To me, the Greek cuisine is very underrated. While most people (in the UK at least) are familiar with the staples of Mousakka, Tzatziki, Feta and Halloumi the broader spectrum of Greek cooking doesn’t seem so widely known and it can be pretty hard to track down a good Greek restaurant in many cities.
I have visited a few Greek islands as part of holidays and always enjoyed trying all the different dishes on offer. However it’s been quite a few years now since I was over there and while it’s fun to recreate things at home, it’s always great to enjoy the real deal. As a result I was really excited that, in addition to all the food I on the boat, I would also be able to sample some authentic Greek cooking while on the Islands and in Athens.
My first Greek stop was the island of Santorini where I embarked a short boat trip round to Oia in order to take in the amazing view of the caldera. Sanotrini is famous for its wine and I was keen to try some so after a while walking round in the (scorching) heat and taking pictures we popped into a little taverna for some refreshment. Rather than opting for an expensive bottle we went for a carafe of the unnamed local white which was delicious and at €4 for 500mls an absolute bargain!
Refreshed, we then caught a bus round to Fira, the town above where the ship was moored. After a bit of a look round we popped into another taverna for snacks before heading back on board. Here we shared a Greek salad and some of the pies of the day, which turned out to be feta. The portions for each were huge: five crisp and flaky individual pasties which were divine and a very generous portion of fresh salad topped with an enormous slab of feta.
Our next Greek destination was Mykonos where unfortunately I had already eaten before leaving the ship and so wasn’t able to try any of the amazing fresh fish and seafood that was on offer. It wasn’t all bad news on the food front though as after some exploring to build up an appetite I was able to sample some delicious homemade baklava down on the waterfront.
Many times when I’ve had baklava both and home and abroad it’s has been made and served as bite size pieces but there was nothing dainty about the baklava at this restaurant. We were given a colossal slab of filo, nuts and honey all of which tasted divine.
The final Greek destination was Athens where we stayed for one night and where I managed to indulge my craving for gyros. Gyros is basically a traditional kebab, but bears no resemblance, either visually or in flavour, to the processed “meat” you get in most UK kebab shops. Instead thin layers of spiced pork are built up on a skewer and interspersed with layers of fat and then rotated and cooked slowly resulting in the amazingly tender and moist pieces of meat which I can’t resist.
It’s usually served one of two ways: either on a plate with the accompaniments (fresh tomato, sliced red onion and garlicky tzatziki) and pitta on the side or as a quick takeaway snack with the meat et all in wrapped in the pitta bread. Being greedy over the course of our stay I tried both as well as a slight variation of take away version with the gyros meat replaced with chicken souvlakia (an individual skewer of meat marinated in lemon garlic and oregano)! All were wonderful and I wish I had time (and the stomach space) to have eaten even more.
For our one evening meal in Athens I reluctantly held back from consuming yet more gyro in order to sample some other dishes – fried cheese with figs and giouvetsi. The fired cheese with figs was exactly as it sounds, rounds of crisp fried cheese topped with confit figs and a fig and honey dressing/sauce, a ridiculous rich and indulgent starter. Giouvetsi is a classic Greek dish of soft slow cooked beef or lamb chunks (mine was actually veal) baked with orzo pasta in a cinnamon spiced tomato sauce.
Overall I can’t praise the Greek food and wine I consumed highly enough. I didn’t have a single bad/meal or dish and I can’t wait till I can go back sometime and eat more. In the meantime I’m going to have to see if I can find a good Greek restaurant in Geneva and I’ve brought back some authentic dessert filo to have a go at making my own baklava!