Corfu cuisine: a gastronomic paradise full of character!
If it is true that the culture of a place is reflected in its cuisine, then Corfiot cuisine with its unique character is absolute proof!
The culture of Corfu is so distinctive you can feel it in the air, let alone in the aromas and flavours of its cuisine. With strong traces of Venetian influence due to Corfu’s 411 years as a Venetian protectorate, Corfiot cuisine offers locals and visitors alike a singular dining experience.
Corfiots love strong, rich flavours and intense aromas and colours prevail in their cosmopolitan dishes. In general, Corfu’s cuisine expresses the love of its people for the joy of life. This joy shines through in their dishes and is tasted and appreciated by visitors to the island.
The basic ingredients in Corfu cuisine.
The Corfiot cuisine is distinguished by refinement and authenticity without being luxurious or complex. It makes use of the seasonal goods of nature, such as the abundant native herbs, vegetables, onions, garlic, fish and to a lesser extent meat, wine, oil and vinegar. The Corfiots have been producing wine since the time of Homer. When much of the vineyards were destroyed by the Turkish raids of the 16th century, the Venetian patrons of the island planted thousands of olive roots all over the island. The result is the vast Corfiot olive grove and the abundant production of pure virgin olive oil to this day.
Something else abundantly used in Corfiot cuisine are the spices that the Venetians traded from the Eastern countries to the Western world at that time.
Corfu, because of its history and natural environment, has evolved over the centuries into an true gastronomic paradise of Mediterranean cuisine. Due to the Venetian influence many of the Corfiot specialities still have Italian names, with Sofrito, Savoro, Bianco and Pastitsada being the most popular!
Pastitsada, queen of dishes
All of the above and many other dishes of Corfiot cuisine are excellent and unforgettable to anyone who tries them. However, Pastitsada is the undisputed queen of Corfiot recipes!
The recipe is a topic of dissension between Corfiots and many battles have been fought for the sake of Pastitsada!
Half of the Corfiots claim that it is cooked without tomatoes, the other half with tomatoes. Half of the families boil the pasta in the sauce, the other half just stir it in. Half prefer to cook it with rooster, half with beef.
Everyone agrees, however, on the most important element that sets it apart from any other dishes of Mediterranean cuisine: its spices!
Pastitsada is cooked with a mixture of many spices. This spice mixture is called spetseriko by the locals. Until a few years ago, most families and professional chefs obtained it from Carmela Deleonardou’s historic pharmacy in the centre of town. After the owner’s death, the pharmacy closed and took with it the secret of the proportions of the famous spetseriko.
Along with spetseriko, however, the way the Pastitsada is cooked is very important: slowly, in a specific order and with patience.
In the dining room of Nostos Food Hall, we cook fresh Greek and Mediterranean dishes every day and Pastitsada is the queen here too. To prepare and serve it authentically, we trusted our favorite cook XXXXX who learned the recipe from her mother, who learned it from her mother and so on down through history to reveal the recipe to us:
Ingredients for 4 people:
1,200 g rooster or beef
1 packet of coarse pasta for Pastitsio
2-3 large onions, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 cup of wine
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup of good vinegar
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
Spices: ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp allspice, ½ tsp hot red pepper, 2 tsp sweet red pepper, ¼ tsp cumin, ¼ tsp black pepper, 3-4 cloves, ¼ tsp nutmeg, 2 bay leaves.
½ teaspoon sugar
Firstly brown the meat in oil. Remove and brown the onion, garlic and bay leaf. Add the meat and spices, stir for 2 minutes and add the wine and vinegar. Add the sugar and tomato paste and reduce the heat to 3 to 4 (maximum 9).
Cook the meat, shaking the pot occasionally, for about an hour and a half with the lid off. Be careful not to let it dry out. You may need to lower the heat further or add a little more wine.
When it’s almost done, boil your pasta in plenty of salted water. Remove the meat from the pot onto a platter. Three minutes before the pasta is ready, using tongs add the pasta into the sauce. Stir the pasta and finish cooking it in the sauce.
Serve with the meat and grated hard cheese.
We suggest that you accompany your Pastitsada with a red wine of the Syrah or Cabernet variety to bring out the rich flavor of the spices, your homemade Spetseriko!