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Greek food news and views

The Greeks are not known for their fine cuisine but it can be healthy – plenty of salads and olive oil. Dishes are mainly borrowed from the Italians and Turks but Greek has enjoyed something of a revival and supermarket shelves display their share of Greek-style yoghurt and cheese while the Mediterranean diet is world famous for its health benefits. Chicken is cheap, lamb delicious, omelettes wonderful and Greek yoghurt and honey out of this world.

Taverna tables on Zante
Taverna prices

Food prices to drop after VAT cut. Holidaymakers in Greece should see menu prices drop in Greek holiday tavernas after a cut in taxes for restaurants, bars and cafes. The Greek government announced VAT rates imposed for food sold in restaurants and hotel is to be cut to 13%. The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) has welcomed the move which comes into force on August 1. SETE president Andreas Andreadis said: "It is an essential development measure that will shrink unemployment, bolster tourism and the Greek economy." Greek tavernas have been hard hit by rising VAT rates on food, making meals out much more expensive. Things were made worse as hotel restaurant were exempt from the charges. The VAT rate on food catering services in restaurants, cafes, canteens saw a 77% increase in September last year – up from 13% to 23%. The Greek Government received criticism from restaurant owners and tourism professionals when it announced a VAT hike on food catering services. Taverna owners claimed the high taxes had hit the Greek tourism industry by as much as 30% as menu prices soared and holidaymakers turned to all-inclusive deals. According to reports, the latest measure will most likely be temporary and implemented for four to six months until it becomes clear whether the VAT cut will show results or not. The effects of the measure will be monitored and if tax revenues go up from increased sales then the reduced rate will become permanent. The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels congratulated the Greek Government but Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni has stressed the need for the VAT reduction to reach customers and strengthen the competitiveness of Greek tourism if it is to stay permanent.

Greek grapes
Greek wines acclaimed

Greek wines are enjoying a big rise in popularity with some island wines picking up major awards. Greek wines are making a bit of a comeback with a sharp rise in demand despite the country's ailing economy. Greek wine producers are enjoying a big rise in demand not only from abroad but also from Greece itself. The news comes despite large increases in tax on alcoholic drinks that have been blamed for driving sales down earlier this year. Despite the setbacks Greek wine is getting a reputation for high quality with international acclaim from wine experts. Greek wine even earned tributes from The Australian, the biggest-selling national newspaper in Australia. Wine production in Greece has had a cheque red history. Wine has been an important part of Greek culture for over 4,000 years and Greek Muscat wines became famous during the Crusades in the 13th century when much was exported to Europe. When Greece won independence from the Turks in the 1820s, wine production started to die out as currants became more lucrative but this market collapsed when the French imposed heavy duties on imported fruit at the turn of the century. After the Greek civil war in 1949 he country once again turned to wine production but Greek wine production has been limited to low quality bulk and retsina wines. Recent years have seen a significant improvements in production techniques and Greek wines now have a much better reputation. Some 300 varieties are cultivated on both the mainland and the Greek Islands. The leading white wine is Assyrtiko, first planted on Santorini but now widespread across Greece. Other popular white wines are Malagousia, Robola, Moschofilero, Athiri, Savatiano, Tsaoussi and Muscat. This extensive variety of grapes together with the Greek climate, lots of sunshine, low rainfall and soils of moderate fertility combine to provide excellent conditions for the production of high quality wines.

Greek taverna Leros
Eat Greek

Visitors prefer to eat Greek. Holiday customers prefer traditional Greek foods when they visit a taverna, according to a recent survey. Visitors to the Greek islands will see many Greek tavernas offering an English menu to attract more customers but the owners could be missing out. Most tourists choose traditional Greek products when on holiday according to research data from the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce. The research find that most Greek Island visitors combine visits to the taverna with some other tourist activity such a sunbathing or walking. When they stop for lunch or an evening meal most will ignore English food and choose a traditional Greek meal such as Greek salad, souvlaki or moussaka. The research also finds: 'A small percentage of tourists combine visits to tourist sites of archaeological interest and to museums with purchases, and a smaller percentage of about 16% combines purchases with their night out.' The research investigates the consumer profile of tourists, the way they organise travel and accommodation and their opinions on shopping and eating out while on holiday in the Greek Islands. It appears that most visitors come with a willingness to buy Greek products during their holidays and are less likely to make purchases that can be found in their own countries. Taverna owners offering English meals only may be losing out on an increasing willingness on the part of visitors to try local products. If you take a holiday in Greece this year it might be a good idea to try the local cherries. The Greek cherry season is in full swing and farmers expect a very good crop this year. A spokesman said: "The weather in Greece has been very good up to now and the picking is just about to begin. We expect a very good harvest." Poor weather has hit cherry picking in Holland and Belgium this year and Greek cherry exporters expect very good sales this year.

