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Food in the Sporades

GUIDE TO THE SPORADES ISLANDS

Locally-sourced… 0km… seasonal… homemade… all buzzwords for restaurant marketing departments and crusading chefs. The use of local, seasonal products is of course a great thing, but in the Sporades it was ever thus. For the islanders, the concept of proclaiming the local provenance of their ingredients is bizarre. Why wouldn’t they use the riches their land and sea offer up? It’s the most natural thing in the world, a millennial way of life.

The Sporades is a fertile, green archipelago, a bijoux agricultural paradise where a great many locals still grow their own fruit and vegetables, tend their own olive groves and produce their own olive oil. There is a deep connection to the territory, a sincere love of flavour and a humble respect for Mother Nature.

The hilly interiors of the islands are ideal for rearing goats, sheep and pigs, all of which feature in various guises on most menus, grilled or in stifados. Sheep and goats are also prized for their milk, which is transformed into a variety of cheeses, each one playing an integral role in the daily gastronomic life. Salads are topped with chunks of feta, halloumi is grilled or fried, and cheese pies, or tiropita (deep-fried filo pastry parcels,) are consumed throughout the day by residents and visitors alike. Each island has its very own version of the cheese pie and we recommend, in the interests of research, you try them all. For the more health conscious, there’s always hortopita, a pie stuffed with greens and herbs.

Speaking of herbs, oregano, thyme, rosemary, mint and dill grow wild and prodigiously throughout the islands. Apart from being essential ingredients in most recipes, they also flavour the delicious honey produced on the archipelago. Cakes, desserts and yoghurt often receive the honey-drip treatment, a ritual that may well become natural to you by the end of your holiday.

Eating out in the Sporades is a real pleasure. The vibrant, heady flavours of the islands’ ingredients are largely left to speak for themselves.

Skopelos is known for its plum orchards and several varieties of this luscious, juicy fruit are cultivated. The island’s cooks transformthe copious crops into conserves, incorporate them into cakes and desserts and, perhaps most notably, add them to stewed or roast meat dishes, most typically with pork.

Then there’s the sea. The limpid, clean waters of Alonissos’s marine reserve are fished in a responsible, sustainable way and the catches  are delivered directly to the islands’ seafront tavernas. Depending on the season, a typical menu might include grilled sardines, red mullet, tuna fish, swordfish and prawns, oven-baked bream, fried calamari, octopus salad and, the pièce de résistance on Alonissos, lobster pasta.

Anyone with a sweet tooth visiting the Sporades will not be disappointed. The inhabitants of Skiathos celebrate special events with honeyed doughnuts and snack on almond macaroons called amigdalota. Traditional Greek spoon sweets are ubiquitous, but often made with almonds rather than fruit.

Vegetarians are generally well catered for thanks to the islands’ wonderfully tasty vegetables, which are transformed into numerous dishes, including kolikitho keftedes (courgette fritters), psitalaxanaka (grilled vegetables), maroulli salata (lettuce, spring onion and dill salad), melitzana sto fourno (roast aubergine with tomatoes and feta) and kritama (rock samphire salad), not to mention traditional Greek salads, houmous, tzatziki, saganaki, spanakopita and others.

Eating out in the Sporades is a real pleasure. The vibrant, heady flavours of the islands’ ingredients are largely left to speak for themselves. Whether you choose a seafront taverna, a grill house or an ouzeri (bars serving ouzo and little plates of food) you are likely to be warmly welcomed and served with an array of beguilingly simple, authentic and tasty dishes, both the Sporadean specialities mentioned above and a wide range of Greek classics.

Kali Orexi!

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