Ionian Islands: Their unique local Products & Cuisine
Located on the western side of Greece, the Ionian Islands are a group comprising seven larger islands and a number of smaller islets. The seven main islands are Corfu, Paxi, Lefkada, Cephalonia, Ithaca, Zakynthos and Kythira. They are well known for their beautiful sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, picturesque towns, charming villages, stunning scenic countryside and of course, unique culinary tradition.
The Ionian Islands are at the top of the gastronomic interest in Greece, with a variety of excellent local products and unique flavors they offer to each visitor. Being a focal point on the map of the country, as it is a main gateway from the rest of Europe, the Ionian Islands can also be considered as the first and ideal “introduction” to the famous Greek gastronomic tradition.
As the President of the Agri-Food Partnership of the Ionian Islands Region, Mr. Nikolaos Mouzakitis, points out: "The Ionian Islands can well be an important gastronomic destination with trademark products, long history and world-famous nutrition. The producers of the area can offer a high level cuisine, as well as guided tours and other activities of gastronomic interest, through which the visitors will be introduced to a unique tradition of authentic hospitality and top flavors".
The President of the Agri-Food Partnership of the Ionian Islands, Mr. Nikolaos Mouzakitis, at the 3rd Corfu Gastronomic Festival "Corfu Food and Wine Festival".
The Ionian Islands are known for the large variety of products grown in the agricultural areas, among which is the pure olive oil, local wines, figs, honey with its aromatic taste, fruit liqueur, meat, cheese and the tasteful legumes. As for the cuisine, it has more influences from Italian cuisine than can be found in any other part of Greece due to the long period of Venetian rule in the area. Fresh fish is a big part of the local culinary tradition, but there are plenty of other recipes based on lamb, beef, local vegetables and pasta.
Flavors & Products of the Ionian Islands
The Ionian cuisine is one of variation and diversity and is famous all around Greece! A trip around the Ionian is not completed without tasting the unique local products and dishes.
It is a reference point for the Ionian Islands and is famous for its top quality, since the soil and climate of the region favor the cultivation of olive trees and, consequently, its production. The local olive oil is extra virgin of excellent quality, which is a key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet and particularly beneficial for the human body.
The favorable climatic conditions, with mild winter and dry hot summer, help the production of excellent local grape varieties with rich and strong aromas and refined taste such as Robola, Moschato and Mavrodafni of Cephalonia, Augustiatis and Gustolidi of Zakynthos, Kakotrygis and Petrokoritho of Corfu, Vardea and Vertzamo of Lefkada.
Highly healthy and nutritious, honey is one of the local products of the Ionian Islands which we must try and also buy. The honey produced on the islands is of exceptional quality, a fact that is due both to the knowledge and care of the experienced beekeepers of this blessed place and to the ideal climatic conditions that prevail throughout the area.
The Ionian Sea offers a variety of herbs that have been used since ancient times as medicinal plants with excellent healing properties. Amazing herbs that grow on the steep mountains of the Ionian land are collected, dried under natural conditions and then packaged, without any chemical or other processing.
LOCAL FLAVORS & PRODUCTS
During your stay in one of the beautiful parts of the Ionian Islands, you should definitely try some of the delicious local cheeses, like kefalotyri, graviera, prentza, latotyri of Zakynthos. Also, noumboulo (from Venetian nombolo) a traditional charcuterie product, made from pork, cured with salt and spices and marinated in wine and air dried salami of Lefkada. Try the sweet flavors of pasteli (sesame seed and honey bars), pastokydono and mandoles, pudding of Cephalonia and various spoon sweets. Taste the local fruit kumquat in sweets, marmalades and liqueurs, the delicious and nutritious black “stafida” (raisin) and drink tsitsimbira (ginger beer) and the local beer of Corfu. Buy olive oil soap from Corfu and unique lentils from Eglouvi, a village of Lefkada.
You can taste local kumquat in sweets, marmalades and liqueurs.
Pasteli is honey sesame bars, an ancient Greek dessert, an easy and healthy sweet snack.
Eglouvi, a village in Lefkada island, is famous for its unique lentils.
The famous gastronomy of the Ionian Islands promises unique tasting experiences. Try dishes such as: ‘savoro’ (a trademark dish which combines perfectly fresh fried fish with herbs and high quality vinegar and wine), ‘bourdetto’ (scorpion fish cooked in a red, spicy tomato sauce), ‘sofrito’ (veal steak slow cooked in a white wine, garlic and herb sauce), ‘pastitsada’ (braised beef, pork or rooster in a spicy cinnamon tomato sauce usually served with rigatoni pasta), ‘tsigaridia’ (wild greens or cabbage in spicy tomato sauce), bianco (a dish of Corfu with fish cooked in a garlic-lemon sauce with potatoes and black pepper), ‘frigadelia’ (pieces of lamb liver passed through a straw and baked), ‘tsilihourda’ (a traditional soup cooked mainly at Easter), ‘polpetes’ (potato fried balls), ‘sofigadoura’ of Zakynthos (pieces of lamb liver passed through a straw and baked), cod fish pie, avgotaracho (fish roe).
Bourdetto is scorpion fish cooked in a red, spicy tomato sauce.
Pastitsada is braised beef, pork or rooster in a spicy cinnamon tomato sauce usually served with rigatoni pasta.
Bianco is a dish of Corfu with fish cooked in a garlic and lemon sauce with potatoes and black pepper.