Cretan cooking is a very big chapter of the mediterranean cuisine that we all know of. Thousands of years of tradition, history, shepherds, quality ingredients and special microclimate factors have led our island to produce some special unique tasting dishes. In this article from Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete we will introduce you into two authentic cretan dishes , made with local high quality ingredients, inspiration and love.
Marathopita: A seasonal delicacy.
Maratho– pita is according to direct translation the pie that is made out of “maratho”, an aromatic herb very famous in Greek cuisine. Maratho is used in abundance in Greek cuisine because of its unique flavour and distinctive taste.
Marathopita is usually made during the summer months, as this special herb is blooming during the summer. This pie is made almost exclusively in Crete and many say that it is a recipe solely made in Chania of the past. We are very proud of this product, and you can readily taste it in many places in Chania.
Main ingredients of Marathopita are maratho (fennel) herb, flour to make the pie, and occasionally because of maratho’s strong and bitter taste combined with spinach or other vegetable of Cretan countryside. Onion is also added to the mix, but the flavour that is recognised firstly is Maratho herb.
This recipe is done as follows: We carefully clean and prepare all the ingredients and we chop them into little pieces into a big bowl. Afterwards we make the pie, out of flour and we flatten the dough. Inside the dough, we carefully insert the maratho (and others) and we carefully close them in a circular (or whatever you prefer) shape. We then heat up a frying pan and add a small portion of extra virgin olive oil. Note that we want to cook the marathopita evenly and without oil, so be careful of the excess. We certainly don’t fry the pie, but we carefully cook it up until we are starting to see black spots all over both of the sides of the pie. We could say that marathopita has a lot of similarities with Sfakiani Pita which will introduce it to you in a future blog.
Kalitsounia: The island’s favourite.
Kalitsounia is another form of pie, found not only in Crete but in Greece as well. We will now introduce you to the Cretan derivative. Kalitsounia is a complete food, rich in useful ingredients, fat and full of flavour capable enough to be considered a full meal. Typically it is served as a starter dish, but many derivatives categorize Kalitsounia as a dessert, adding honey and sugar into the mixture.
Kalitsounia in Crete are being made with pure Cretan dairy products and ingredients. You will find spearmint, oregano, extra virgin olive oil, sesame, eggs and most importantly our island’s proud dairy product , mizhthra. Mizythra is a special kind of fresh Cretan soft cheese.It has low shelf life, so you are sure that when you eat Mizhthra it is surely fresh. Mizhthra is the kind of soft cheese we also taste in the famous Cretan rusks- Dakos. It is made with a compound of goats and sheep milk, but mostly goats low fats milk- hence the white colour it has. It is very healthy and extremely low on fat for the perfect balanced food treat. The pie, out of flour, is made similarly to the Marathopita we described before, and the mixture with the ingredients we pinpointed are made into a mix with eggs and carefully stuffed with the pie in order to make small portions of Kalitsounia. On top, we carefully garnish them with egg yolk and sesame, and we carefully baked them in hot over (preferably) or deep fry them in the frying pan with extra virgin olive oil.
As well as Sfakiani Pita, Cretan Dakos and many other small (or bigger) delicacies of Crete, Kalitsounia and Marathopita await you to taste them. All of them are extremely healthy, made with carefully selected ingredients and inspired by the healthy way Cretans lived in the past. We suggest all of them for a comprehensive gastronomical Cretan experience!