Greek olive crop

Sunshine blow to olive crop. Sunshine may be fine for Greek Island holidaymakers but it looks like hitting Greek olive oil producers hard this year. The situation is very bad in parts of Halkidiki where growers forecast catastrophic losses more than 80% in this year's olive crop. Hot weather in May and June has burnt the fruit just as it was setting and the damage is irreversible say growers who forecast a dramatic drop in olive oil and table olive output later this year. The impact will not only affect growers, of course. There is sure to be a knock-on effect across the industry, from package and bottle producers to transporters and distributors. The cultivation of table olives in the region of Halkidiki has been very hard hit with an estimated decline in fruit so far of more than 70% and no sign of a change in weather conditions. Some parts of the region are talking of a total catastrophe this year with even 100%, of the crop written off as the weather conditions militate against fruit setting. Olive oil producers may ask the European Union for special help to offset the losses this year and to exam of the possibility of special benefits to affected growers to keep businesses from folding. Early flowering of olive trees looked promising earlier this year but a spell of very warm weather prevented fructification in some areas and what many fear will be a total loss of this years olive crop. There are many different olive varieties in Greece for example: Manaki, Koroneiki, Lianolia, Chondrolia (also called Throumbolia) and Tsounati. The poor weather has had an impact on all varieties.

Olive oil drizzler
Olive oil ban

Taverna outrage at olive oil ban. A proposed ban on olive oil drizzlers on Greek Island taverna tables has been dropped less than a week after it was proposed. EU plans to bring in new rules on serving olive oil to diners triggered outrage in restaurants across Greece and the Greek Islands. The Commission was set to ban restaurants and tavernas serving olive oil in refillable jugs or bowls in a move designed to protect holiday customers from fraud. But the plan has been dropped following complaints from political leaders in Greece, France and the Netherlands. Announcing the U-turn EU farm commissioner, Dacian Colios, said it was clear that public opinion did not support the move. The proposed ban was designed to stop taverna owners filling table pourers with cheap olive oil and charging high prices by claiming it was high quality. But critics dubbed the plan interfering, bureaucratic and unenforceable. They asked if 'olive oil police' were about to tour Greek tavernas at night checking on olive oil supplies. Others complained that most olive oil fraud occurs before the oil reaches taverna tables such as when inferior oil is sold on as high quality virgin cold pressed olive oil, a practice well known in countries like Italy. Ciolos said the EU would now consider revised rules to protect olive oil producers after consultations with manufacturers, consumer groups and the restaurant industry and promised to avoid any unnecessary red tape. Under the proposed regulations Greek tavernas would have been forced to use sealed, non-refillable bottles and disposed of them when they were empty.

