Cretan Recipes

Cretan Villas

If you love fresh produce then come to Crete and visit the markets - During the summer months the array of fruit and vegetables, most of which is locally grown is fantastic. Juicy cherries, melons, peaches and nectarines - like they should taste. A visit to one of the many Chania street markets is a must as the fresh fish, local cheeses and fruit and vegetables are second to none. The main market is every Saturday opposite the football stadium on the way to the harbour.

Chania Boureki
Courgette and potato pie (boureki) from Chania

Courgette and potato pie (boureki) from Chania

Chania Boureki

For the pastry
1kg All purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil, add a bit at a time just enough so the dough doesn't stick to your hands while kneading it
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For the pie filling
5 or so medium size potatoes
8 or so medium size courgettes
A handful of fresh mint finely chopped
500g of mizithra (soft Greek) cheese (250g Feta and 250g of Ricotta if you can’t get mizithra)
250g. Finely grated parmesan cheese (or kefalotiri if you can find it)
150ml Olive Oil
3 eggs
200ml Fresh Milk
Salt and Pepper
Sesame seeds
1kg dried beans for blind baking
Baking paper

I have added a traditional Greek simple pastry recipe here, I use a deep rectangular baking tray internal dimensions 30cm x 22cm which gives 6 good portions. When I make these dishes, I never really measure anything properly so how many potatoes/courgettes do I use? Difficult question as I never counted, so please don’t be cross with me if you are a potato or a bit of pastry spare at the end. You could always make some kalitsounia with the pastry or even freeze it.
Mix the ingredients for the pastry and knead together until it becomes elastic and leave for 1 -2 hours covered with a clean damp tea towel.
Roll two pieces a bit larger than the baking tray and about 5mm or less thick. Put the first piece of pastry into the baking tray which you will have already lightly oiled. Pick the pastry with a fork and then place some baking paper on top and put the beans in, spreading them evenly around
Place in the oven preheated to about 170 C for around 15 minutes. Take out, discard the paper and beans and put to one side.
Slice the potato and courgettes into 5mm thick slices. Place in a pan of boiling, salted water and blanch for 5 or 6 mins. then drain. The potato wants to be almost but not quite fully cooked.
Next place the potatoes, courgettes and mizithra cheese in layers on the pastry in the baking tray, adding a sprinkling of mint, parmesan, salt and pepper on each layer. When the pie is full, drizzle some olive oil over the layers then beat 2 of the eggs and add them to the milk and pour this mixture into the pie evenly too.
Then add the second piece of pastry as a lid. Trim it, brush it with the last beaten egg and sprinkle with loads of sesame seeds. Its a good idea now to score the pastry lid into the desired amount of portions.
Then put it back into the oven for 20 – 30 minutes or so or until the top is golden brown (keep checking it)
Carnivore’s option: If you just can’t bring yourself to eat a veggie dish (even one a lovely as this one) try this - Whisk together the juice of a lemon, some olive oil, oregano, chopped mint and a pinch of salt. Bash out 4 chicken breast fillets with your fist and marinate them for 10 mins in that marinade. Heat a ridged grill pan and grill them until done. Cut them up into strips and add as an extra layer or two in the boureki. Mmmmm….Grilled Chicken Boureki.
Croquettes
Shallow fried chickpea croquettes - Revithokeftedes

Shallow fried chickpea croquettes - Revithokeftedes

Croquettes

1/2 kg chickpeas
2 medium onions - chopped
Salt and Pepper
parsley, dill, oregano
1 mashed tomato (optional)
Dry breadcrumbs
Flour for binding the mixture and for coating
Some crumbled feta cheese or any grated cheese (optional)
1 or 2 eggs
Oil for frying

Soak the chick peas in water overnight. Drain, and mash with a food processor.
Place in a bowl and add chopped onion, mashed tomato, breadcrumbs, finely chopped parsley, dill, oregano, salt and pepper.
Add the cheese, beaten eggs and a little flour to bind.
Mix well, form into small balls and coat in flour.
Fry in hot oil until golden brown.
Beetroot Salad
Cooked Beetroot with garlic and olive oil

Cooked Beetroot with garlic and olive oil

Beetroot Salad

1 kilo beetroots (use fresh or cooked vacuum packed from the supermarket)
300 grams strained Greek yoghurt
1 cup of walnuts roughly chopped
2-3 garlic cloves pressed
3-4 tbsp vinegar mixed with 3tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the cooked beetroot into small squares, salt them and stir in the vinaigrette mix.
Add the yoghurt and the garlic - mix. Keep aside 1 tbsp of chopped walnuts and mix the rest in with the beetroots.
Place in the fridge to cool and add the reserved walnuts to the top of the salad before serving.
This salad can be served without the yoghurt if preferred, simply mix all the ingredients together.
Baclava
A wonderful sweet dessert made with honey

