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Greek Island gourmet: Cooking in Crete

12:00 AEST Fri Oct 7 2011
Jason has just been enlightened. When it comes to enjoying food full of flavour and the country's culture, particularly at Sunday lunch, the Greeks are world-beaters.

His education began at 10.30am one Sunday in the village of Archanes, an hour's drive from Iralkion on the Greek island of Crete.

It's quite a large village and has been restored and beautified with European Union funds. It has retained as much of its original atmosphere as possible, and it's alive, clean, traditional and very friendly.

Stone paved streets, displays of blooming flowers, fruit trees and other plants are in the yards, terraces and balconies of the houses and a walk around the back streets is a pleasure. It could also serve to put you in good stead for an afternoon of eating and drinking.

After church, everyone seems to make a bee-line to the pretty town square to one of cafes or tavernas with outdoor seating and tree-shaded terraces.

Jason went to Taverna Ambelos where Mama Crystale was gearing up for a traditional big fat Greek feast.

It kicked off with one of the all-time favourites, dolmades. The stuffed vine leaves vary from region to region. Some have beef, some pork, some both and there are vegetarian versions, but they all taste good. Every village has a woman who is the best dolmades maker.

All of Crystale's ingredients are from her own garden, and she says that even though stuffed vine leaves can be found all over Turkey and the Middle East, they began in the days of Alexander the Great. Jason wasn't about to dispute that!

As Jason acted as Crystale's kitchen-hand, he saw her add dill, parsley and spring onion to rice and minced pork and mix it all up with some fine Greek olive oil. Dollops of the mixture were then placed onto a vine leaf and wrapped.

Jason was a bit of a fumbler at that part and Crystale had to keep re-wrapping his contributions. She explained it's all in the wrapping and there was no way she would put her name to a poorly wrapped dolmade. When they're ready to enjoy, Crystale pours a sauce of lemon juice and beaten egg over them and it's just a taste sensation.

A local tradition when everyone's together for Sunday lunch is they pour local wine and everybody at the table drinks from the same cup.

Then it's time to tuck into the main course. It's usually roasted lamb — no one does it better than the Greeks — wine, dancing, singing and lots of affection and laughter.


The Greek island of Crete.


Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre has five-day drive and dine packages in Crete. They include four nights' accommodation with breakfast, five-day car hire and dinner and lunch in selected local restaurants. They start at $525 per person twin share.

Emirates has flights to Athens and twenty-seven other European destinations via Dubai departing Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Connections to Crete are available. For an exclusive Getaway viewers' discount, log on to

Prices correct at October 8, 2011.

For more information

Ph: 1300 303 777

Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Alexandria 2015
Ph: (02) 9313 4633 1300 661 666
Fax: (02) 9313 4475

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