Crete is a world all its own. Unlike the rest of Greece, this large island is distinctive in every possible way. From the bustling capital of Chania to the stunning beaches and towering mountains, Crete is both mysterious and welcoming.
For those wishing to spend quality time by the sea, Malia holidays in 2014 offer visitors the chance to immerse themselves in Cretan culture, sample the incredible cuisine of the island and soak up the lovely weather on the northern shores of the island.
While there is no shortage of activity on this massive island, the one thing that should consume a significant amount of holiday time is eating. Cretan cuisine is not about complicated dishes, it is about the basics, unbelievably fresh ingredients that create pure and delicious tastes.
A drive through Crete’s countryside yields delicious smells of wild herbs and flowers. There are over thirty kinds of wild greens growing on the slopes of Crete’s mountains, among them are the freshest wild sage, oregano, thyme and marjoram you will ever taste.
Cretan fruit and veg is sourced from local villages and farms surrounding towns and cities. The rural outskirts of Malia, for example, supply almost all of the vegetables and fruit on offer in the town’s restaurants, so even if you never make it out into the wider landscape, the landscape comes to you in the form of fresh produce.
Cretan cheese are in a class all their own. Among the abundant varieties on offer, anthotiros is a mild soft goat and sheep cheese that turns salty and earthy when hardened, mizithra is the typical fresh sheep’s cheese of Crete and is hard to stop eating, and the typical hard cheese called Graviera is particularly delicious when fried and served hot.
Fish and poultry are also staple ingredients in Cretan cuisine and locals have a particular affinity for rabbit dishes but lamb and beef dishes are equally mouth-watering. Unfortunately over-fishing around Crete has become a problem in recent years and has thus driven up prices of fish. As an alternative to some pricier fish dishes, some might be interested in sampling local squid. Squids are bashed against rocks after being caught in a preparatory ritual that tenderises the meat and ensures remarkable flavour.
Olive oil is perhaps the single most important ingredient in Cretan cuisine. Almost every dish includes at least one generous spoonful of the stuff, and it is all sourced locally from one of Crete’s 1.5 million olive trees.
While individual ingredients create distinctive flavours and textures, the olive oil ties everything together to create a culinary experience that is absolutely incredible.
Finally, no meal is complete without raki, which is the local Cretan drink made from the remains of grapes. Smoother and less potent than Italian grappa, raki is served with every type of food and compliments savoury and sweet; morning, noon and night.
Not only is Cretan cuisine some of the most unique in Europe, it is also some of the healthiest. From the ingredients to the preparation methods to the local family style approach to meal time, Cretan cuisine is a truly unique experience (that often lasts for hours). Indulge in the local fare and linger for hours at your table, soaking up the atmosphere and the very last drops of olive oil.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/vassil_tzvetanov/4023113539 and colorworlds.biz.
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