A wonderful sweet dessert made with honey

Baclava

1 lb filo pastry sheets
1 ½ cups melted butter
1 lb walnuts or almonds, finely chopped
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
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For the syrup :
4 cups sugar
2 cups water
juice of 1 lemon

Place 1 pastry sheet in well-buttered 9 x 13 inch baking tin and brush with butter.
Place second pastry sheet on top of the first and butter again.
Repeat until 6 layers of buttered pastry sheets have been built up.
Mix walnuts or almonds, breadcrumbs, sugar, cinnamon and cloves.
Sprinkle top pastry sheet with a thick layer of walnut mixture and place two buttered pastry sheets over this.
Repeat in same manner until all ingredients have been used, ending with 6 pastry sheets.
Brush top with remaining butter and trim edges with a sharp knife.
Cut diagonal lines over the length of the pan to make diamond-shaped pieces.
Sprinkle with water.
Bake in a moderate oven for about 1 hour until golden.
Dolmades
Vine leaves filled with fragrant rice.

Vine leaves filled with fragrant rice.

Dolmades

1 bunch Dill - finely chopped
1/2 lb fresh vine leaves - During the winter months white cabbage leaves are used.
1 lemon squeezed
1 bunch Mint - finely chopped
1 cup olive oil
1 cup rice
1 lb onions - finely chopped

Briefly dip the vine leaves in boiling water then rinse them with cold water and pat dry.
Mix the onions with half the olive oil, add the rice, 250ml hot water and the remaining ingredients, except for the oil and the lemon juice.
Boil the mixture for 4 to 5 minutes.
Wrap one tablespoon of the mixture inside a vine leaf and repeat until completed.
Carefully place the dolmades in a pot with some space between them.
Cover the dolmades with a plate, add the rest of the oil and the lemon juice with 500ml of water.
Simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes, until some water is absorbed and the rice is cooked.
Serve cold with slices of lemon.
Fava Beans
Accompaniment to main course, but best eaten with fresh bread and salad.

Accompaniment to main course, but best eaten with fresh bread and salad.

Fava Beans

1/2 kilo of Fava beans
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 litre of water
salt
olive oil
finely chopped parsley, a few black olives and raw sliced onion rings to garnish.

Rinse the Fava beans and place them in a large pan together with the onion, water and salt.
Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer without covering, stirring from time to time until it has become a thick paste.
Serve the Fava warm or cold, drizzle with some olive oil and garnish with the parsley, olives and onion rings.
If a smoother paste is required, the mixture can be put through a strainer or food processor.
Galaktoboureko
Milk Custard Pie

Milk Custard Pie

Galaktoboureko

6-8 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups fine semolina, cream of wheat or rice flour
7 cups milk
grated lemon peel
3 tablespoons butter
1 ½ lb filo pastry sheets
3/4 cup melted butter
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For the syrup :
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Beat the eggs with the sugar until thick.
Add semolina, milk and flavoring.
Cook over a low heat until mixture thickens stirring continuously.
Remove from heat, add 3 tablespoons butter.
Butter a baking pan 9 x 12 x 2 inches and spread 2/3 of pastry sheets, brushing each sheet with melted butter.
The edges of the pastry sheets should exceed the top of the pan.
Spread milk mixture over the pastry sheets and turn in the edges of the sheets over the cream.
Cover with remaining pastry sheets, brushing each with melted butter.
Pour any remaining butter over top.
Cut through the first 3 sheets in 3-inch squares and sprinkle with water.
Bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes.
Syrup preparation :
Boil sugar, water and lemon juice for 5 minutes.
Pour lukewarm syrup over the galaktoboureko.
Allow cooling before serving.
Gemista
Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes

Gemista

10-12 medium-sized tomatoes
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion - chopped
1 cup uncooked rice
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
salt and pepper
dry breadcrumbs
½ cup currants (dried)

