Imagine you are in a shaded Greek taverna by the bustling harbour of Chania, in front of you is a table of Cretan delicacies – those soft and moreish little kalitsounia cheese pastries – alongside the freshest figs, olives and liquid-gold extra virgin olive oil.
Add Apáki, the Cretan delicacy of cured pork loin which is smoked with wood and herbs such as thyme, oregano, marjoram or sage to infuse the meat with wonderful aromas. This curing method is thought to be from Byzantine times to preserve meat for long periods but it doesn’t tend to last long when put out as part of a meze.
Washed down with raki (also known as tsikoudia by the locals) or a glass of Cretan wine (try the one from Heraklion), you have created one of the most simple but delicious meals on your Mediterranean sunshine holiday.
It’s rather spiritual to become part of the beating heart of the island by eating and drinking with locals so, even if you only stop for a beer or coffee, join in the chat and find out the gossip, news and views of the people who make Crete such a dazzling jewel in the Greek islands’ crown.
It’s definitely a holiday tradition to munch these delicious little cheese pastries in Crete but they can also be made at home. They are usually made from mizithra cheese but use mascarpone or ricotta.
1 cup olive oil
1 cup strained yogurt
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1kg flour (35 ounces)
4 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
Juice of 1/2 orange
Zest of 1 lemon (optional)
1kg of fresh soft cheese such as mascarpone or ricotta
1 cup of sugar
1 egg and 1 egg white
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
For the topping
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp powdered cinnamon
To prepare the dough put olive oil, sugar, yogurt and eggs in a large bowl. Blend with hands until the ingredients combine. Pour in the orange juice, lemon zest and vanilla extract and blend. Sieve the flour with the baking powder and gradually add to the mixture. Knead the dough until it softens.
The dough should be soft but not sticky.
Leave the dough to rest for about half an hour.
Prepare the filling. Squash the cheese into a large bowl, add sugar, eggs and cinnamon. Blend.
Place the dough on a floured surface and roll out the dough to a thickness of 0.3 cm. Using a 10cm cutter, cut out circles.
Add a spoonful of the cheese mixture in the middle of each circle and spread.
Bring the rim of the dough up around the cheese and pinch the edges to pull the dough in around the cheese. Leave the centre open.
Preheat the oven to 180-200C. Place the cheese pastries on a large baking tray that is lined with parchment paper and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk 1-2 eggs and 1 tbsp of water to brush the pastries. Sprinkle with cinnamon powder and bake for 25 minutes until golden.