There are several methods of cooking 'arni exochico'. Some people cut the lamb into pieces and wrap it in filo, the paper thin Greek pastry. Others cut it into small pieces and wrap in parchment paper or foil. Wine or stock cube can also be added if required.

  •   Take a small leg or shoulder

  •   1 large onion, peeled and cut into quarters

  •   2 tomatoes, peeled, and diced

  •   As much garlic as you like peeled and left whole

  •   1˝ tbsp fresh or dried oregano

  •   5 medium size potatoes, peeled and quartered

  •   8oz kefalotiri or kefalograviera cheese, cut into chunks 

  •   1 large carrot peeled and coarsely sliced

  •   ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 

  •   salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients together and toss well  until everything is well-coated. Season generously with pepper, but go a little easier on the salt than you normally would because the cheese will also add salt to the finished dish. 

If you have a large clay pot, or casserole dish assemble the ingredients, cover with a lid. If you are using baking paper, cut 6 large sheets. Distribute the kleftiko mixture evenly amongst the 6 sheets, and wrap up in an envelope-style. You may need to double-wrap because basically what you want to do is have as little liquid escape during cooking as possible.

Cook in the oven, for 3 hours. You want the meat to be falling off the bone. The potatoes and carrot will be very soft and tender, but will be permeated with a deep-rich flavour.  Remember its origins - the conditions these people lived under, this is gourmet food created during a time of rebellion and should be enjoyed to its full potential.



This is the most famous Cretan pilaf dish, wedding pilaf, a kind of risotto served with the meat sauce finished with a good coating of rich goat butter, large chunks of the cooked goat, rabbit and chicken are sometimes served separately. Pilaf is a traditional wedding dish on Crete, where it's made in enormous quantities to feed the often hundreds of invited guests.




In the past prior to electricity and refrigeration, pork meat was preserved 'singlino'. Families would slaughter a pig, butcher the beast, eat some meat fresh on the same day, then store the rest in large earthenware jars, after cutting it up into small pieces which they smoked over charcoal. The jar was then filled with the pig's own fat, preserving the meat for up to six months until they used it by frying the pieces. This method is still used today.



Is a smoked preserved meat, usually lamb and smoked sausages 'loukaniko'.



Spiky sea urchins may be a bather’s bane, but their freshly gathered roe tops anyone's list of favourite foods. Urchin roe tastes unmistakably of the sea and has a unique sweetness that can’t be duplicated or satisfactorily described in words. If you love seafood and have access to fresh sea urchins, put aside any trepidation about their prickly spines and jump at the opportunity to enjoy their wonderful flavour.

Sea urchin salad, expensive unless you make it yourself:

Take 5 female sea urchins, remove roe and dress with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. serve with crusty bread for dunking!


In Hania, snails are very popular and are cooked in many different ways, eaten as an appetiser or a main meal. They are usually gathered on hillsides after the rainfall. Put the snails in a big bowl filled with water and leave them there until their heads come out (30 to 45 minutes) and clean them thoroughly. Throw away all the snails whose heads have not appeared!

  •   1 kg snails
  •   ˝  cup red wine
  •   ˝  cup flour
  •   ˝  cup  oil
  •   salt, pepper, rosemary 


Put the snails in a saucepan half-full with water and when the water comes to the boil, add 3 tbsp. salt and half a glass of vinegar and boil them for 10 minutes. Then throw the water away and wash the snails very well with cold water.
Salt the snails, flour them and cook them in sizzling oil for 3 minutes. Add the rosemary, salt and pepper, stir them and 2 minutes later add the wine. Let them come to the boil then they are ready to serve. Another option is to prepare a batter, using flour, salt, pepper, oregano and garlic (optional), fill the snails’ openings with this mixture and fry them in the oil and rosemary.



For the filling:
  •   1˝    kg. Lamb or Kid (goat)

  •   1 kg. Mizìthra cheese

  •   1 cup of staka (goats milk butter)

  •   Pepper, cinnamon, spearmint

  •   1cup meat stock

  •   1tbsp corn flour

  •   salt & pepper

For the pastry:

  •   ˝ kg. Flour

  •   1 small carton yoghurt

  •   ˝  cup olive oil

  •   1  tsp. of salt



After boiling the meat and removing its bones, chop it and sprinkle with salt, pepper, spearmint and cinnamon. Prepare the pastry by first combining the flour with oil and then add the rest of the ingredients.
When the pastry is prepared, roll out half of it and place on an oiled baking pan. Spread with half of the staka, half of the mizithra cheese and all the meat. Top the meat with the remainder of the mizithra cheese and staka and sprinkle again with cinnamon and spearmint. Roll out another pastry sheet and cover the pie. Brush with the beaten egg, sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional) and bake for 1 hour at a low temperature. Follow the same procedure to prepare individual pies.

  •   4 Cretan barley rusks or village bread
  •   ˝ cup of virgin olive oil
  •   2  large ripe chopped tomatoes
  •   2  teaspoons of oregano
  •   Mizithra cheese, Anthotiro or feta
  •   salt & pepper

This is the Cretan signature dish. Slightly dampen the rusks or bread with water. Then drain the water from the rusks and place them on a serving dish. Next, drizzle olive oil on each one separately teaspoon per rusk, then place the sliced tomatoes on them. Sprinkle salt, pepper and oregano on and pour the rest of the olive oil on top. Many Cretans like to top the rusks with mizithra, anthotiro or feta cheese for a healthy lunch.


This is made with sliced courgettes, sliced potatoes, mizithra or feta cheese and mint. The mixture can be covered by a thick layer of traditional filo pastry crust or as below.

