Amazing Peloponnese Food Inspirations
Fantastic olive oil, delicious pork dishes, and great wines are the hallmarks of this sprawling section of Greece. If one had to choose just two agricultural products to represent the Peloponnese, they would undoubtedly be olive oil and oranges. Sprawling olive and citrus groves cover the region like vast natural carpets. However, such a restriction would not do justice to this exceptionally fertile land, noted for its bountiful yields of various products.
Honey, dairy products, cured meats, table olives, fruit and vegetables, pulses, and wild and farmed fish are available in abundance. You’ll smell sage and thyme everywhere in the beautiful countryside, from Kyparissia to Mt Taygetus to the southernmost tip of mainland Greece, Akrotenaro (or Cape Matapan). These scents mix in springtime with the fragrance of wild daffodils and the clean smell of salt from the salt pans around its bays.
Soaring mountain ranges ring fertile flatland and forests, and there are picturesque villages, citadels, stone tower houses, and, in between them all, vineyards and orchards. The local cuisine is earthy and straightforward – an orange, a simple pie of wild greens, a slice of bread with a bit of olive oil and tomato sauce. Local olive oil is the essence of Peloponnese cuisine, and its abundance has given rise to a broad range of fried dishes that soak up all its goodness. Kitchens here produce omelets with homemade cured meats, simple, bite-sized pies, and different types of fried dough. Some of these dishes are Lalangia (unsweetened fried “ropes” of dough, similar to churros), diples (fried sheets of dough served topped with walnuts and honey), and fluffy pancakes.
- Olive oil isn’t used just for cooking here, either; fried veal preserved in olive oil will keep for up to six months. Other traditional preservation methods include using salt from the salt pans, in which locals cure dairy products, meat, and fish. Smoking foods is another way of preserving them, including the lean meat from home-reared pigs, smoked with sage to make something.
called pasto (“salted meat”) or syglino.
The majority of older recipes were born from the long tradition of making the most of every cut of pork. The great effort required for their preparation on the one hand and the modern dietary precepts that dictate limiting heavy, fatty dishes have led to their disappearance from contemporary menus and recipe books. What hasn’t changed, however, is a love of fresh flavors.
- In their cooking, Peloponnese use a great variety of aromatic plants, especially fennel and dill, and they cook wild greens together with pulses or meat. The region is also home to many exciting casserole dishes completed with an egg-and-lemon sauce (avgolemono) combined with a tomato-based sauce, a fascinating local novelty.
- This region has the most significant number of protected designation of origin (PDO) products in Greece. PDO olive oils from several areas of the Peloponnese are internationally renowned, as are the world-famous Kalamata olives; these products are never absent from the Peloponnesian table.
- Taste the local wine where the famed red Agiorgitiko and the crisp white Mantineia. If you find yourself higher up in the mountains, ask for a honey pot, ideally “vanilla pine” honey, thick, milky white, and intensely aromatic. The region is also home to the black, deliciously sweet Corinthian currants: the Greek railway network was expanded in the early 1900s to facilitate their export to foreign markets.
- The PDO eggplant of the Tsakonia region is thin, oblong and sweet, and ideal for frying. Try the local goges (elongated fresh pasta similar to gnocchi) if you like pasta. The sausages and salted meat of Mani, redolent with the scent of citrus fruit, are delicious.
- You can quench your thirst in Messinia and Laconia with juicy local oranges. Sfela is the regional cheese, similar to feta but more rigid in texture. Dry myzithra is very tasty, a sharp white cheese made of sheep’s and goat’s milk, as is kefalotyri, a medium-hard salty cheese. Both are ideal for grating over pasta. You must take back some traditional pasteli (thin, flat honey and sesame bars) with you and dried figs from Kalamata.
Kagianas is an egg dish similar to scrambled eggs but made with grated fresh tomatoes; it has several variations, including versions with added cheese or syglino (cured meat); eaten at breakfast. A unique local delicacy is a roast piglet with crisp, crackly skin and mellow, tender meat.
