dakos (rusks made with barley topped with tomato, cheese and olive oil) are just a small sample of the dishes you will be treated to when dining out in Crete.
The olive is king on the Peloponnese; the peppery olive oil made here is just perfect poured over some local bread or when drizzled over a tomato stew. Lemon and orange groves of Laconia, the Argolid, and Mani seem to go on forever; sausages in this region are made with a hint of orange, and the tomato stews are given a lift with tangy lemon. Fabulous artichokes, wonderful in vegetable salads and as an aperitif also feature on many local taverna menus, while Leonidion hosts an aubergine festival every summer.