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Traditional Cretan Breakfast: The perfect way to start your day!

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The traditional Cretan breakfast is a beloved staple of the Mediterranean. It has been enjoyed for generations, with recipes passed down from mothers to daughters and fathers to sons. From savoury omelettes to sweet pies, there’s something special about a classic Cretan breakfast. Here you’ll find some of the most beloved recipes, preparations, and suggestions for making your morning a bit brighter. Enjoy!

Cretan Dakos

Cretan Dakos – traditional Cretan breakfast dish

The island of Crete is renowned for its traditional breakfast dish – Dakos, also known as Ntakos or Cretan Paximadia. This delectable concoction is made with tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, olives and rusks from the local area. It’s then topped with some fresh Mizithra cheese – a soft sheep or goat’s milk cheese – and finished off with a sprinkle of oil-cured olives and oregano. Delicious!

ūüí°Tip!
The dry barley rusks usually used for making Dakos can be tough to bite into. Soaking them in water is one way of softening them up, but for an even tastier result, try soaking them in the juices from a freshly grated tomato! Delicious and much better than using plain water.

Cretan Cheeses

Cheese is a symbol of Cretan longevity and good health, with most traditional dishes containing some type of sheep’s or goat’s milk cheese. This could be baked, fried, grated over meals, served as a side dish, or enjoyed for breakfast. Cows are rarely found on the island, making sheep and goat’s milk cheeses more widely available.

Graviera

Graviera is a hard cheese made from at least 80% raw sheep and goat milk, has a variety of smells and a buttery flavour. Milder graviera pairs well with sweeter flavours, while more mature graviera goes best with nuttier, hotter flavours. It is usually eaten on its own, with bread, or as an appetizer paired with tomatoes, olives, and olive oil. Graviera is one of the few Greek cheeses to be granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. In Crete, it is often enjoyed with honey for a delicious contrast in flavour and texture.

Mizithra

Mizithra is a popular Cretan cheese made with fresh whey from either sheep, goat or a combination of the two. It has a crumbly texture and is creamy with a slight tartness. Various sweet and savoury pies and salads such as dakos often feature mizithra as an ingredient.

Anthotyro

Anthotyro is a mild and soft sheep and goat cheese, is one of the most popular cheeses in Crete. A distinct variation of this cheese is the dried anthotyro, which has a saltier flavour as a result of being salted after it has been dried.

Cretan Pies

Lihnarakia

Lihnarakia – sweet cheese pastries from Crete

Lihnarakia are named for their similarity to an old-fashioned oil lamp and originate from the Greek island of Crete. These scrumptious pastries are as flavoursome as they are delicate and feature a crust that is somewhere between a cookie and a pie – tender, with a slight crispiness on the outside yet still soft. The traditional filling is made with Mizithra cheese.

Kalitsounia

Spinach filled Kalitsounia

Kalitsounia are small pies from Crete, which can be filled with either mizithra cheese or a combination of spinach, onion, fennel and olive oil. They are usually shaped into either squares or crescents before being baked in an oven – although in the countryside they may also be cooked in a generous amount of olive oil. Kalitsounia pies can be enjoyed as an appetizer or part of breakfast. These savoury treats are offered year-round in Chania and different varieties can be found across the island.

Marathopita

Marathopita – Cretan delicacy

A Marathopita is a circular, flat pastry filled with fennel and made with flour and olive oil – the name itself derives from two Greek words for ‘fennel’ (“maratho”) and ‘pie’ (“pita”). Fennel is a widely used and fragrant herb on Crete, not just in the kitchen but also due to its medicinal qualities. This savoury snack is traditionally lightly fried with some olive oil and served in small bites; it stands out for its unique taste and unforgettable scent that lingers long after leaving Crete.

Sfakiani Pies

Sfakianes Pites: Traditional Cheese Pies from Crete

Sfakiani Pies are specialties from Sfakia, a small town located in the hills of southern Crete. Made with local ingredients such as cheese, wild honey and olive oil, these thin and flat pies are filled with mizithra cheese – offering both sweet and savory flavors that can be appreciated all over the island. While they can be enjoyed straight away, heating them up briefly in a pan with some olive oil makes for a delightful savory treat. Furthermore, one could even drizzle some Cretan thyme honey on top to create an even sweeter experience.

Flavourful Chaniotiko boureki

Chaniotiko boureki

A speciality from Crete, boureki is a dish that pays homage to its origins under the name Chaniotiko. It consists of phyllo dough layered with potatoes, zucchini and Cretan mizithra cheese, flavoured with mint and other seasonal vegetables. Tomatoes may be added when in season during summertime, and squash or pumpkin can be substituted for potatoes in winter. It is a vegetarian delight truly unique to Crete.

Bougatsa

Cretan Bougatsa

Bougatsa is a pie made of smooth and crunchy filo pastry and can have various fillings. Cretan bougatsa is always sweet (there is no savoury version) and is filled with ksinomizithra cheese. Cretan bougatsa should not be missed when in Heraklion or Chania, the only two cities where Cretan bougatsa is available. We could not think of a better breakfast snack or accompaniment to coffee or tea!

An easy recipe of Sfougato – Cretan omelette with Zucchini

Zucchini Sfougato omelette from Crete

The famous Sfougato omelette from Crete is a delicious and quick meal to prepare. All you need are zucchini, tomatoes, onion, eggs, salt and oil.

Heat some oil in a pan, and sauté the finely chopped onion and sliced zucchini. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are done. Beat together eggs in a separate bowl, then pour the mixture into the pan with the vegetables. Stir gently and cook until the eggs are set.

Bon App√©tit! őöőĪőĽőģ ŌĆŌĀőĶőĺő∑!

From the classic breakfast of eggs to the sweeter bougatsa, it is easy to see why Cretan traditional breakfast is so beloved. It satisfies all tastes and offers an amazing way to start every morning in Crete! Thanks to its unique flavours, its nutrient-packed ingredients and its long-held place in Greek cuisine, Crete’s traditional breakfast is truly a marvel of gastronomy.

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