In the local tavernas, try rooster in tomato sauce with hylopites (handmade pasta), and roast lamb in tomato served with egg-and-lemon sauce, a dish that requires plenty of freshly baked bread. In Corinthia, trachanosoupa, a soup made with cracked wheat, is very popular. At the same time, in Mani, they prepare regali, a tomato sauce-flavored medley containing lamb offal served with rice
Where to eat
Platanos is a classic example of a traditional Greek café that serves simple and tasty regional cuisine. The conventional roast piglet, served with slow-cooked potatoes in the same roasting tray, is a delicacy that you must try (84 Artemidos, Kalamata, Tel. (+30) 27210.882.66).
At Neraida, make sure you order the saitia, small local pies made with handmade pastry dough and fresh goat’s cheese and mint. The taverna also makes its bread with stoneground wheat flour and pasta; the meat is from local sources (Aghios Nikolaos, Voies, Laconia, Tel. (+30) 27340.312.27).
The wood-fired oven at Zerzova gives the dishes an authentically rustic character. This taverna serves locally sourced meat, and the game is often on the menu. Here you can taste delicious hylopites (handmade pasta) with a rooster in wine, as well as excellent savory pies (Panaghia, Arcadia, Tel. (+30) 27950.317.53, open Friday to Sunday only).
Peloponnesian WINE: AGIORGITIKO AND MORE
Fertile ground for crafting exciting wines, the Peloponnese is the largest grape-growing area in Greece, accounting for approximately 30 percent of the country’s vine-planted land. It features an incredible array of fascinating terroirs, numerous indigenous varieties, and quality-minded producers raising Greek wine to new heights.
The history of vine cultivation in the Peloponnese dates to antiquity. A few kilometers from Kalavryta is an ancient vine, estimated to be 3,000 years old, which the ancient geographer Pausanias (writing in AD 160) described as “a unique phenomenon” because of its size; today, the vine measures more than 100 meters in length and consists of nine trunks.
Nowadays, the Peloponnese is home to some of Greece’s most characterful native varieties. The benchmarks are the hedonistic Agiorgitiko of Nemea and the exotic Moschofilero, with its unique perfume from the Mantineia plateau. Other types include the mineral Roditis, the elegant, quince-scented Kydonitsa, the texturally refined Mavrodafni, and the ethereal Black of Kalavryta.
Some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are grown in Greece, which are marvelous examples of how diverse the treasures of the Peloponnese can be. Some of the area’s most vivid wines come from the high-elevation vineyards of Aigialeia (up to 1000 meters above sea level), from certain villages in Nemea (including Koutsi and Asprokampos), from the Mantineia plateau, and, for international varieties, from the region of Messinia.
There are, however, many more wine destinations to explore, including Mani. Along with the area’s dry wines, the sweet wines of the Peloponnese carry well-justified reputations for their fine quality. They include several expensive premium examples: Mavrodafni of Patra, the small-berried clone of Muscat, and the historic Malvasia (grown in the greater area of picturesque Monemvasia) display high levels of complexity and plenty of character.
One can say without any exaggeration that these are among the best sweet wines in the world. There has never been a better time than right now for the wine enthusiast to dive in and explore. Well-established producers such as Gaia, Christos, Mercouri, Parparoussis, Semeli, Skouras, and Tselepos. A new generation of rising stars, including Bosinakis, Ieropoulos, Mitravelas, Sant’Or, Tetramythos, Troupis, etc.
Whichever route you choose, you’ll discover that the Peloponnese is a stunning destination. It offers remarkable archaeological sites such as Olympia and Epidaurus, beautiful beaches on its Aegean and Ionian coasts, fresh seafood and highly praised meat dishes, and some of the best wines in Greece. Hope you enjoy these amazing Peloponnese food Inspirations!
Article courtesy of https://www.greece-is.com/the-wonderful-food-of-the-peloponnese/