The Cretan Cooking ☼

Anoula’s travel notebook.

Fast food for hikers, you can buy in a bakery: delicious triangular layered pastry food:

• filled with cheese, they are called “tiropita“.
• filled with meat, they are called “creatopita“.
• filled with spinach, they are called “spanakopita“.

To have a drink in Crete, along with small simple but good things to eat, the solution is the mezze or pikilia. To take in the Rakadiko or the Ouzeria :

feta, traditional cheese
dolmades, spiced rice wrapped in vine leaves
tzatziki, a sauce made from yogurt, garlic, and cucumbers
horiatiki salata, tomatoes salad, onions, cucumber and feta cheese
saligaria, small snails stew.

And all this food can go together with a glass of Raki, strong raisin alcohol.

For people who are hungrier, the Cretan tavern is the perfect place:

Meat, often served grilled, in skewers or in sauce: the “souvlaki” (meat skewers with lemon), the “keftedes” (small meatballs made with herbs and onions), the “stifado” (meat stewed with onions and sometimes tomatoes), the “soutzoukakia” (meatballs in tomato sauce).
• Among seafood, the traditional “octopus” often served in salad and the “kalamares” (fried squid).
I won’t forget the “barbounia” (red mullet always freshly served).
• But also the “moussaka” (a baked dish consisting of layers of sautéed slices of eggplant and ground lamb usually flavored with tomatoes, onions, and cinnamon, and covered with a custard sauce sprinkled with grated cheese), and the “papoutsaki” (eggplant stuffed and gratin).

To be more precise, the restaurant in Crete is not considered as a place where we can taste fine dining. It is more a place to meet each other, to be with one’s family or with friends, there are often big tables, the dish are put in the middle of the table and everybody helps himself.
You won’t see any Cretans order a moussaka in a tavern, it’s like the “French shepherd pie”: you eat it at home and not at the restaurant, that’s why outside the touristic season, you will have difficulties to eat a moussaka, unless you are invited in a Cretan family.

Last thing, for a break or tea-time break, pastries to take away or to take in the zakharoplastia :
• The “loukoumades” (deep fried dough soaked in honey, with cinnamon and sprinkled with sesame)
• The “baklava” (rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey).

  What about drinks:

• The “Ouzo“, tastes like French Pastis (anise alcohol)
• The Raki is a strong raisin alcohol
• The local wines, red, rose or white: a classical one: the “Retzina“, Greek resinated wine which you have to drink cold, a “Retzina” from Hania or Heraklion is sweeter than the ones from the continent.

This list is not complete, it exists many other dish to absolutely taste…I almost forget the Greek salad…I salivate while I’m speaking about it… and all this cookery cooked with olive oil!!!!!

A Cretan recipes book (to buy in Crete or on the internet): Cretan Cooking, 265 recipes, by Nikos & Maria Psilakis.