Wash tomatoes and cut the top from the stem end.
These must be saved and used later as lids
Scoop out pulp with teaspoon and sprinkle with sugar inside.
Heat ½ cup olive oil in frying pan, and cook the onion until soft.
Add the rice, stir well and cook for a few minutes.
Add half the tomato pulp, drained and chopped, ½ cup hot water, the currants, the parsley, the remaining sugar, salt and pepper.
Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Fill tomatoes with mixture, leaving room for the rice to swell.
Replace the lids and arrange in shallow baking pan.
Force the remaining tomato pulp through a sieve and pour into the pan.
Pour 1 tablespoon oil over each tomato and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
Bake in moderate oven for 1 ½ hours.
Serve cold.
Makes 5 servings
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A few green peppers can be filled with the rice mixture as well and baked with the tomatoes.
Greek Salad
Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and olive oil

Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and olive oil

Greek Salad

4 beefsteak tomatoes
1 cucumber - sliced
250g feta cheese - diced
24 pitted black olives
125ml olive oil
4 tbsp lemon juice
freshly ground salt and black pepper
2 tbsp oregano

Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise, cut out the core and then cut each half into 4 wedges.
Put the tomatoes into a large salad bowl and add the cucumber, feta cheese and olives.
Spoon over the olive oil and lemon juice.
Season with sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper, bearing in mind that the feta is very salty.
Toss gently to mix.
Sprinkle the salad with fresh oregano and serve immediately.
Lamb Kleftiko
Paper Wrapped Lamb

Paper Wrapped Lamb

Lamb Kleftiko

5 potatoes - cut into wedges
salt and fresh ground black pepper
small handful of bay leaves
1.5kg joint of Lamb - cut up into large pieces (large enough for a portion)
juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4.
Place the potato wedges in a large ovenproof dish, season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the bay leaves.
Season the lamb pieces and place them on top of the potatoes.
Mix the lemon juice and oil together and pour all over the meat and potatoes.
Cook for 4 hours, basting with juices occasionally, to keep the meat moist.
Lamb Pitta
Chargrilled Lamb in Pitta bread

Chargrilled Lamb in Pitta bread

Lamb Pitta

225g lamb fillet - sliced into 1 cm slices
half an onion - grated
3 garlic cloves
salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
2 pitta breads

Toss the lamb with the onion in a mixing bowl.
Mash the garlic with a little salt.
Add the mashed garlic, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, cumin, cayenne and olive oil to the sliced lamb and toss well.
Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, longer if time permits.
Heat a heavy-based frying pan or griddle until very hot.
Add the lamb to the frying pan or griddle, allowing 2 minutes each side.
Alternately, chargrill or grill the lamb strips.
Meanwhile, warm the pitta breads.
Slice along the pitta breads to form 4 pockets.
Fill the pitta pockets with the freshly cooked lamb, lemon juice, yoghurt, oregano and spring onion and serve at once.
Biftekia
Oven baked hamburger patties

Oven baked hamburger patties

Biftekia

500g lean beef mince
4 slices of white bread about a day old with the crusts removed
450ml tin of tomatoes
5 large potatoes, peeled and cut legthwise into thick chips
Olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper

Place the bread slices into a bowl of water to soak. Then squeeze out excess moisture
In a large bowl combine the beef mince, olive oil, oregano (approx. 1-2 tsp), salt, pepper, 2 tbsp mustard and the bread
Knead everything together. If the mixture is too hard, just add s bit more water.
Add salt and pepper and make six patties
Spread the potatoes at the bottom of a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and season well.
Place the patties on top and finish with the tomato puree, some more olive oil and 100ml of water
Preheat the oven to 230 οC and bake for 30 minutes then reduce the temperature to 200 oC.
Open the dish, turn the patties, replace lid and continue baking for another 30 minutes.
Remove lid completely and continue baking for perhaps another 20 minutes or until the patties have turned a nice brown colour
Allow dish to stand for 10mins to cool slightly
Moussaka
A delicious pie of eggplant, minced meat and bechamel sauce.

A delicious pie of eggplant, minced meat and bechamel sauce.

Moussaka

2kg of aubergines, sliced into 1 cm slices
3-4 large potatoes, cut into 0.5 cm rounds
1 kg of lean beef mince
500ml tomato passata or 1 kg of fresh tomatoes grated
1 bay leaf
3-4 allspice
2 large onions, chopped
1 glass of white wine
salt, pepper, olive oil
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bechamel sauce
200g butter
200g flour
1.5- 2lt full fat milk
salt

