Anthogalo - this is a creamy, spreadable cheese, akin to mozzarella. Sheep’s milk is brought to the boil and then yogurt and rennet are added. It is strained and left to
dry in a cool, dark place. After a few days the cheese is placed in a jar and refrigerated.
Tyrozouli – this cheese is produced in the mountains of Western Crete. The milk is curdled with fig sap to make this cheese. It is usually eaten fresh, while the texture
is very soft. However, it is also matured in olive oil, when the texture becomes hard.
When you go for a meal, you will be given some mezedes. These are small dishes, to be shared, and in Crete they are usually served with a raki. They will include
olives, rusks, stuffed vine leaves, tzatziki, giant beans and small meatballs. You will also see stuffed courgette flowers (nothing goes to waste on Crete). The filling is
made from rice, herbs, lemon juice and olive oil. They are then fried in olive oil. Even though Crete is an island, more meat (mutton, lamb, pork, goat, wild hare, rabbit
and village sausage) is eaten than fish. Pork is sometimes cured (apaki), and meat is cooked on the spit or made into a stew (stifado). Local pies will be on offer; there
is a meat pie (kreatopita), a cheese pie (tiropita) and spinach pie (spanakopita). Marathopita is a local pie and is available all over the island. It contains spinach, sorrel,
onion and fennel. Also popular are marinated small fish (gavros marinatos), which go well with raki or ouzo. The locals love to eat staka. This is a creamy, thick sauce
which is eaten with fried eggs or French fries.
Some more specialities of Crete include:
Dakos - this is usually served as a “meze” and is made from rusks, smothered in chopped tomatoes, olives, crumbled feta and a sprinkling of oregano.
Gamopilafo - this means “wedding rice” and is traditionally the main dish at a Cretan wedding. It is made from rice cooked in meat broth and is served with meat and
poultry. In the 19th century having meat, poultry and rice indicated that the family was wealthy, so it was a way of showing off that wealth to the in-laws and the
Antikristo - this translates as over the fire. It is an old technique, which shepherds used as they had no modern equipment. The goat or lamb is put on a spit over a
fire pit, 10 to 20 centimetres away from the flame and left to cook VERY SLOWLY. During the Easter celebrations this method of cooking is to be witnessed all over the
Kleftiko - there are many versions of Kleftiko, but the Cretan dish is made of cooked pastry filled with meat, vegetables and potatoes. The word means stolen. Years
ago, pirates would raid Greek villages to steal food, which they then cooked on board their ships. They called it Kleftiko and the name exists to this day.
Patsas - this is not for the faint-hearted as it is made by boiling cows’ feet, tripe and intestines to make a soup, which apparently is a cure for a hangover!
Boureki - a classic Cretan pie, available all over Crete, and made of potatoes, courgettes, cheese, flavoured with mint.
Snails - after the rain, the snails appear and Cretans go snail picking. They are prepared over some time and then pan-fried in their shells in olive oil. Herbs can be
added or they can be served with bulgar rice. Generally accompanied by a glass of raki or ouzo.
Octopus - cooked with pasta, this is a popular Cretan meal, which is usually eaten during Lent.
Lamb with Stamnagathi - this is boiled lamb, served with olive oil and lemon accompanied by stamnagathi, a local wild green, which can be slightly bitter.
Tigariasto - this is original to Crete and is made from goat or lamb. The meat is cooked on a very low temperature for several hours, so nice and tender. During the
Ottoman rule of the island, locals would use the Cretan wild goat, the Kri-Kri. However, the Kri-Kri is now a protected species. But Cretan meat is always of the best
Soupia - this dish is cuttlefish stuffed with local soft goat’s cheese.
Sarikopitakias - these are small pastries, eaten for breakfast or a snack. They are sometimes served as a dessert topped with honey and cinnamon or savoury filled
with cheese or spinach. The word is of Turkish origin; Sariki means turban. It also refers to the traditional headdress worn by Cretan men during celebrations.
Bread - no Cretan meal is complete without bread and there is a huge variety of artisan bread baked on Crete. The bakeries in Neapoli make some of the best bread
you will ever taste and a loaf can cost as little as one euro.
Most Cretans have a sweet tooth and enjoy spoon sweets. These are preserved fruits in syrup (peach, orange, cherry), traditionally served on a spoon as a gesture of
hospitality. At Easter, the locals eat Kalitsounia with their coffee. These are pastries made in the shape of a cup and filled with sweet cheese. Luckily local bakeries
make these all year round, sprinkled with cinnamon or sesame seeds. Loukoumades are sweet dough balls, which go well with honey or ice cream. Unfortunately, the
Cretan recipe is a well-kept secret.