Guide to the Greek Islands: Which Islands are Right for you?

Guide to the Greek Islands banner.PNGTrying to choose which islands to visit on your Greek adventure is quite the daunting task with so many to choose from. Which ones are the best? Well that all depends on what you’re looking for.  Let me just say from experience, not knowing what you’re looking way is the best way to ruin your vacation. Are you looking for a party? A great place to eat? Beaches? Hikes? First thing you need to do is write down what it is you want to do. Now let me help you narrow it down from there:

Best for Hiking

Crete, Folegandros, Naxos

If you love to hike, the Greek Islands have many options. Samaria gorge in Chania is one of the largest gorges in the world and will be an unforgettable hike for any enthusiast. Naxos, with it’s venetian castles, provides an easygoing hike for people of all fitness levels. There are many paths all around both Naxos and Folegandros that connect villages and provide hikers with well maintained trails and sightseeing opportunities. For more on hiking check out my guides to Samaria Gorge, and Folegandros

Folegandros hike 3

Sprawling hills in Folegandros

Best for Swimming

Ikaria, Crete

If you’re looking for those perfect crystal blue waters, sprawling beaches, and hidden swimming holes, look no further than Ikaria or Crete. Seychelles Beach in Ikaria has the bluest water you will ever see, while Elafonissi Beach in Crete, has some insta worthy stretches of pink sand beaches.

seychelles beach

Seychelles Beach, Ikaria

Best Food

Ikaria, Crete

While you can’t go wrong eating anywhere in Greece, these two Islands were standouts for me. Both with their own unique cuisines emphasizing local, seasonal ingredients cooked traditionally. If you’re a foodie, do not miss these islands! Check out my guides to Ikaria and Crete for more

marymary

Traditional Grilled Fish and Legumes in Ikaria

Best for Partying

Mykonos

I first came to Mykonos when I was in my early 20s and looking for all night parties. Mykonos did not disappoint. While now 30, I don’t quite go looking for party islands so skipped it this time around but it still has the same reputation it always had. Thankfully, Mykonos also has some wonderful beaches, and cafes in which to recharge after a long night out.

Mykonos party.png

Beach Bar Party in Mykonos

Best for History Buffs

Crete, Rhodes, Santorini

If you’re looking for a history fix, you can’t miss Crete. This is the cradle of Western civilization and the Minoan civilizations are one of the oldest and mysterious in the world. If you combine a trip to Crete with Santorini, you get a greater understanding of the power of nature, and why the Minoan civilization disappeared. If Ottoman history is more your thing, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Rhodes where Medieval architecture is perfectly preserved. Check out my guides for more details on Crete and Santorini

Rhodes.png

Hippocrates Square, Rhodes

What do you think? If you have any other recommendations I’d love to hear them. Drop me a line in the comments and share your thoughts.

Happy Travels!!

Guide to the Greek Islands

 

 

Ikarian Wild Greens Fritters

fritters bannerThis recipe has been passed down through generations in Ikaria. Using the native carob flour from trees grown all over the island, it is a recipe every islander would make because of it’s nutritional value and price. Throughout World War II islanders primary source of nutrition was from the Carob tree. Today carob flour is still a very important part in the Ikarian diet. Patties, fritters and flat cakes made with wild greens, herbs and vegetables are staples in almost all of the restaurants on the island. However, you don’t need to wait to have them in a restaurant, they are so simple to make on your own, and the variations are endless. While the carob flour imparts a subtle sweetness that traditional flours do not, if you can’t find any you can just replace it with a flour of your choice. If you can though I definitely recommend checking out your local health food store to find some.

Ikarian Wild Greens Fritters

Serves 6 easily

  • 1½ cups chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1½ cups chopped fresh dill
  • 1 cup chopped fennel
  • 3 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 3 red onions, minced or grated
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup spelt flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup carob powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Olive or other oil, for frying
  1. In a bowl, combine the mint, dill, fennel, spinach, and onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  2. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda carob powder (if using) and a little more salt and pepper. Whisk in water and egg to make a thick batter. Pour the batter into the greens and mix lightly to combine
  3. In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter into the oil. Don’t crowd the pan. When the bottom of the fritters is set, flip to cook on the other side. Remove when dark. Should be 4-6 minutes total. The fritters will be a dark brown from the carob flour.
  4. Drain on paper towels and serveChard Fritters.png

IF YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE BE SURE TO TAG YOUR PHOTO #FIGSANDMAPLE

Ikarian Wild Greeens Fritters.PNG

 

 

