National Geographic Traveller (UK)

The flavours of Crete

The city of Chania, located on the northwest coast of the Greek island, has a rich cultural heritage that can be savoured through its delectable culinary offerings



Minoan artists painted beautiful images of boar-hunters on the walls of the island’s palaces. For Cretans, pigs have been nose-totail eating ever since. Apaki — thin strips of pork stored in vinegar then salted, peppered and smoked over olive wood — is a local delicacy that pairs perfectly with mashed walnuts, red bell pepper, herbs and olive oil.


Potatoes took some time to travel from the New World on to Cretan tables, but today they’re included in many traditiona­l dishes. Yahnee — a cornucopia of potatoes, onions, tomatoes and olive oil — is just such a dish, made even richer with staka (goat’s or sheep’s milk curd-butter). Oregano and lemon juice add a subtle undercurre­nt to the delicate flavour of the Aegean sea bream.


In the Cretan kitchen, flour, salt and water are transforme­d into squares of pasta known as magiri. Bathed in a broth made from year-old goat or lamb (zygouri), doused in crumbled anthotyro (literally, ‘blossom cheese’, named for the shape of the curds as the milk simmers), magiri are served with seasonal greens. On a Saturday morning, head to Chania’s neighbourh­ood market for anthotyro and other fresh island produce.


The Ottomans left Crete at the end of the 19th century, but 400 years of occupation left some Cretan dishes with Turkish names — boureki is one of them. A popular dish around Lent, Chania boureki is a colourful, layered pie featuring courgettes, potatoes and myzithra, a fresh sheep’s or goat’s milk whey cheese. A modern twist on the classic recipe sees it served with three island ingredient­s of ancient pedigree — perfumed peppermint oil, sheep’s milk yogurt and crumbled goat’s cheese.

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