Food glos­sary

Food and Travel (UK) - - Gourmet Traveller -

Capers Flower buds and berries are pre­served in sea salt, leaves in vine­gar; berries are also dried. Tra­di­tional uses in­clude with fava, sea bass and in San­torini salad

Chloro Is­land goat’s cheese; the best is four to six days old. Used in sweet and savoury dishes, as a fill­ing for pies, in sal­ads and as a dessert with fruits and honey

Fava Dried pulse grown on many Cy­cladic is­lands, but only San­torini fava has PDO sta­tus. Served as a purée, with capers, ca­per leaves, olive oil and a lit­tle chopped onion, with bread on the side, or as a soup

Glyka tou koutal­iou ‘Spoon sweet’, or glyko for short. Any fruit, and many small veg­eta­bles, are made into sweet, syrupy glyka – toma­toes are a San­torini favourite

Keft­edes Meat­balls or veg­e­tar­ian ver­sions are pop­u­lar through­out Greece; on San­torini they are made with toma­toes, flour and fresh herbs and fried in olive oil

Khorta Generic term for wild greens. The best here is sea chicory, col­lected from cliffs and shore­line

Kri­tama Rock sam­phire, crunchy and sea-salty; of­ten eaten pick­led, but de­li­cious fresh

Loukanika Sausages made from chopped pork mixed with wine and herbs (usu­ally fen­nel), smoked, then hung in the hot wind for up to five days

Meli­tini Tra­di­tional Easter open pas­try, now pop­u­lar year-round; filled with mas­tic-flavoured an­tho­tyro cheese

Pe­timezi Grape must; dif­fer­ent va­ri­etals im­part their own spe­cial flavour. Used in cakes, bis­cuits and pax­i­mathi, they’re es­pe­cially good with poached figs

Saf­fron Col­lec­tors are im­mor­talised in Mi­noan wall paint­ings; used to­day in pas­tries and su­perb is­land bread

Tsipouro Dis­tilled spirit made from the vine rem­nants after the grapes are pressed. Some­times made from mul­berry or prickly pear. Also known as raki or tsigouthia

White aubergines Shaped like a large egg; beau­ti­ful, creamy-white and of­ten with pur­ple streaks. Served in many dishes when in sea­son, and al­ways with olive oil

beans or aubergine lath­era (slow-baked in olive oil), for added flavour.’ Through­out the spring, they pick ca­per leaves too. ‘Only the young, ten­der ones, with rounded not pointed ends.’ Ca­per leaves are stored in vine­gar and are at their best be­fore they’re a year old. Ap­pro­pri­ately enough, rutin-rich capers are said to al­le­vi­ate the symptoms of arthri­tis – a rea­son, per­haps, that they were im­ported into me­dieval Eng­land and sold to the up­per classes.

You are never far from the sea on this cres­cent-shaped is­land, but although ex­traor­di­nar­ily beau­ti­ful, the caldera acts as a stark re­minder of the fear­some power of na­ture. An­thi Ar­van­iti, one of three daugh­ters in a long line of Akrotiri Faros (light­house) fish­er­men, is on the deck of her fam­ily’s fish­ing boat point­ing out a tiny, white­washed church at the base of a cliff. St Ni­cholas is the pa­tron saint of fish­er­men, and on his birth­day many con­gre­gate here in their boats. On deck, Mo­hammed, who has worked for An­thi’s fa­ther for 15 years, is emp­ty­ing the 12 shrimp bas­kets that he laid and marked 300 me­tres off­shore yes­ter­day evening. An­thi is pleased: ‘We have about four ki­los [a mid-size catch] and two oc­to­puses. We’ll re­turn the smaller one as it’s not big enough.’

Mo­hammed pulls in the nets, and for the next 30 min­utes, he swiftly and steadily cre­ates two tidy piles – one, with the net hold­ing fish, the other with­out. He col­lects fish suit­ably sized for the ta­ble – tiny-beaked par­rot fish (their liver is a del­i­cacy when very fresh), cut­tle­fish, bar­bou­nia (red mul­let – more ex­pen­sive than a slave in Greek an­tiq­uity), and many in the rock­fish fam­ily, and gently tosses them into a con­tainer. Ined­i­ble ‘gar­lic fish’ – so bony that even cephalopods won’t eat them – and smaller fish go back into the sea. ‘We [lo­cal fish­er­men] are work­ing to­gether to stop over-fish­ing and keep the seas fer­tile,’ An­thi tells me. Mean­while, Mo­hammed is pulling in a 3kg eel with a small fish still in its mouth, a good-sized ray and a lob­ster. ‘In his tav­erna, my fa­ther never stores a lob­ster near its mor­tal en­emy, the oc­to­pus. For in its fear the lob­ster will lose a great deal of its weight.’ As we head back to shore, An­thi fries shrimps for us. Never has seafood tasted bet­ter.