Ultimate Guide to the Greek Islands: Ikaria

ikaria bannerJust when I thought there was no respite from the crowds in Greece, you come across a little gem that you can’t believe hasn’t been discovered by the masses yet. That little gem is Ikaria. Though I do hope it won’t be overrun with tourists when I come back, because I will be back one day. Ikaria has received a lot of attention in recent years from studies investigating the lifespan of it’s inhabitants. The largely agrarian Ikarian diet is widely recognized as the leading factor into why people here live well into their late 90s. A diet based on largely plants, and organic meat. The motto here as I’ve said in my previous posts is, if they don’t grow (or rear) it, they don’t eat it. I have definitely learned a lot from my time here and will keep sharing those recipes with you all. But in the meantime, back to my guide to Ikaria.

Getting to Ikaria

There are two main points from which to ferry here. You can catch a ferry to Ikaria from either Piraeus (Athens), an 11 hour journey. Or you can come via other islands such as Mykonos, Naxos or Paros.  Be sure to check the schedule in advance at the port, as the departures are not always regular. Check out the website here for some of your options.

Where to Stay

There aren’t a ton of options when visiting Ikaria, but there are some great affordable places to stay.

Erofili Beach Hotel This is probably the most popular hotel on the island. The value is great and the amenities are wonderful. Most units overlook the sea. All the rooms are clean and modern and have high speed wifi. The pool here is also large and relaxing if the sea isn’t your thing. Prices start at €55 (in shoulder season) and breakfast is included and delicious.ErofiliErofili breakfast

Things to Do

There is no shortage of things to do on Ikaria and if you’re a nature lover you’ll feel right at home

Visit Seychelles Beach

This is the main beach in Ikaria and is quite simply one of the most stunning beaches you’ll see anywhere. It’s like visiting the Seychelles in the Indian ocean, without the long flight. The water is just that blue. The beach may be covered in bright white pebbles but it’s still one of the most stunning beaches in Greece.seychelles beach.png

Check out one of the Mineral Spas and Hot Springs

Another reason why Ikarians live so long is the abundance of natural mineral spas and hot springs dotted around the island. These are one of the most “radioactive” springs in the world as temperatures range from 31C to 58C. Don’t be turned off by the term, it’s merely a unit of measure here. These springs are highly curative and people travel near and far to bathe in these waters. There are many springs to choose from but most are located on the southern and northern coasts. They are:

  • Agios Kyrikos: Springs Mustafa – Litza (Asclepius), Lower Loumakia and Kleftolimano.
  • Therma:  Cave, spring Pamfyli, Kratsa, Apollon, Artemis, Patero, Apollo Hotel, Chalasmenwn Thermwn.
  • Lefkada – Xylosyrti: Springs Chlio-Thermo, Thermo and ‘Athanato nero’(=Immortal Water).
  • Springs of Agia Kyriaki – Armyridas.
  • ikaria hot spring.png

Hike up to Theoktistis Monastery

The monastery of Theoktistis is located up high in the mountains near the village of Pygi. On the hike up you’ll pass by ancient stone houses and churches. Not to mention the scenery on the hike is spectacular

monastery

Where to Eat

I struggle to even make a “Where to Eat” section as this is basically an activity in itself. You can’t go wrong anywhere here, and you can’t walk more than a few minutes without smelling something delicious and want to stop. Here were some of my standouts though

Marymary Restaurant This is the best restaurant on the island without question. It is so good, it’s deserving of a Michelin star or two. The prices are more than reasonable for the quality of food you’re getting here. Order anything or grab a few people and try everything.marymarymarymary 2

Anna’s Fish Taverna When you see the sea outside the restaurant you better know you’re getting the freshest fish possible (at least here you are). They cook the fish right on hot coals. This is fresh and shellfish is grilled perfection. Try it as is or splurge on the lobster pasta. The prices are moderate but you’re getting the best quality so if you’re going to splurge it’s well worth it here.anna's taverna.png

Sta Perix Another restaurant stressing fresh grown produce. Try the mezze selection here and don’t leave without trying the feta in phyllo!Feta in Filo.png

When to Go

There is no wrong time to visit Ikaria. Obviously it’s nicer to go in the warmer weather of May through October, but there really isn’t a high or low season here and it’s not crowded at all

I hope this guide inspires to you visit this amazing island. If you’ve been here or are thinking about it drop me a line in the comments! Happy Travels

Guide to Ikaria

 

