About Crete and

 Cretan Cuisine

Cretan Cuisine, thanks to its therapeutic benefits, goes beyond its borders. It has been recognized for its superiority and is widely known for its advantages in life expectancy and its improvements on living standards. Extra virgin olive oil, the balance of the local fresh ingredients, the simplicity in the everyday cooking process are some of the elements that define Mediterranean Cretan Cuisine, and bring its unique and rich flavours to your table.

In Crete, everything starts with tsikoudia (aka raki). The welcome of a guest, the celebration, the opening conversation in the local cafe. It is the flag of Cretan Hospitality, representing comfort in times of sadness and the contribution to the happiness and the joys of life. Tsikoudia is never served unaccompanied, it always comes with olives, cucumber, rusk, roasted potato with their skin on the grill, as well as with Cretan Ntakos with the fresh tomato and the local Cretan cheese, myzithra.

Olives & bread

The silver olive groves with the 35 millions of trees continue to produce the liquid gold that boosts life and health. Cretan soils were the first that hosted the olive tree in Greece, and their fruits have a prominent role in the table, in the salad or in the accompanying plate, in its green glory, baptized in sour orange. Bread is sacred in the Cretan table, and barley is a unique good. Either roasted in the wood oven with sourdough or in the form of barley rusk, which is the base of Ntakos, it is served with grated tomato, fresh cheese and olive oil. These basic ingredients are in every Cretan household.

Legumes and pasta

Hontros, from grained coarse wheat, and xinohontros, resulting after the addition of sourmilk in hontros, are used everywhere, from gemista (tomato, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, stuffed with rice) to soups and snails (aka chochlioi). Handmade pasta with oil, local butter and cheese, is the comfort food of Cretan Cuisine. The renowned Cretan pilaf, simple and rich in its flavor, illustrates the character of Cretan Cuisine with the goat or lamb meat broth, the house farmed hen, the melted staka butter and some lemon. Broad beans are paired with artichokes in salads, or in a main course with leeks and potatoes. The chickpeas baked in the wood oven and the split peas with sundried tomatoes have gained millions of admirers all over the world. 

Cheese, meat and snails

Cretans love our cheeses, being made of free grazing goat or sheep milk. Graviera, Malaka, the marvellous staka and the rare Diktis cheese are the ones in the top of the people preferences.

The feast table always includes meat, cooked with traditional and unique ways. The vine-growers’ lamb, with artichokes in egg-lemon sauce, is a unique tasting delight!

Apaki, pork meat marinated in vinegar, smoked for hours in scented woods, like cedar, with a mixture of spices, is a famous Cretan meze and it is Crete’s signature plate. Local sausages with Cretan family secrets passed on from generation to generation, and beef or rabbit stew are dishes with a distinctive and unforgettable taste. Chochlioi boubouristoi, an exquisite Cretan delicacy, are snails cooked in the pan with coarse salt, vinegar, olive oil and rosemary and they guarantee little unforgettable relish explosions.

Fish & seafood

Crete has some great mountains, but let's not forget that it is an island, surrounded by the sea, spreading its iodine wherever there is life. Fresh fish is one of the Cretan’s favourite dishes. Tsipoura fish is so fresh it could be dancing on your plate, next to the vegetables and the greek ouzo. Pandoras are cooked with okras, and the sea bass with tomatoes, spinach, olives and potatoes. When paired with Greek wine, they create tastes that are incomparable. Steamy muscles and the Fisherman’s pasta bring the Aegean to your table, while the cuttlefish with fennel and olives will always bring a smile to your face.

Greens, vegetables,herbs and fruits

In the Cretan Diet, eggs, vegetables (zucchini, fresh beans, green peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, cauliflower) and fruits (oranges, mandarins, apples and avocados) have a special place in the table, all fresh and abundant in Cretan land. Collecting wild greens is a favourite activity of the Cretans. More than 1800 plant species, with 350 of them being edible, provide also a pharmaceutical aspect in Cretan Cuisine, besides the gastronomical one. Askolibroi, Vrouves, Avronies and Stamnagkathi have the most prominent presence in the Cretan table. Bitter greens, like Stamnagkathi, Papoules, Pikralida, Sinapi, Nerokardamo, are boiled and served with vinegar. Avronies and Radhika are usually cooked in Giachni way, Vlita are made tsigarista while Askolibroi are made with egg-lemon. Asfodelos is most frequently found in Lasithi and Milipotamos, and it is cooked with meat.

Herbs, these doctors nature gave us, can be found everywhere on Cretan mountains. A beverage made of 8 herbs, called Karteraki, is a balm both for the soul and the body. Diktamo, Malotira and Faskomilo are great allies of relaxation, invigoration and health.

Desserts

Both in celebrations but also in everyday life, our grandmothers and mothers were making homemade desserts with recipes that were passed down from past generations. Among these deserts were Sfakiani pita, Xerotigana, Lichnarakia, spoon sweets made of chestnuts, tomato, nuts, carrot, with or without local yoghurt, and the vastly-known Kaltsounia, with fresh cheese and thyme honey. From the homemade cheesecake to the simple homemade cake made of pure ingredients, these desserts will give the last and best touch in this gastronomic canvas you will be creating in Crete.