Corfu is an island different from the others. Majestic and stately, it draws its glamor from a history full of European influences, as it has always been a crossroads of many cultures. Its cultural identity consists of a creative synthesis of characteristics that go beyond the traditional color of the rest of Greece, enchant the visitor and transport him to another dimension. It is characterized by a strong Venetian element, but has many English and French influences.
The Corfiot cuisine
Whatever one might say about the local flavors will be insufficient. Let us not forget that the island remained under the rule and influence of the Venetians for 411 years! Thus, the cuisine -mainly of Corfu town- remains purely Venetian, with additions of Italian, British and French elements. It is remarkable that even today the names of the foods and the way they are prepared remain the same as in the time of Venetian rule. Let’s look at some of the most typical recipes:
Strapatsada: beaten eggs with bone broth, butter and brandy.
Manestra kolopimpiri: noodles with red sauce from fresh tomatoes, onions, carrots and celery, cinnamon, cloves and plenty of red pepper.
Manestra bourou-brourou: spaghetti cut into small pieces with fresh tomato sauce and potatoes.
Fasoupa with petsalina: Venetian thick soup from dried beans, ham and rosemary.
Tsigareli: fried wild greens with finely-chopped onions and garlic.
Eggplants pastroccio: eggplant slices, sprinkled with cheese and layers of boiled eggs, pancetta, salado, tomato sauce and basil.
Rizi- bizi: traditional Venetian risotto with peas, onion and ham.
Pastitsio chi nona: a variation of pastitsio with filo layers in the oven. The pasta is mixed with butter, tomato, sugar, cheese, boiled eggs, pieces of ham, salado and chopped chicken and lamb or beef, wrapped in leaves like a pita and baked in the oven.
Pastitsada: this is the most popular food in Corfu and is offered at formal meals and celebrations. It is made with beef and tomato sauce to which the spetsieriko mixture of spices is added, the, which contains cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cumin and bay leaves. Many homes make their own mix, but many also buy it ready-made. The village pastitsada is made with rooster. The locals say that the pastitsada is sufficiently well cooked only when the sauce is so thick that it stains their men’s moustaches!
Sofrito: thin slices of fried beef, with white sauce of chopped garlic, parsley, white pepper, white wine, salt and vinegar.
Stoufado: a casserole dish cooked for many hours on the edge of the fireplace. These are pieces of beef marinated with wine, onion, finely-chopped garlic, carrot, celery, rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf and salt and pepper. Fried with oil and chopped pancetta and then boiled with all the marinade and a little extra sugar.
Tingola: fried liver with onion rings, quenched with wine, drizzled with tomato juice and plenty of chopped parsley.
Figadelia: pieces of beef liver with oregano and cinnamon wrapped in lamb suet and cooked in a pan or on charcoal.
Bourdouni: a special and heavy sausage from coagulated beef blood and pork fat passed into large intestines with chopped onion, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper. It is fried and then quenched with vinegar.
Nouboulo: a local sausage of excellent quality consisting of whole pork tenderloin, salted and sprinkled everywhere with pepper, passed in the intestine and smoked over a fire of fine woods and various aromatic herbs: sage, dried fennel, mallow plant, pennyroyal, myrtle, oregano and almond peel. The discreet and at the same time spicy note of the smoke gives this delicacy’s its special flavor. It has a slightly pink color inside and is served cut into very thin slices.
Corfu also produces a wide variety of dairy products. Corfu cow butter with its pungent taste and rich aroma is unique in its kind. There are many makes of Corfu-type butter, but the authentic one is made by a few producers on the island. Corfiot graviera cheese is delicious and quite spicy, while Corfu Cheese comes from the Italian Grana cheese and stands out for its special taste.
Tsitsimbira (gingerbeer): once a favourite soft drink in all the Ionian Islands since the time of the British, today it is made only in Corfu. It is prepared by a small craft artisan brewer with lemon juice, natural lemon oil, grated ginger of excellent quality, white currants, water and sugar. Delicious and refreshing, it is ready after three weeks of fermentation and is served in cafés from Easter to autumn
Kumquat: This tree came to Europe from Japan only in 1846 and was planted experimentally in Corfu by the British. Very quickly its cultivation spread mainly in the areas of northern Corfu, where the special climatic conditions favored its development. In particular, the plain of the Nymphs proved to be an ideal place. It is worth mentioning that kumquat is cultivated only in Corfu and is recognized as a product of P.G.E. Kumquat liqueurs, candied fruits and pastries are sold all over the island. Kumquat liqueur is drunk plain or with ice, or you can create your own cocktails with it.
Present are also the kaniskia pita without filo layers, as in other parts of Greece: with meat, fish, cheese, eggs and everything else that might be available. Typical is the roubelopitta (with robin meat, garlic, onions, salt, red pepper, bran and flour).
Fatty fish such as bonito and tuna are baked on the tile. The eels are boiled with fried onions and tomatoes. The cuttlefish are roasted in the ashes, while the sardines on a layer of fried leeks.
Land and sea snails (boboloi) are boiled or deep-fried with onions and herbs.
The burdeto (one of the most popular dishes today) is made with scorpionfish, tope or cod, deep-fried onion, red pepper and hot dried peppers. The potatoes and the broth from the fish make the accompanying skordalia (garlic dip).
Gemistos gavros is made with anchovies stuffed with dry cheese, garlic, pepper and parsley and accompanied by a sauce prepared with tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar, oregano and olive oil.
Savoro: a classic food of sailors. Small fish, usually sardines, anchovies or large puddles, are laid out in a clay pot and cooked with chopped garlic, rosemary, vinegar and black currants.
Bakaliaros with agiada: salted cod in chunks with agiada, which is a garlic dip made from peeled almonds, garlic, bread, olive oil and vinegar.
Bakaliaros bianco: cod or tope with potatoes in the pot with white sauce of chopped garlic, parsley, lemon juice and black coarsely chopped pepper.
Ospria (legumes) are accompanied by greens, mushrooms, artichokes and various vegetables. Vetch and broad beans are soaked and boiled with salt, rosemary, olive oil, grated pepper and lemon. The beans are cooked with salted pork fat (‘petsalina’).
In sweets and desserts, Corfu may be a little behind in terms of cooking, but still has some favorite recipes:
Sykomaida or sykopita: pie made of must and dried figs, flavored with anise, pepper and ouzo.
Mandoles: roasted and caramelized almonds.
Pastafrolles: is the well-known pastry with dough and jam. (the well-known pastaflora),
Koutsouloi piperatoi: small doughs made of sugar, water, flour, honey and pepper, and baked in the oven.
Fogatsa: a kind of bun of Venetian origin.
Tzaletia: kneaded with butter and cornflower and baked in the oven, and are then drizzled with water mixed with orange juice and sprinkled with sugar.
Mustastonia: almonds ground with sugar, eggs and vanilla, shaped into balls and baked in the oven.
Rozada: oven-baked cream with caramel syrup.
Bianketta: macaroon with tangerine.
The most popular fruits: arbutus berries, locust beans, berries, pomegranates, wild pears, damsons, raspberries, prickly pears and kumquat.