and a few words on Naxian cuisine
It’s not that I like to boost about our food, but in Naxos you are guaranteed to find some of the best Greek food! Focus is on Naxos. I tried to limit the selection on 3 items, in vain, it’s three food groups instead. But rejoice, I made a Naxian special as well: Kalógeros Naxou
Head straight to the recipe.
3 best food items Naxos is really famous for, and a liquer!
Naxos’ is truly a foodie’s paradise. The pristine sandy beaches and turquoise waters are an amazing part of the island but so is its fresh produce. As for meat and dairy production, these are top of the crop.
This Cycladic island is not as ragged as it seems. Naxos is blessed with natural springs that secure fresh water to the abundant crops, from tomatoes and cucumbers to all your heart desires. There is a little gem amongst these crops: Naxian potatoes. The humble spud thrives in the microclimate of the island and comes out of the land with a clean, sweet taste. In other words the best fried potatoes you will ever try.
Their reputation preceeds them. Naxian potatoes find their way on every local restaurant menu as roughly chopped and golden fries, patátes tiganités that can accompany any dish, casserole or bake. We seek them out in the open air farmer’s markets of Athens, too.
Meat production is also going strong and it is very easy to tell, there are flocks of sheep, goats and cattle everywhere! I enjoyed an amazing goat papillote or kleftiko, full with potatoes, courgettes and creamy Naxos gruyere. This melt in your mouth dish was a slow bake, worth every single mouthful. Livestock and dairy production lives upland. As you pass through Filoti village you will see the traditional butchers shops.
What’s best though, is dairy. I had small pots of wonderfully creamy stragisto yogurt for breakfast during my stay. I just nipped down the small supermarket, around the corner from my room. Butter is also amazing and when these simple pleasures of life are done perfectly, you know you are in for a treat.
Cheese production in Naxos boosts some 150 family dairies and they are serious about their cheese, both fresh and matured. I’m going to limit the selection to four, although I could well be writing an essay on Naxos’ cheese.
Graviera from Naxos is the only cheese here made solely from cow’s milk. It has a pale yellow colour, fine perfume and unique taste developed over 3 months as it is left to mature. Naxos graviera also enjoys Protected Denomination of Origin Status since 1996 for all the good reasons. If you wonder how on earth Naxos has cattle, thank the Venetians, the keen linguists you might be able to tell that graviera is a transliteration of the French gruyere.
Arseniko is a spicy, hard yellow cheese, similar to kefalotyri, made with raw sheep’s and goat’s milk and matured for at least 30 days. The word Arseniko means masculine in Greek; its piquant, strong flavour gave this cheese its name in contrast to the feminine style cheeses, called thilikotíria, the cheese mongers slung for the fresh, soft, delicate cheeses they produce and they produce a lot!
Mizíthra, a whey cheese made of sheep’s or cows whey when allowed to dry it becomes anthótyro. Both these cheeses are soft, creamy with very delicate flavours. If you order your Greek salad in Naxos, you will find an abundance of either of them decorating your salad. Feta has become history 😉
Xinomyzithra, meaning sour mizithra, is the dried version of the latter, a bit spicier and excellent when grated on pasta but it snows down on tomato salads too.
Naxos is also famous for its Citron liqueur, a digestive so exceptional it enjoys PDO status (protected denomination of origin). The Citron liqueur is still distilled using traditional copper stills. The basic ingredient that gives the liqueur its aroma is the leaves from the citron tree (Citrus medica or Kitria in Greek). A visit to Vallindrás distillery at Halki village is a must to find out more about this delectable drink. (Unfortunately, my timing was not impeccable – not an easy time this summer, still it’s another reason for me to return!).
Let’s get cooking!
So, Kalógeros Naxou it is. This traditional Naxian dish might remind you of papoutsakia. It’s very similar, only it is ten times better and to me it combines all the good things the land of Naxos has to offer. Naxian gruyere might be hard to come by, but not too difficult to substitute with another aged gruyere of choice. Here is how to make it:
for the beef stew
- 1kg of beef cut in chunks
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 300ml of tomatoes, chopped or grated ( I normally use fresh, ripe tomatoes)
- 1 tbsp of tomato paste
- 100ml of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Pinch of sugar
For the aubergines
- 6 large aubergines
- 2 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced
- Naxos graviera or gruyere
- olive oil
- salt, pepper and a pinch of cinnamon
- Heat up a heavy bottomed casserole and brown the beef in a tablespoon of olive oil.
- Follow with the finely chopped onion and cook until translucent.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, cinnamon, salt and pepper and cook for approximately 1 ½ hour on low-medium heat.
- There are two ways to prepare the aubergines, baked or shallow fry which is a bit quicker. If you bake them, cut in half and scar the flesh of each half diagonally, from left to right and then right to left to create diamond shaped cuts. Add a bit of salt, brush with olive oil and bake at 180 C for about 15 minutes. Alternatively, slice them thickly and shallow fry in a bit of olive oil, 2-3 minutes each side. Keep the oven going at 180 C, if you are baking the aubergines or preheat it at 180 C to continue.
- When the beef stew is ready, take each half of the baked aubergines and push the flesh with a spoon to create a cup. Fill each half with beef stew and two generous tablespoons of tomato sauce. If you fried your aubergines, place two slices and top with the cooked beef and a generous helping of sauce. Finish with slices of cheese or grated gruyere.
- Place in a deep baking dish and bake for 5-7 minutes until the cheese has melted.
- Kalogeros Naxou is best served hot, straight from the oven.
If you are after a Naxos adventure, check out my little adventure on the island here. Have you been? Let me know what dishes you loved in the comments below.
from Naxos with love,