For the filling:
  •   1˝ kg. potatoes, cut in thin slices 
  •   1˝ kg. courgettes, cut in thin slices
  •   small bunch of mint
  •   1  cup flour for all uses
  •   1kg  mizithra
  •   200gr grated kasseri (soft cheese)
  •   ˝ cup oil
  •   1 cup milk
  •   2 eggs
  •   4 tbsp. staka (goats milk butter)
  •   sesame, for sprinkling


For the pastry:
  •   ˝ kg. flour for all uses
  •   3 tbsp. oil
  •   ˝ tsp. salt
  •   ˝ cup red wine
  •   1 cup of lukewarm water

Prepare the pastry sheet by putting the water, oil, salt and wine in the flour and knead well. Cover the dough and leave it for about 30 minutes. Cut the dough in two and roll out two medium-sized pastry sheets. Lay one of them in a large oiled baking pan. Then add the potatoes, courgettes and mizithra in layers. Add some salt, pepper, mint, flour and kasseri over each layer. Beat the eggs with the milk and stàka and pour them on top of the pie. Then pour the oil on top. Place the other pastry sheet on top, baste it with some oil and sprinkle with sesame. Cut the pie in square pieces and put it for 1 - 1 1/4 hour in the oven, which you have pre-heated at 180° C.



  •   1 Rabbit or hare skinned &
  •   chopped into portions
  •   2 cup olive oil
  •   2 onions finely chopped
  •   150 gms. uncooked rice
  •   1 full head of garlic minced
  •   2 tbsp. tomato puree
  •   3 cups of wine vinegar
  •   3-4 lemons
  •   salt & pepper
  •   water

Wash hare well and cover with the vinegar and water and marinate for two hours. Rinse well. Heat oil in a frying pan and cook hare until tender. Place meat and cooking oil into a large saucepan adding the minced garlic, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Add more water if necessary until meat is completely covered. Cook for approximately 1 ˝ hours adding the juice of the  lemons for the finally minutes of cooking.  

  •   1 small lobster (optional but nice!)
  •   ˝ kg rock perch
  •   ˝ kg cod
  •   ˝ kg hake or grouper
  •   1 medium sized squid
  •   1 bay leaf
  •   8 glasses water
  •   juice of 3-4 lemons
  •   1 small ripe tomato
  •   1 medium onion
  •   2-3  cloves garlic
  •   2 medium carrots
  •   celery
  •   5-6  medium potatoes
  •   1 glass Cretan olive oil

Boil the water, olive oil and all the remaining ingredients except for the fish and lemon juice. After the vegetables have been boiling for 15 minutes add the fish allowing 5-6 minutes between each kind, so that they are evenly cooked the tougher ones first then the softer ones such as the cod. The fish needs to be boiled for 20-25 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cook for a further 4 mins. This dish is traditionally served with 'Cretan Rusk' and not necessarily with bread.


  •   1 kg. potatoes
  •   1-2  full head of garlic
  •   1 cup of olive oil
  •   1-2 tbsp. of lemon juice
  •   salt & pepper

Boil potatoes and before they go cold blend with garlic, salt olive oil and lemon juice. Sometimes a little stock from the fish that this dish usually accompanies is added. This also goes well with fried vegetables for vegetarians.




  •   1 kg.  spinach

  •   1  leek

  •   1  bunch of celery

  •   1  bunch of dill

  •   1  bunch of parsley

  •   2-4 spring onions

  •   garlic and a pinch of oregano


Pick or buy greens and cut into small pieces. Cook until they soften, about 10 minutes, in a covered saucepan turning them one or twice. Simmer gently adding more water if required.
Drain or squeeze all liquid out add oil, tomato and seasoning.  Note: Wild greens and herbs used are borage, thistle, chicory, dandelion, dill, dock, fennel, wild leek, garlic, nettles, mustard. This mixture can also me turned into a pie Lahanopita.


  • 1 kg. potatoes, sliced or cubed
  • 3 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
  • 1  red onion, sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 12 – 15 olives
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper


Wash the potatoes and put them on to boil in salty water. Hard boil three eggs. When cooked peel potatoes and let them cool, then shell and slice the eggs. Whilst the potatoes and eggs are still warm, add salt and pepper them and sprinkle with vinegar. Add the chopped red onions and tomatoes, season with more salt and pepper to taste, add olive oil and carefully mix. Add olives if liked at the end with a few chopped chives or parsley to finish.



Is layers of filo pastry filled either with custard, or mizithra cheese or alternatively with a minced meat filling.  Said to have originated in the Macedonian region of northern Greece. Bougatsa is also served in Hania where they are known as 'bougatsa Hanion'  these are made and sold in a 'zakaroplastio'  (pastry, bread and dessert shops). Often cut in small square pieces and served with a sugar sprinkling. 




This is probably the most traditional Cretan recipe. It is made all over Crete and it is unthinkable for a Cretan to invite you to their home and not treat you to some 'kaltsounia' also known as 'kalitsounia'. Although sweet you should know that the traditional recipe is made with mizithra cheese.



  •   1 kg. sugar 
  •   250 grams Rose petals washed &drained
  •   2  tbsp. lemon juice
  •   1 cup of water


 Mix together the sugar and rose petals in a bowl and mash well with hands. Leave for 2-3 hours then put the mixture in a saucepan with the water and simmer over a low heat. When mixture has turned into a syrup add the lemon juice mix well and leave to cool. Place into sterile jars and store in the refrigerator. To serve drizzle over a good helping of yoghurt.




More food pages
: Wine : Eating Out : Olive Oil : Honey : Ofto : Prickly Pear
: Local Specialities : Recipes : Local Cheese : Wild Mushrooms :



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