Soufico: Greek Roasted Vegetable Casserole

Soufico bannerWhile the weather has been warming up fast, the last couple days on Ikaria have been a bit nippy. I’m not going to complain too much since I’ve been blessed with many beach days so far. But the cool weather has one big perk and that is the return of some hearty Greek dishes. In Ikaria, the dish to soothe your soul (as well as your insides) is Soufico. This is an Ikarian specialty and each side of the island has their own variation. Definitely influenced by its Mediterranean surroundings, it’s very similar to a French ratatouille or an Italian caponata, where summer vegetables are key. Soufico, no matter where you’re from on the island must contain eggplant, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes. Some parts of the island toss in potatoes, pumpkin or herring, but in this dish, the summer vegetables are the key. My favourite version is one from the south of Ikaria. The recipe is a little bit lighter, and a little bit saucier and to me just screams cool summer days.

Soufico

Serves 4 (or 2 very hungry people)

  • 8 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 2 large red (or green) bell peppers, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1″ chunks
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ chunks
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
  • 2 large, ripe tomoatoes, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large dutch oven or skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic and cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add another 2 Tbsp of olive oil and add the eggplants. Cook until soft 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, oregano, and more salt and pepper.
  4. Cover and cook until all the vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and add remaining olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature with a side of crunchy bread

Soufico Greek Vegetable Casserole

 

 

Longevity Greens Pasta Pie

Longevity greens bannerThe people of Ikaria have got it figured out. On this one tiny island you’ll find the highest life expectancy in the world. Many have wondered how they do it, but if you ask the locals, they’ll just give you this non chalant shrug and say it’s the food. The diet on Ikaria is largely plant based. Now you won’t find many vegans or vegetarians here but they’re more than happy to eat plant based meal. If it can’t be grown, or raised on the island, it simply isn’t eaten. Personally, I think this is exactly the right way to live and I’m going to trust the people who clearly have it figured out!

One of the foods Ikarians swear by are the abundant greens grown around the island. From what I could make out from my painstaking sampling of them, it seems to be a mix of spinach, fennel greens and swiss chard and are at their peak in the early spring. You’ll find these greens in everything from fritters to pies. One of my favourite ways to eat these greens is in a pasta pie. It’s basically like a traditional spinach pie, except you replace the phyllo with fresh sheets of pasta. I mean who has time to make phyllo? And remember what I said…if they don’t make it, they don’t eat it! Now this pasta pie I had for the first time on the beach of all places. There was a cookout organized by some local restaurants. I don’t know if it was the open flame, or just eating by the water with a glass of local wine, but I can’t remember having a better meal in my life.

Here’s my recreation of that dish. I’ve used fresh pasta, but feel free to replace it with whole wheat or gluten free lasagne sheets. I have not yet mastered how to make my own whole wheat or gluten free pasta. I will try and figure it out one day

Longevity Greens Pasta Pie

(makes 1×9″pie in a springform or freeform pan)

For the dough

  • 250g (2 cups) plain flour (or whole wheat flour)
  •  2½ tablespoons olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 100ml warm water
  1. Mix the flour, oil, and salt in a large bowl or electric mixer. Slowly add the water and mix gently until it starts to form a paste. Keep mixing until it comes together into a dough then turn it out onto a floured work surface. Knead until smooth. You do not need to rest the dough, but wrap it in cling film until you’re ready to roll it our into a long wide sheet of pasta. When you are ready, cut the pasta into sheets, take a piece of dough the size of a tennis ball and roll out into roughly a 10cm wide and about 1/8″ thick. In order for this recipe to work, you need to get the pasta this thin to cook properly. You can do this by hand or if you’re lucky enough, a pasta roller. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Sprinkle each sheet with some semolina to keep them separate while you prepare the filling.