Lamb stifado or 'bandit's lamb'
Recipe: Lamb kleftiko

'so easy to prepare but looks so impressive'. Lamb kleftiko is one of the most popular traditional Greek dishes, and you will be hard put on a Greek island holiday to find a decent taverna that does not include lamb kleftiko on the menu. Lamb kleftiko is basically lamb cooked slowly in a parcel of vegetables. Again, as with most Greek meat recipes, it is the slow cooking that makes all the difference. The great thing about lamb kleftiko is that it is so easy to prepare but looks so impressive on the plate. The lamb should be melt-in-the-mouth and the vegetables infused with all the meaty juices. I prefer using lamb shank for kleftiko. This meaty cut comes from the lower end of the leg, and it's not only full of flavour it also gets mouth-meltingly tender with long, slow cooking. It also lends itself very well to creating 'parcels' of lamb. You could also cut a leg of lamb into suitable portions – allow 1kg for six portions Kleftiko is a Greek word for 'stolen' and the recipe is sometimes referred to as 'bandit's lamb'. I'm told by a Greek taverna owner that the recipe derives from a stolen sheep or goat cooked in a hole in the ground for several hours. The hole was sealed prevent steam escaping and giving the thief away. I'm not convinced, but today's recipes seal the meat in a paper pouch to keep the lamb moist and to trap the fragrant juices. This lamb kleftiko recipe comes from Lefkas Ori (White Mountain) in Crete, notorious bandit country where roadside signs are often peppered with bullet holes, and it is for six lamb kleftiko portions – just vary the amounts to suit. Ingredients to serve 6 6 lamb shanks3 carrots3 large potatoes1 large onion3 medium tomatoes6 garlic cloves1 lemon150 ml olive oil½ teaspoon oregano½ teaspoon thymesprig of rosemarysalt and pepper12 sheets of greaseproof paper – about 30cm squaresome string 1. Cut carrots and potatoes into thick slices and mix in a bowl. 2. Lay two sheets of greaseproof paper on top of each other. 3. Fold the paper one way then the other to form a cross in the middle 4. Place a layer of potato and carrot in the centre of the paper. 5. Stand a lamb shank on top of the vegetables. 6. Nick each shank with a knife and insert a garlic clove. 7. Slice onions and tomatoes into 12 and stack two slices around the lamb. 8. Add oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper and squeezed lemon juice to the olive oil. 9. Fold the corners of the paper upwards into a pouch and spoon on some olive oil juice. 10. Tie the paper with string and place in an open oven dish.Repeat for each parcel. 11. Leave in the middle of the oven at 160°C for at least two hours. 12. Turn off the oven and let the parcel 'rest' for about 20 minutes. Place each parcel on a warm plate and just open it to serve. Add some lightly cooked spring greens drizzled with a little olive oil or some salad and rice. Lamb kleftiko is almost guaranteed to bring back all those memories of Greek taverna meals enjoyed on a holiday in Greece.

Agricultural August 2012
Healthy Cretan diet

Cretan diet on show in Chania. The Cretan diet has long been recognised for its healthy properties and very best of Crete food products have been on show in Chania this August. Visitors on a Crete island holiday have had a chance to visit the Agricultural August 2012 promotion held at Chania's Western Moat. The focus of this year's event, the 14th exhibition of its kind, is on the wide variety of unique food produced in Crete's mountain villages. Two of the culinary specialities to get top billing are Chania's own 'pichtogala' and Crete's very popular 'graviera' cheese. The exhibition of Cretan foodstuffs, which includes many varieties of the island's exceptional olive oil, will travel to Athens and Thessaloniki later in the year. The exhibition, in true Greek tradition, also includes cultural events as well as music and dance in the evenings. Exhibition organisers have also been handing out mouth-watering editions of the new Cretan Food Journal 2013. Several studies have been carried out to test the effect of Cretan diet on human health and the island cuisine island had attracted the attention of food scientists from as early as 1948. The health benefits of the Cretan cuisine are thought to be due to the daily use of olive oil and the use of low saturated fat. It is also thought to be high in vitamins and minerals, omega 3 and in vegetable fibre as well as rich in antioxidants and various phytochemicals.

