THE FOOD OF ZANTE
By June Marinos, Food writer
The food in Zante is rich and garlicky. The national dish is ‘Saltsa’, a delicious stew made of beef, tomatoes, garlic and ‘Ladhotiri’ (a local cheese), flavoured with oregano. They also make a glorious aubergine dish called ‘Scordhostoubi’ which is overflowing with garlic and very tasty. The best nougat in Greece is made on the island and it is called ‘Mandolato’. It is very pure, made from egg whites, roasted almonds, honey and sugar. In the old days the egg yolks were sold very cheaply to be used for mayonnaise, egg and lemon sauce, as well as for cakes. Also, one of the best ‘Pasteli’ is made on the island. Pasteli is an ancient Greek sweet made of sesame seeds, honey and almonds. A number of traditional village bakeries make excellent homemade bread. They also make another type of bread for special occasions called ‘Eftazimo’, which means seven times kneaded.
There are other local specialities. First, is the ‘Ladhotiri’, which is a very piquant cheese made of sheep’s milk and kept in earthenware urns of olive oil. It is especially delicious when it is fresh before being put into the oil. Another very good white cheese to be eaten fresh is called ‘Mizithra’. The best ‘Mizithra’ is made of goat’s milk. It is sold either salted or unsalted. The unsalted variety is often eaten with sugar or honey. To salt the ‘Mizithra’ it is rolled in sea salt. There is also a good Zakynthos Gruyere.
At Easter, a salted ham, dried in the sun, is prepared, made from the more fatty parts of the pork (breast and shoulder). It is generally called ‘Hiromeri’ though the part from the breast is known as ‘Pantseta’. It is highly seasoned with garlic, whole black peppercorns, and bay leaves. At Christmas, the Zantiotes make a very good Christmas bread, shaped like an Italian Panetonne though it contains more spices, currents, sultanas and nuts; from the same dough they also make a round shaped ‘Kouloura’, which is cut on Christmas Eve by each family. A coin is put in the ‘Kouloura’ for the lucky person of the year.
I should also mention that Zakynthos has some vegetables and fruit not generally found in other parts of Greece. They include Kohlrabi, Chard and enormous flat sweet onions, which come from Belousi, a village in the north east of the island and are called ‘Kremidhia Belousiotika’. Zakynthos also cultivates delectable tiny wild strawberries, which have a wonderful aroma. These strawberries ripen in the Spring.
The amber-coloured local wine ‘Verdea’ is excellent and should never give one a hangover; the best is straight from the barrel. It is stronger than other Greek wines; it may contain up to 14 degrees alcohol or more. A dry red wine is also produced mainly in the district of the village of Fayias and is called ‘Mavro Krasi tou Fayia’. A few years ago the production of a wild strawberry liqueur started.
Enjoy the food and wine!
CALENDAR OF FOOD TRADITIONALLY EATEN ON FEAST DAYS
AND HOLIDAYS WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO ZAKYNTHOS
|FEAST DAY OR HOLIDAY||FOOD CUSTOMS|
|Protochronia / New Year’s Day||Roast turkey|
|Gourouno Kiriaki / Pork Sunday – Second Sunday||Roast pork|
|Tsicno-Pempti / Smoky Thursday / Middle of the Carnival season||Fricassee of lamb with pilaf. Housewives are exhausted from the Carnival and are liable to burn the food|
|Kiriaki ton Apokreo / Carnival Sunday-Third Sunday of Carnival||Xinisto – a stew made of lamb with either chard, endive, spinach or lettuce with egg and lemon sauce|
|Tirofagou or Kiriaki tis Tirinis / Cheese Sunday – Last Sunday of Carnival||Dishes made with cheese and milk e.g. cheese pies, crème caramel, custard pie.|
|Kathari Dheftera Clean Monday First Day of Lent||An unleavened bread called Lagana is eaten together with various fasting foods such as shellfish, pickles, salads, pulses etc.|
|Ikosi Pente Martiou / 25th March: Greece’s National Day||Salted cod or other fish and Skordalia (Garlic Sauce)|
|Ton Vaion / Palm Sunday||Salted cod or other fish and Skordalia (Garlic Sauce)|
|Megali Paraskevi / Good Friday
|Boiled dried broad beans, artichokes, lettuce leaves and bread. No olive oil is eaten, only vinegar. The table is not laid on this holy day.|
|Megalo Savato / Easter Saturday
|Foods cooked with olive oil. After midnight the fast is broken and red eggs ‘Sgatzetto’ and Hiromeri are eaten amongst other things.|
|Pascha or Lambri / Easter Sunday||Boiled veal, rice with leeks. (Nowadays many people eat roast lamb on the spit as in the rest of Greece).|
|Dheftera tou Pascha / Easter Monday||Lamb placed on vine twigs and roasted in the oven.|
|Ton Agion Panton / All Saint’s Day||Meatballs|
|Tis Panaghias / Day of the Virgin Mary (15th August||Roast chicken. Eftazimo|
|Tou Agiou / St. Denis’s Day (24th August)||Salted cod or other fish and Skordalia (garlic sauce)|
|Imera tou Stavrou Finding of the True Cross (14th September)||Flour and basil for leavening taken to the church to be blessed. Fasting Day. Octopus and pasta.|
|Paramoni Christouyenon / Christmas Eve||Fasting Day. Evening meal consisting of boiled broccoli and the Christmas Kouloura. The water in which the broccoli has been boiled is drunk with some pure lemon juice.|
|Christouyenna / Christmas Day||Boiled turkey|
|Tis Panayias / Boxing Day||Roast turkey|
|Paramoni Protochronias / New Year’s Eve||Big feast of various dishes|