Bringing Back The Traditional Cooking Of The Peloponnese
I invite you to take a walk through the beautiful mountainous southern lands of mainland Greece, known as the Peloponnese; it is sure to be an experience that will excite all your senses.
From Mount Taygetos, mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, to Mani, where early steps to Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire were taken on March 17, 1821, the region has a rich history, but history is not the only reason to visit the region. When visiting, be sure to bring a good appetite. The Peloponnese are an absolute gastronomical delight!
Some of the flavors, textures, and experiences that one must taste include the olives, including the famous Kalamata olives, barrel aged feta, and olive oil cured pork from Mani. Take a stroll through the villages and fascinating stone houses of Mani and Xirokambi where kitchens are cooking up wonderful traditional Greek recipes, many of which you can sample at the local tavernas.
A Maniti favorite dish today is the Strapatsada, which is made of scrambled eggs with fresh tomatoes and feta cheese. Mani is known for its many different kinds of stews flavored with cinnamon and the bright zesty oranges that find their way into so many of the sweet and savory dishes. Explore Taki’s Fish Taverna where you can enjoy Lobster Diavolo, a rich, fresh and decadent dish of lobster served in a spicy tomato sauce over spaghetti.
In this southern area of Greece, locals typically follow a Mediterranean diet combined with complimentary elements and influences from Italy and parts of the Middle East. Key ingredients used in many of the traditional dishes of the Peloponnese are olives, nuts, fruits, cheese, yogurt, and spoon sweets.
Greeks today enjoy some of the same traditional dishes their ancient ancestors did. The land and harvests lend to dishes that are flavorful and aromatic. In the days of Ancient Greece and the age of the mighty Spartans, Greeks were known for their fierce power. Today, the Peloponnese are also known for their fierce flavors. From main dishes, like Syglina, a dish of pork smoked in aromatic herbs (like savory, thyme and sage) from the mountains of Sparta, to pastries like Rafiolia—crescent pies of flaky pastry with mastic liquor, rosewater and white almond pulp—these delicacies are sure to delight. Take a moment to visit taverna Paralía, which serves a traditional Spartan menu, and try one of their chortopita, a very tasty spinach pie!
Lastly, a visit to the Peloponnese would not be complete without exploring the olive fields, which produces some of the best olive oil. Some of the most popular olives of southern Greece are the Kalamata, Koroneiki, Athinoelia, and Kolyreiki, each with its own rich unique flavor and essences that range from nutty to fruity, but all are delicious. Studies have shown that biological cultivation of the olive tree in Greece started approximately 10 years ago in Mani and it is estimated that today it uses 15,000 stremmata*. It is expected to exceed this number within the next few years.
When in Greece, walk long, learn much and build up an appetite because the flavors of the country are as rich as its history! n