The hillside vineyards of Samos
Samos wines win gold

Samos wines win more gold. Plenty of holiday visitors to the Greek Island of Samos like to take in a tour of the island's famous vineyards. Now a clutch of Samos wines have picked up gold medals at an international wine competitions held recently in Europe. Samos Anthemis 2006 and Samos Nectar 2008 both picked up gold medals at an international wine competition held recently in Thessaloniki while Samos Nectar 2007 also took a gold medal in the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles event in Belgium. And at the Vinalies Internationales, in Paris, both Samos Nectar 2007 and Samos VinDoux 2010 picked up gold awards and Samos Anthemis 2005 took silver. The world-class English wine magazine Decanter has also given Samos Vin Doux 2011 a bronze awards while Samos Grand Cru 2011 and Samos Nectar 2008 were granted silver medals. Samos Nectar is one of the oldest wines of Samos, with a deep amber color and a strong bouquet of walnut. Anthemis has a deep orange colour and aromas of honey and butterscotch while Grand Cru muscat is noted for its topaz colouring and fresh palate. It's another great year for the Union of Vinicultural Cooperatives of Samos (EOSS), based at Malagari, and which runs two complete wineries, each with its own rich tradition in producing wines on Samos. The Karlovassi winery is located in the north of the island, while the Malagari winery is just a short distance from the town of Vathi. Visitors to the Malagari vineyards can also enjoy a stroll around the Samos Wine Museum which opened its doors in 2005. Samos has around 1,600 hectares of vines,most of them planted on steep terraced hillsides. They make one of the prettiest wine landscapes in the world at 800 metres above the Aegean Sea on the slopes of Mount Ambelos. Around 25 villages lie in the Samos wine region in more remote areas little affected by tourism. Most of the vineyards are in mountainous or semi-mountainous areas on deep soil with perfect drainage to produce the distinctive wines of Samos. The Samos Wine Museum is housed in that was once a privately-owned winery. The building itself is a 'living' exhibit, with huge wooden casks made in the early 20th century still in mint condition. Traditional wine making is brought to life with exhibits of tools of the trade, the vats and tubs and a display on the art of barrel making. There is even a simulation of the cultivation of grape vines on steep terraces, typical of Samos. The Wine Museum also offers fully-equipped conference facilities for use by the Union of Vinicultural Cooperatives of Samos .

Souvlaki is a popular Greek dish
Guide to Greek cuisine

Guide to Greek cuisine. The main principles of Greek cooking; the use of fresh ingredients, excellent olive oil, slow cooking and grilling, have remained since the days of Ancient Greece. Many of the dishes have not changed much over the years either. In Greece mealtimes play an important role in family and community life and food is something to be shared, savoured and enjoyed. The food served is designed to complement the gathering. Most Greek meals are made up of several courses, starting with appetisers and then moving on to fish and meat dishes before finishing up with sweet pastries. What, then out of the rich choice of dishes to be found in Greek cuisine, are the five dishes that any visitor should try? Meze Meze is the collective name given to appetisers that are traditionally served at the start of a Greek meal. However, Meze can be so delicious and numerous that they can be eaten as a lighter meal in themselves. Variations of Meze can be found in all the countries that formerly made up the Ottoman Empire. The list of Meze will depend on the restaurant but two of the most common dishes to be found on a Meze menu are Tsatsiki, which is made of yoghurt with garlic and cucumbers and Taramosalata, which is Greek red caviar, olives, a fried cheese called Saganaki and fried aubergines. Meze dishes are a mixture of hot and cold dishes and are served with bread. Moussaka Moussaka is a well known Greek dish that is to be found on nearly all the tourist menus. Despite this it is still a dish that should be tried on any visit to Greece. The most common form of Moussaka to be found in Greece is made up of a layer of aubergines which have been lightly sautéed, then a layer of minced lamb which has been cooked with onion, garlic and herbs with a little ground cinnamon and some chopped tomatoes. The dish is then topped with béchamel sauce and browned in the oven. Traditionally, Moussaka is served lukewarm. This version of Moussaka was thought to be first invented by one of the most influential Greek chefs of the twentieth century, Nikolaos Tselementes. He studied and was influenced by French cooking and was the man who introduced béchamel sauce into Greek cooking. Dolmades Dolmades is the name given to stuffed cabbage leaves, a traditional Greek dish. The contents of the stuffing vary, particularly according to the region. Minced meat of some sort or other is often used. However, you can also find versions that contain no meat. The basIs of these is usually rice. The sauce used also varies from region to region and can be based on tomatoes or on an egg and lemon sauce called avgolemono. Souvlaki Souvlaki is a very popular type of food in Greece. In essence, it is the Greek equivalent of fast food. It consIsts of food cooked on a skewer and then grilled. Souvlaki are generally made up of meat, traditionally lamb. However, you can also find Souvlaki made up of other types of meat such as chicken or pork and even some which are made up of fish, particularly firm fish such as swordfish. The Souvlaki contents are often eaten in a pitta, but they can be eaten straight from the skewer. Souvlaki have been part of Greek cuisine since the days of Ancient Greece and there is even a mention of them in Homer. There are special Souvlaki shops in nearly every town in Greece, which are very cheap. Generally, this form of cuisine, mirroring fast food shops, is designed to be eaten as a take away. Kalamari Any person who is planning a holiday to the Greek islands should definitely sample some fish during their stay. It will usually be very fresh and grilled with some herbs to give it some flavour. One of the most famous fish dishes in Greece is Kalamari or squid. Kalamari can be served in many forms. It can be dipped in batter and served lightly fried as part of the Meze course. Alternatively, it can be cooked slowly with vegetables such as tomatoes and served more like a stew as a main course. Tavernas are the best places to sample traditional food. They are used by the Greeks themselves when they eat out and will often have traditional music being played in the background. When choosing a taverna you should try and stay clear of ones that have signs in English outside them as this means that they will probably be very touristy. The best tavernas are those where there isn't a menu at all but where you simply ask the waiter what the best dishes are. If you can see a lot of Greeks in the taverna, it is worth trying. The Greek word for restaurant is 'estiatorio' and you can get some of the dishes here. However, tavernas remain the best choice for traditional Greek cuisine, unless you are trying Souvlaki in which case go to one of the traditional Souvlaki shops.

