After picking up our rental car following the short flight from Athens to Chania (pronounced gaania by the locals), we headed towards Kalyves, the temporary place where Andrea was living. She had recently moved from the UK to Crete and rented a beautiful old home right next to the Mediterranean Sea. It was an idyllic village in winter, but apparently received quite a few tourists in summer so she wasn’t staying there. In fact, it was one of her last days in the house.
Jon’s parents had already arrived a few days earlier and the whole welcoming committee was there once we found the house, including Hobbes, Andrea’s old cat. We spent the evening chatting around the kitchen table, discovering some delicious local cheese before heading to bed.
The next morning we shared breakfast after we had been on a beach run, and pretty much finished the local cheese. This gave us a mission as we went exploring the small village – finding more of this delicious cheese.
In the afternoon we drove to ‘Gaania’, Crete’s charming capital. Wandering around the narrow streets we found some wonderful ceramic lamps made by a local craftsman and decided that would be our souvenir from Greece. We bought two and they are now proudly sitting on our kitchen counter. Yes, they survived the trip back to Tanzania in the suitcase…
In the harbour we found a cozy café for drinks before dinner. It was now definitely cold as the sun had disappeared and the wind was coming up. Andrea had booked a table at Satis and we had a super interesting and delicious meal here. We ate out every night and every restaurant was unique, run by locals, very hospitable, and with delicious local food.
Jude’s favourite was briam and boureki (recipes below if you want to try them!) which she shared with Bernice in Parasia Rakadiko in Vamos, although the smoked amberjack beetroot salad in Satis in Chania came a close second. Parasia Rakadiko is an old family run restaurant with a huge fire place (it was still very cold at night) and a shop selling lots of homemade produce. We love these little old places, especially when the food is as good as here.
One of the days we went for a gorge walk, leaving our car at the entrance to Imbros gorge. It was an easy 10km walk down which only took us less than 2.5 hours, but it was great to see some of Crete’s more natural surroundings and even some birdlife. We met Andrea, Ian and Bernice at the bottom of the gorge where we hired a boat at Sfakia to go to Loutro for a late lunch. We were lucky to find a place to eat open in Loutro as the tourist season hadn’t started and pretty much everything was still shut, or they were frantically painting and cleaning up for the season.
Of course we can’t go to Crete without at least visiting some ruins, so we hopped into our rental again and cruised to Knossos where we hired a guide to explain the ruins to us. Knossos might be Europe’s oldest city. It was quite entertaining to hear the stories, but one of the interesting things about these ruins was that the guy who had discovered this a long time ago thought it was a great idea to rebuilt where possible. So instead of just seeing some low crumbling walls, there were several areas with complete rooms and even stairs.
We also loved checking out the local wineries, trying some of their wines and buying them to drink straigth away. We definitely enjoyed Crete, hopefully we will be back at some point to do a bit more exploring!
2-3 tablespoons of butter
2 ½ cups of milk
2 cups of ricotta cheese (500gr)
2 tablespoons of flour
5-6 sundried tomatoes, chopped up
400gr of feta (80gr for the top)
¼ cup mint, finely chopped
8 medium-sized potatoes, peeled, boiled for 10 minutes, then sliced
2 very large zucchinis (or 3-4 medium sized), sliced
4 tablespoons sesame seeds
- Grease a 30x24cm oven dish with butter.
- Mix the milk, ricotta and flour.
- Start with a layer of potatoes, slightly overlapping.
- Add some of the ricotta mixture and sprinkle with black pepper, mint and feta.
- Then place a layer of zucchini slices with the same ricotta mix, black pepper, mint and feta on top.
- Create 3 layers of potato, 1 with sundried tomato, and 2 with zucchini, push down on it to make it even and compact.
- Pour the remaining ricotta mix over the top and decorate with a few slices of zucchini.
- Top with remaining half cup of crumbled feta and the sesame seeds.
- Pre-heat your oven to 190C.
- Cover the boureki with foil and place in the oven for 60 minutes, check with a fork if the potatoes are cooked.
- Remove foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes until the cheese is golden and the liquid is gone.
900gr of potatoes (about 4 large ones), peel and cut into 1cm thick slices
750gr zucchinis (about 3 medium-sized), cut into 1cm thick slices
100gr onions (about 2 small ones), very thinly sliced
600gr eggplant (about 4 small ones), cut into 2cm thick slices
450gr green capsicums (about 3 small ones), cut into chunks
25gr fresh parsley, roughly chopped
500gr tomatoes (about 4 medium-sized), chopped, or one tin (400gr) of chopped tomatoes
250ml extra virgin olive oil
65 gr tomato paste
salt and pepper
- Sprinkle the eggplant with some salt and leave for an hour, rinse well and squeeze gently to get the juice out.
- Grease a large oven dish.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
- Start with a layer of potatoes, followed by the zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and pepper after each layer.
- Add half the onions and all of the eggplant.
- Then the rest of the onion and the capsicum.
- Add the tomatoes and sprinkle the parsley over the top.
- Mix the tomato paste into the water and pour it over the vegetables together with the olive oil.
- Mix with a large spoon without messing up the layers.
- Place the oven dish on the bottom of the oven.
- Check the vegetables every half hour, mixing them every time with the big spoon.
The Briam is ready after approximately 2 hours, or when the vegetables are soft, are golden brown and crispy around the edges. The tomato sauce at the bottom must look rich.
Serve with feta crumb and chunky bread. It is delicious.