Any of the Greek islands is a perfect holiday destination for a foodie – Greek food is among the best in the world. So when I had the opportunity to go to Crete for a week and try as many restaurants and authentic food as I possibly could, I jumped at the chance!
I found a great deal at the very reasonably priced Aphrodite Beach Club, which – as the name would suggest – is right on the beach in the Chersonissoss Gouves area. It’s a standard resort for people who are looking for sun, sea, sand and the possibility of some exploration. With all the usual facilities, I found it an extremely pleasant place to stay, I particularly liked their pool and made good use of it. Although you can book in all inclusive, I decided not to for obvious reasons – I knew I’d want to get around the island and try as much local food as I could, so didn’t want to be tied down to all inclusive.
Cretan food is generally regarded as one of the healthiest in the world, as are many of the Mediterranean cuisines. It’s a lot to do with their usage of fresh and high quality ingredients, rather than lots of adornments and sauces. They concentrate on freshness, using wild herbs and greens and purity of taste – and, of course, the gorgeous pure olive oil.
As you drive around the countryside, you’ll smell fresh herb everywhere – they grow wild sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano and many other herbs, and it perfumes the warm air. Absolutely gorgeous! Oregano is extremely common in Cretan food, but thyme parsley, marjoram, basil and dill can also be tasted in many dishes. You’ll find them in dishes but also in the herbal teas that are very popular.
Local markets have an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit that are pretty unrecognizable to those from the UK, used as we are to bland imports. In Crete, fruit and veg taste like it’s meant to taste – strong, full flavored and beautifully colored. It’s a pleasure to eat something as simple as a tomato from the food markets you’ll come across in many villages.
Pretty much every dish you’ll try has some kind of olive oil used. Some Cretan dishes are extremely liberal in their use of olive oil – and it only enhances the flavor and enjoyment. This isn’t too surprising when you realize that there are over 1.5 million olive trees on Crete and every person on the island consumes around 25 litres a year. It’s the healthiest kind available, with low acidity and a divine taste.
From the many dishes I tried, I particularly enjoyed a lot of the appetizers that are popular. Dakos is a very common Cretan dish – it’s a kind of traditional dried bread that has been baked several times over. It’s moistened with water and topped with olive oil (of course!), cheese, oregano and tomato – it’ crunchy, light and absolutely moreish – and I’ve brought it back to the UK with me. So delicious and easy to make at home.
Other simple dishes that are absolutely lovely includes their abundance of pickled vegetables – from artichokes to wild onions, olives and many, many others are typical appetizers. if you like to pick at lots of small things, then you will love the Cretan way of eating!
Dolmades are stuffed grape leaves, with a gorgeous filling of rice, minced meat and herbs – not really specific to Crete but very common and very delicious. This is just the tip of the Cretan iceberg, if you’re interested in food from Crete, I recommend you get yourself over there and try it all for yourself!