Greek vineyard on Kefalonia
Greek island wine harvest

Greek wine harvest suffers. A few bottles of wine usually feature on any holiday break in the Greek Islands, although Greek wine is not usually the first wine of choice. And as if Greece's economic problems were not enough this year, it now appears that Greek's grape harvest has been badly hit by mildew. Greek vineyards estimated wine production on the holiday islands this year will be nearly half the 2010 harvest – down to 230,000 tonnes from 330,000 last year. The 2011 Greek grape harvest was ten days later than in 2010 as mildew had affected leaf cover and even ruined some grapes in many of the Greek islands. Despite the downy mildew attacking many Greek island vines, producers are pleased to say that the quality of Greek wine for unaffected grapes has been very good. Greek island winemakers will admit that the downy mildew has been a problem in most years but it has recently become more resistant to treatment. Of all the the Greek wine producing islands the biggest blow has been to grape harvests on the holiday islands of Limnos, Rhodes, Samos, Zante and Kefalonia. Kefalonia island, in particular, as well as being one of the most poplar Greek island holiday destinations, is also well known for its Robola grape, with 3,200 acres of vineyards planted along the island's south coast in hilly areas between 250 and 800 metres high. The Kefalonia Robola grape is also resistant to drought and well placed to exploit the holiday island's poor, dry and stony soils. But the grape is also highly susceptible to mildew and to botrytis and the Robola grape is only moderately resistant to downy mildew. Robola is one of the finest of Greek dry whites wines with a subtle texture and full of flavour and a characteristic aroma that reminds many of the pleasures of a Greek island holiday. Wine tourism has also grown strongly in recent years and many Greek vineyards and wineries now offer tours to Greek Island holidaymakers.

Grilled sardines at festival
Crete sardine festival

Chania sardine festival hit. Holiday visitors to Crete island will find sardines on the menu when the 17th Sardine Festival gets under way in Chania this week. Grilled sardines are served up for free on the beach of Nea Chora on Monday, September 5 along with Cretan wine to kick off the popular holiday event. The 'Feast of Sardines' is as popular with Chania holiday visitors as it is with locals and has now become a social institution. Crete has a long sardine fishing tradition and it is celebrated each year in early September by the town of Chania with a festival on the city's Nea Chora beach, just a short walk from the Old Town. Nea Chora is a very fine beach, close to the city with soft gold sand and, if you are lucky, a really good sunset. Several good quality fish tavernas are strung along the back of the beach and they serve up grilled sardines. Food and drink would not be served in Greece without plenty of music and dancing and there is a rich music and dance programme to keep the celebration in full swing. "This event, which has established itself as an institution to Chania and New Town, aims to highlight the beauties and problems of the district and of course fish and sardines in particular, a better and healthier diet," said a spokesman. The capital of Crete until 1971, Chania, is one of Crete's most charming cities and, for many, its best-loved. It has a splendid harbour area and the city centre is a wonderful mix of Turkish and Venetian architecture.

