Mmmmmm. Greek cuisine, part of the famous Mediterranean diet, is among the freshest and most delicious in the world. Expect seafood plucked straight from the sea, locally reared free-range meat from the inland hills, an endless variety of flavour-packed fruit and vegetables, and a huge choice of cheeses and cured meats. Some dishes – such as souvlaki and moussaka – are found everywhere, but, wherever you go for your Greek holiday, you’ll soon discover that each region has its own specialities. Eat your way around Greece with our fantastic guide to the classic local dishes you’ll find in all your favourite destinations!
Crete: Lamb with Stamnankáthi
Stamnankáthi is a wild chicory-like green found only on Crete, which locals believe give them health and longevity. It’s become increasingly popular in all sorts of traditional Cretan dishes, but the classic remains lamb with stamnankáthi. The lamb is slow-cooked for hours to melt in the mouth, and is perfectly paired with the wilted greens and a squeeze of lemon.
A rich, veal dish, sofrito is made with thin slices of veal cooked very slowly with lots and lots of garlic, wine, fresh parsley and a dash of vinegar. The result is incredibly tender meat in an aromatic sauce, which you’ll find all across the gorgeous island of Corfu.
Like most of Greece, you can enjoy some beautifully fresh seafood in Rhodes. One of the most popular local dishes is chtapodokeftedes, made with finely chopped octopus, rolled into balls, and fried. Succulent and tasty, they are the perfect snack!
Horiatki – Greek salad – makes an appearance on menus across the country, but you’ll find some of the best in Athens, thanks to the superb ingredients sourced from close to the city. It’s a simple dish, raised to greatness by the ultra-fresh and flavourful vegetables – tomatoes, cucumber, capers, black olives – and wonderful, locally produced feta cheese.
Peloponnese: Gida Vrasti
This classic goat stew is a speciality of the northern Peloponnese, a rich soup concoction which is perfect in cooler weather. It’s a simple dish, made with locally reared, free-range meat, plenty of the region’s fantastic olive oil, a good squirt of lemon, along with carrots, courgettes and fresh herbs.
Santorini is famous for lots of delicious foods, particularly the yellow split peas that are the main ingredient of fava (which, despite the name, is not related to fava beans!). This creamy paste is made with cooked split peas, onion, garlic, Greek oregano, and plenty of olive oil. It’s perfect as a starter, or might come served as a side dish with seafood or grilled meat.
France seems to get all the attention when it comes to cheese, but Greece deserves to share the plaudits. It has a dizzying array of wonderful cheeses, many of which enjoy the European Union’s Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) status. Among them is Kopanisti, a very popular cheese produced on Mykonos for the last three centuries. It is sometimes described as the ‘Greek Roquefort’ for its unique sharp flavour, and is a staple of meze platters – the tasty tidbits served with ouzo.
The Greeks are famous for their pies, and each region has its own variation, but the kreatopita (meat pie) from Kefalonia has to be one of the best. These tasty pies are filled with a succulent mixture of meat, fresh herbs, kefalotori cheese, along with onions, garlic, tomato and spices. Ideal with a salad for lunch, they can be eaten hot or cold and make for the perfect picnic snack.
The Halkidiki region, in northern Greece, has a whole host of wonderful seafood specialities, but one of the best-loved is mydopilafo. This delicious rice dish is made with mussels, handfuls of fresh parsley, white wine, onions and garlic. There are as many variations as there are chefs: some like to include tomatoes and perhaps a pinch of chilli, while others throw in some pine nuts and raisins. However it’s made, it’s always extraordinarily delicious!