The Greek menu contains something for everyone. Famous for their selection of smaller plates that comprise a whole meal (rather than the typical three-courses), Greek food may share a similar palate to Italian, but the style of the cooking is rather different.
Kefalonia is just one of the idyllic Greek islands that sit in the Ionian Sea, and as such it is a great place to sample fresh sea food, but it is also a place that's known for rearing fantastic meat. Both are sold fresh in local markets and in the island's restaurants, or tavernas and estiatorios.
Fresh food and the enjoyment of it makes up a large part of the Greek culture. Eating is a social activity, and meals out are relaxed, tasty affairs.
For eating outside of the local taverna, Kefalonia is a dream location for those on the hunt for entirely local produce. Though many of the shops on the quaint, upmarket streets of Fiskardo town have their colourful doors thrown wide and may feel a bit market-like, more traditional, large produce markets take place in Argostoli. Down by the harbour, you'll find fish, meat, fruit and vegetables for sale – though not usually between the hours of 2 and 5pm.You'll also find many highly recommended restaurants in Argostoli, a firm favourite for all food lovers visiting Kefalonia, and you can find out more about the towns of Kefalonia in Villa Plus' guide to the island.
As an island, Kefalonia loves seafood. Whilst the food is not spicy, it still has the taste of the Mediterranean thanks to the range of spices that are frequently used in Greek dishes, but the flavours are typically full and rich as Kefalonians still embrace the one-pot dish style of slow cooking.
Whilst fish (psari) is commonly served this way, other Kefalonian dishes include Sofrito, which is veal that's been cooked in wine, herbs, garlic and vinegar which is then reduced to a thick sauce. Stifado is also a common favourite on the island, and is a rich, meaty stew that is usually made with dark meat like beef, rabbit or lamb.
Kefalonian cuisine isn't solely slow-cooked though. Lamb, or Arni, that's marinated in olive oil and lemon juice, grilled and served on skewers is always popular, as is the Greek staple of Moussaka, where lamb, aubergines and tomatoes are layered in a dish and topped with a cheese sauce before being baked. The cheese used is typically Keftalotiri, a Greek hard cheese not too dissimilar to Parmesan.
Like that of many Mediterranean countries, Greek cuisine doesn't focus too heavily on the desert part of the meal. That being said, be sure to try the baklava should you get the chance, as the light but crunchy layers of nuts and pastry also ooze with honey – often locally sourced – and create an incredible sweet treat.
Cooking Greek food is not as complicated as you might think, and it's a great way to try out some of the dishes before you depart on your Kefalonian adventures.
Many of the herbs and spices you'll need will be found in your existing stores if you're partial to cooking Italian food, and these dishes are relatively healthy too! Here, we're going to look at making a Moussaka which is perfect for a weekend dinner.
For the Moussaka, you'll need:
- A large, finely chopped onion
- 4 cloves of chopped garlic
- 3 sliced aubergines
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 500g of minced lamb, though beef can make a slightly less-tasty substitute
- Small glass of red wine
- 2 tablespoons of tomato puree mixed into 150ml of water
- 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of oregano
- Handful of flat parsley, chopped
For the cheese topping, you'll need:
- 500ml milk
- 60g plain flour
- 60g butter
- 2 beaten eggs
- 50g of kefalotyri, though you can also use parmesan if the Greek cheese is too hard to find!
Firstly, pre-heat the oven to 180C, and cut the aubergines lengthways. These slices should be around 5mm thick. Pop them onto oiled baking sheets, and give them a little olive oil and seasoning before baking until soft and golden – this should take around 25 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the onion in the olive oil until soft, then add the garlic, cinnamon and oregano before stirring in the lamb mince. Once browned, add the tomato and water mixture, and simmer on a low heat for around 30 minutes. Ideally, the liquid in the pan will have reduced, or else your Moussaka will be too runny and won't hold its shape once baked.
Whilst the above pan is simmering, it's time to make the cheese topping. Melt the butter over a low heat before adding the flour, and stirring to form a paste. Next, turn the heat up and add the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly to avoid any lumps. Once combined, add all the cheese and lower the heat again, giving the sauce time to thicken. Once it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, take it off the heat entirely and allow to cool before beating in the eggs. You could even add a good dose of nutmeg here, if you'd like to make the taste authentically Greek!
Arrange a layer of aubergines on the bottom of an oven dish, and then top with a portion of the cooked meat and onion mix, then repeat until you've run out of ingredients! Finishing with the aubergine will create a nice base for your sauce to sit on though, so bear that in mind when dividing up your prepared goods. Lastly, top the dish with your sauce and grate some more cheese on top. Then, bake for around 45 minutes and allow time for it to cool before serving. Enjoy!