Greek beach taverna
Greek taverna prices set to rise

Greek taverna prices set to rise. Tourist visitors on Greek Island holidays will soon notice an effect on their wallets when soft drink prices rise sharply in September. The Greek government has announced an increase in VAT from 13% to 23% for all soft drinks from September 1. The move will trigger a wave of price rises in Greek tavernas, shops and supermarkets which will have a direct effect on the pockets of those on holiday in Greece. According to the government the extra VAT will be imposed on all types of fruit and vegetable juices, coffee, tea and chocolate drinks as well as mineral waters, carbonated water and on all sugar-sweetened drinks. Tourist leaders say the price rises will affect hotels and tavernas across Greece, particularly hotels serving breakfasts and other meals where holiday prices have meals included. Owners of cafes, tavernas, snack bars, dairies and other holiday outlets will be forced to pass the increases onto customers. Only schools and hospitals will escape the VAT increase which the government insists is needed to help the country climb out of its huge debt problems. Plans to increase the VAT charged by restaurants and tavernas to 23% has come under fierce attack by political opposition parties. They say it will inflict serious damage on the tourism industry and lead to job losses. The rise from 13 to 23 percent was agreed in July part of the medium-term fiscal package by the EMF. Greece asked for a September rise to limit the disruption to the tourism industry. Opponents say Greece secured the right to lower VAT for restaurants when it joined the EC in 1981 and that VAT charged by restaurants in other countries, such as Italy, France, Cyprus and Portugal, is both lower than in Greece Despite these problems tourist visitors to Greece and the Greek islands continues to rise this year with 9.5% more holidays visitors than last year, according to figures release by the Greece tourism industry.

Santorini cherry tomato
Santorini tomato

Santorini is world famous for its dramatic setting, live volcano and astonishing sunsets glimpsed from white cubed hill villages perched on the steep walls of the caldera. It is less well known for its cherry tomatoes, a product of Santorini's volcanic soil. But the Santorini tomato has become so renowned in the horticultural world it is about to get its third conference. Experts arrive from around the world for Tomato Conference to be held on the holiday island of Santorini, on 8-9 July at the hall of the Union Cooperatives Theraic Products (Santo Wines). This year's conference will celebrate the recognition of the 'Santorini cherry tomato' as a European PDO (protected designation of origin) product.  This ensures that ensures that only tomatoes genuinely originating from Santorini can trade with the name. For the cherry tomato was once the main agricultural product of Santorini with up to as many as 13 factories operating in the 1950's. But many switched to more profitable winemaking.  The PDO designation has led to greater commercial demand and to more farmers on Santorini turning land over to tomato growing. The Santorini cherry tomato gets its unique character and taste from a hard and thick skin and its high sugar content.  Although called a 'cherry tomato', the Santorini fruit actually comes from a different species, and in two varieties. There is the fluted type and the 'kotiko' type which is more spherical. Both varieties are smaller than ordinary tomatoes, but larger than normal cherry tomatoes. The plants bear more fruit than ordinary tomatoes, ripen earlier, have a deep red colour and, possibly it most important attribute on a 'dry' island like Santorini, requires very little water. And, of course, its flavour – it tastes like a real tomato. Not only that, the Santorini tomatoes have more vitamin C than normal tomatoes and contain the greatest amount of lycopene in any other fruit or vegetable.  Lycopenes have become the focus of great attention because of their antioxidant qualities, a known preventative agent for certain types of cancers. And there is even more good news for the tomato. The lycopenes are not lost in cooking and the Greek staple olive oil even aids its assimilation into humans – a double bonus for tasty and healthy meals. Meanwhile, the conference organizers have invited scientists, researchers and food experts to share their knowledge on the Santorini tomato. And all this in a unique environment, the famous Greek holiday island of Santorini.