Cut the aubergines in round slices of 1cm thickness. Rub them well with salt and let them drain for an hour. Rinse under running water and dry them with a kitchen towel. This will ensure that they won’t be bitter. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper and spread them evenly, so that they do not overlap. Brush each slice liberally with olive oil on both sides and roast for 20 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 C.
To make the minced meat heat 4-5 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot and saute the onions until translucent. Add the mince and stir continuously until it has totally changed colour (from red to grey), making sure that there are no large lumps.
Pour in the wine and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes so that all the alcohol will evaporate.
Finally add the tomatoes and spices and cook over medium heat for about half an hour.
Remove the bay leaf and allspice berries and season well
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bechamel sauce
Melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour whisking constantly with an eggbeater.
Slowly pour the milk (if the milk is hot, there is less danger for your sauce to lump) and continue whisking to avoid lumps.
Once the bechamel has thickened (this can take anything from 10-20 minutes) remove the sauce pan from the heat.
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In a deep pan heat about 1lt of vegetable oil over high heat.
Once it gets hot enough reduce the heat to medium and add the potatoes in batches trying not to overcrowd them
Fry until the potatoes are cooked (and are soft inside).
Place each cooked batch over kitchen paper to absorb extra oil.
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Assembly
lay the potatoes over the bottom of your dish, making sure they overlap.
Place half the aubergines on top and season well.
Carefully spread the mince meat over them and finish with the rest of the aubergines (season again).
Pour the bechamel over the aubergines making sure that everything is well covered.
Bake the moussaka in an 180 oC oven for about 1 hour or until golden on top. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing
Spanokopita
Spinach and Feta Pie with Filo pastry

Spinach and Feta Pie with Filo pastry

Spanokopita

600g spinach leaves
A knob of butter, plus extra for greasing
1 large red onion - finely sliced
85g toasted pine nuts
55g raisins
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
225g feta cheese, crumbled
3 eggs
225g filo pastry
Melted butter - for brushing

Wash the spinach and lightly cook it in with a knob of butter for a few minutes.
Drain well, squeeze the excess water from the spinach and then chop it.
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan and fry the onion for 5-6 minutes until lightly browned and softened.
Transfer the onion to a large bowl and add the chopped spinach, pine nuts, raisins, some nutmeg.
Stir together, season well and set aside to cool.
Stir in the feta cheese and eggs once the mixture has cooled.
Lightly butter a 30 x 23cm shallow-sided non-stick baking tin.
Press 4 sheets of pastry into the tin, brushing well with melted butter between each layer and allowing the excess to hang over the sides.
Spoon in the spinach mixture and level off the surface.
Fold over the pastry edges and top with a further 5 sheets of buttered filo pastry.
Lightly score the top of the pie and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a deep golden brown.
Tzatziki
A perfect mix of yoghurt, cucumber and garlic

A perfect mix of yoghurt, cucumber and garlic

Tzatziki

500 grams of plain Greek yoghurt
1 cucumber
2-4 garlic cloves - pressed
4tbsp olive oil
1tbsp vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and coarsely grate the cucumber.
Salt it well and let it stand aside for a few minutes.
Hold it in your hands to drain the water off and put it in a bowl with the yoghurt.
Add the pressed garlic and mix.
Add the olive oil and the vinegar and mix again.
You can also add 1 tsp of mint or oregano or even dill.
Greek Chicken Pie
Chicken in filo pastry

Chicken in filo pastry

Greek Chicken Pie

1 large chicken, cut into portions, skin removed
1 kg onions, finely chopped
200gr good quality finely grated hard cheese (pecorino or kefalograviera works really well)
4 eggs
1 packet filo pastry (450gr)
milk
salt, pepper, olive oil

In a large pot add 3-4 tbsp of olive oil and brown the chicken all over. Remove and set aside.
In the same pot saute the onions for 3-4 minutes on a medium heat and then return the chicken to the pot.
Add 1 cup of hot water, turn down the heat, close the lid and let the chicken simmer with the onions for about 1.5 hrs.
Remove the chicken from the pot and shred it in a big bowl as finely as possible.
Add the onions into the shredded chicken and the rest of the filling ingredients, the eggs+cheese.
Mix everything together and if the filling looks too dry, add a bit of milk.
Season with salt and pepper
Brush a 36X24 baking tray with olive oil and spread the first sheet of phyllo making sire it overhangs from the edges.
Brush it with oil and repeat with 6 sheets of filo pastry
Spread the filling evenly and cover with the phyllo edges making sure it fits snugly.
Add the rest of the phyllo sheets on top, brushing with oil each time and folding the edges neatly.
Before you pop it in the oven, cut through the top layers of the pie with a sharp knife to form the pieces and help the filling bake better.
Preheat the oven to 180 oC and bake until the top is nice and golden, about 50 minutes.
Allow to stand for approx. 10 mins before cutting and serving