It tastes as good, though, in two is­land tav­er­nas we visit, both owned by Cre­tan chefs. In Me­taxy Mas, Kostas Chrys­socher­akis pre­pares melt­ingly ten­der mar­i­nated fresh tuna topped with capers and a dish of rock sam­phire to per­fectly match a 2014 Hatzi­dakis. A few miles south, in Perivo­los, Michalis Troulakis shows me how to make a Cre­tan fish­er­man’s dish: he places a 3-4kg whole, cleaned grouper in a heavy saucepan, adds eight small pota­toes – a deep yel­low colour from the vol­canic soil – cov­ers it all with sea wa­ter and lets it sim­mer for 40 min­utes. Then he whisks lemon juice into the gelati­nous liquor and serves us up a feast.

The huge re­spect these chefs and wine­mak­ers demon­strate for the prod­ucts of their strange, sen­si­tive ter­rain and fe­ro­ciously hot and windy cli­mate ap­pears at other mo­ments, too. As I enjoy chef Eleni Kokka’s de­li­cious break­fast dishes at the Ares­sana ho­tel – sfougato (egg and potato pie), cheese pies with thyme honey, re­vani (gooey honey-soaked orange cake) – owner Evan­gelia Medri­nou ap­pears with a tray of plump kat­souni

(San­torini cu­cum­bers). As she cuts one in half and scoops out the seeds, she tells me, ‘We like to take kat­souni to the beach, where we find a limpet, eat it, then use its ser­rated shell, still salty from the sea, to scoop out the sweet pulp.’

With its huge num­ber of sum­mer vis­i­tors, I fear for this small is­land’s won­der­ful pro­duce, and the com­mu­nity of – pre­dom­i­nantly age­ing – for­agers and farm­ers who know ex­actly how to find and cul­ti­vate them in dif­fi­cult ter­rain. Be­cause like in many as­pects of life, it is out of true hard­ship that the finest things are grown. Rose­mary Bar­ron and Gary Latham trav­elled courtesy of The Greek Na­tional Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion. vis­it­greece.gr

Places to visit

Akrotiri Let your imag­i­na­tion run wild in this won­der­ful Mi­noan city, with its cob­bled streets, squares, crafts­men’s work­shops and large clay pot-filled food store­rooms. Its beau­ti­ful fres­coes are now in mu­se­ums but there’s no mis­tak­ing the ‘good life’ the Mi­noans built here. Check times be­fore vis­it­ing. £10 for adults; £6 for chil­dren. 00 30 22 8608 1939

Em­bo­rio and Pyr­gos Two small, hill-fort towns with nar­row, twist­ing paths built to flum­mox 16th-cen­tury pi­rates. Al­low an hour or so to ex­plore their maze-like, traf­fic-free cob­bled lanes, tiny churches and clever ar­chi­tec­ture.

The Mu­seum of Pre­his­toric Thira Ex­ca­va­tion finds from Akrotiri and Po­ta­mos. It’s worth vis­it­ing be­fore Akrotiri, for in­for­ma­tion on the his­tory and smaller arte­facts. £9 with con­ces­sions. Fira, 00 30 22 8602 3217

Op­po­site page, from top: white aubergine at Domaine Si­galas; night-time de­lights with views of Oia. This page, clock­wise from left: ex­plore Fira’s cliff-cling­ing bars; Greek salad at Ro­ca­bella ho­tel; grilled sar­dines at To Psaraki; Hatzikadis win­ery la­bel is drawn by the owner’s chil­dren

‘You are never far from the sea on this cres­centshaped is­land,

but although ex­traor­di­nar­ily

beau­ti­ful, the caldera acts as a stark re­minder of the fear­some power of na­ture.’

From top: Fira perches high above the caldera; book a stay or meal here or in, Firoste­fani, Oia or Imerovigli for the best views over the blue wa­ters

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