Robola wine from Kefalonia
Kefalonia wines

Everyone enjoys a few glasses of wine when on holiday and what better than to taste wine that has been grown in Greek Island vineyards. Kefalonia has a wine-making tradition dating back at least to Homer but this is an industry, and an island for that matter, that has suffered severe setbacks in modern history. Invasion, civil war and, most recently, the devastating earthquake of 1953 have al taken their toll on Kefalonia. But the earthquake was the biggest single event that cased the most damage. There were in fact four major tremors and the third basically levelled most of Kefalonia's buildings. Argostoli was basically flattened and only villages in the far north of the island, such as Fiskardo, survived intact. Of an estimated population of 125,000 only 25,000 stayed on the island. Those not killed in the earthquake simply left. Winemaking was among the first industries to recover, thanks Kefalonia's warm climate, natural geography and good soil diversity. Among the wineries that helped revive the ailing industry were Calligas Wines, which grew in the 1960's using native varieties. By the early 1970's Gentilini was making its mark in the wine world and in 1990 they were joined by Metaxas, again producing wines from local grape varieties. On Kefalonia today there are three appellations, Robola, Muscat and Mavrodaphne. The passion for winemaking has seen a resurgence in creating fine wines from local grape varieties. Robola of Kefalonia has a falvour that reminds the drinker of the higher slopes of Kefalonia where it is grown. Muscat of Kefalonia is a sweet, white wine that almost died out completely but is now experiencing a rebirth. Mavrodaphne of Kefalonia is another sweet red. Both the Muscat and Mavrodaphne are made in extremely small quantities. Kefalonia winemakers are also becoming more expert at wine blends. Other native white grape varieties that are used on Kefalonia include tsaoussi and zakynthiko. While on holiday in Kefalonia give the wineries a visit and get to know how good the wines are. Gentilini Winery has vineyards overlooking the Ionian Sea near the village of Minies. The winery is open for tours every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 5pm until sunset from June to September. The Metaxa Wine Estate is near Mavrata and produces exceptional Robola. The winery is open every day from 10am to 6pm, May to October. The Agroindustrial Coop of Robola Production of Kefalonia is located near the Monastery of Saint Gerassimos in the Omala valley 400 metres above sea level in the foothills of Mount Ainos. The winery is open all year round from 8am to 3pm and from June to September, 7pm to 8pm. Also pay a visit to the Foivos Winery for a complimentary tasting. The winery is in Vouni village on the Pali Peninsula and is open from April to October, Monday to Friday 11am to 1pm and 7pm to 8pm.

Greek favourite – beef stifado
Recipe: Beef stifado

Secret of a good stifado is slow cooking. Stifado is a traditional Greek dish served up by virtually every Greek Island taverna. Beef stifado is a nourishing meaty stew made with shallot onions and should be pronounced stifatho rather than stifado with emphasis on the 'fa'. The meat is usually beef but it can be lamb, rabbit or any sort of game. The flavour is in the thick sauce made slightly sweet by the added shallots. The secret of a good Greek beef stifado is the slow cooking which should result in deliciously flaky, melt-in-your mouth beef and a richly infused thick sauce. The only danger with slow cooking beef stifado is that the sauce may dry out. It is important to cover the casserole with a heavy lid or use a couple of layers of thick foil. I sometimes do both. If the sauce looks like drying out then simply add some hot water. Here is the best recipe I have used for a traditional Greek beef stifado: Ingredients to serve 4-6 1kg lean beef500g shallot onions2 large onions3 large tomatoes2 tbl of tomato paste1 whole nutmeg1 cinnamon stick4 garlic cloves2 bay leavessprig of rosemary4 tbl extra-virgin olive oil2 small glasses of red winecider vinegarblack pepper. 1. Put the chopped onions in a large skillet with the olive oil and cook on a low heat until the onions soften. 2. Cube the beef and add to the skillet turning up the heat until the meat is sealed. 3. Turn down the heat and add finely chopped garlic, chopped tomatoes, crushed nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, rosemary and a good pinch of black pepper. 4. Stir on a moderate heat for 2 mins then add the wine and tomato paste. 5. Add a generous splash of cider vinegar and stir well. 6. Turn out into a casserole dish an add enough warm water to cover the meat. 7. Cover with foil and cook in oven at 180°C for 40 minutes. 8. Peel the shallots and shallow fry on a low heat until soft – don't let them burn. 9. Remove casserole from the oven and spoon in the shallots (not the oil). 10. Return to oven at 150°C for another hour or until the meat is soft and tender. Crown with some spinach leaves and serve with creamy mashed potato (use creme fraiche if you are weight conscious), with plain white rice or just some warm crusty bread. Traditional Greek beef stifado is a very filling meal and, you know what, is best eaten out of doors to give it that true Greek stifado flavour.

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