Filling

  • 2 pounds pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and coarsely grated
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, tough greens trimmed and discarded, whites and pale green parts rinsed well and chopped
  • 2 large red onions, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 500g (1 pound) spinach, coarsely chopped, washed, and well drained
  • 500g (1 pound) Swiss chard, coarsely chopped, washed, and well drained
  • 1 bunch sorrel, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small bunch chervil, chopped (about 1½ cups)
  • 1½ cups snipped fresh dill
  • 3 small bunches wild fennel, or green fennel leaves only, chopped
  • 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 small bunch fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 small bunch mint, leaves only, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1.  Place the grated squash in a colander. Salt and toss lightly. Place on a large plate or baking sheet and top with another plate weighted with cans. Leave to drain for 2 hours.
  2. Squeeze the squash with your hands to get rid of as much liquid as possible.
  3. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the squash and cook until it most of it’s liquid has evaporated (about 20-30 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and set aside
  4. Using the same pan, heat another 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and add the leeks and onions. Cook until translucent. Transfer to the bowl with the pumpkin
  5.  In the same skillet, add another two tbsp olive oil and wilt the spinach and chard together. Add to the bowl.
  6. Add the sorrel and the other chopped fresh herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper
    In the same pan, heat another tablespoon or two of olive oil and wilt the spinach and chard. Add to the bowl.
  7. Preheat oven to 200˚C/400˚F. Lightly grease a springform pan or rectangular baking tray with a little oil. Line the base and sides of the pan with strips of pasta. Lay long strips side by side and allow them to overlap by 2cm to prevent juices from leaking out. Aim to leave at least 7 cm of pasta hanging over the edges of the pan. This will be used to cover the top
  8. Spoon the filling into the pan. Fold the excess pasta over the top of the filling to create a border. Patch up any holes with leftover pasta. Do not make it too thick though. Brush the top with olive oil and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the pasta is golden and crunchy
  9. Leave to cool for 15 minutes (this will help the pie keep its shape). Alternatively, leave to cool completely and keep in the fridge to eat the next day. Or freeze and keep for 1-2 monthsSlice and Enjoy. This pie is great because it can be eaten hot or at room temperature, making it the perfect picnic food.

    Longevity Greens Pie

     

    IF YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE BE SURE TO TAG YOUR PHOTO #FIGSANDMAPLE

    Longevity Greens Pasta Pie

     

     

     

     

 

Guide to the Greek Islands: Paros

Guide to Paros banner.PNGAfter spending the past two weeks on fairly untouristed islands, my arrival in Paros was somewhat of a jolt back into the reality of visiting the Greek islands. While not as crowded as Santorini, the vibe of Paros is definitely a lively one

Arriving in Paros

Located right in the middle of the Cyclades, Paros is accessible from almost anywhere. All ferries arrive at the main terminal from Santorini (6.5 hours), Athens (6 hours), Milos (5 hours), Heraklion (12 hours). You can purchase tickets same day or buy ahead here

Where to Stay

Thankfully, with the influx of tourism on the island, there is a lot more available in terms of budget accommodation.

Paros Backpackers is a bare bones hostel located right in Parikia just steps away from the beach. The beds could use some updating but the hostel has an amazing terrace, outdoor pool, onsite bar and a location that couldn’t be better

paros backpackersParos backpackers beds

Hotel Swiss Home is perfect if you’re looking for a bit more than just the basics. The rooms are modern and comfortable right in the heart of the Old Port of Naoussa. While it’s not right on the beach, it’s near some of the best restaurants and bars on the island. Wifi and breakfast included. Rooms start at €64.Paros HotelParos hotel pool

What to Do

There is no shortage of things to do. You can relax on the beach, take part in a variety of watersports or party the night away. It’s got something for everyone.

Explore the Old Port of Naoussa

This is the heart of the island. This is where you’ll find all the cafe’s shopping, food, and bars open until the wee hours of the morning. It’s a lovely picturesque town full of life and character. Theres music playing in the streets, locals dancing in the alleys. This is island life.naoussa portnaoussa port harbour

Explore Parikia Town

If the pace of Naoussa isn’t your style then try our Parikia instead. It’s definitely got a more laid back and slow feel with the same amount of charm. Also located on the beach Parikia is also full of small restaurants and cafe’s, all night bars not so muchParikia.png

Stroll through Lefkes

This is another small town on the island, full of traditional homes and churches. If theres a photo of Paros that you’ve seen on Instagram that isn’t the beach, it’s most likely from LefkesLefkes.png

Visit some beaches

Paros is renowned for it’s white sand beaches and there’s no shortage to choose from

Lageri Beach

While more difficult to access, you’ll be rewarded for a quiet secluded place to sun and swim. The water here is just perfectLageri Beach.png

Faragas Beach

While Lageri beach is more laid back, Faragas beach is where you come for a more lively Greek Island party vibe. There are beach chairs for rent, and beach bars on site.Faragas BeachFaragas beach 2

Try some Stand Up Paddling

Rapidly gaining in popularity around Greece, Paros has some perfect calm waters for SUP. You can rent a paddle board from Paros Kite . If you’re looking for more of a guided excursion check out Paros Adventures

paros sup

Where to Eat

Republic Espresso Bar if you’re looking for a place to perk up in the morning a place to chill out with a cocktail in the evening. Located by Paroikia beach, sunsets here are beautiful.Republic Paros.png

Kafenio Palio Agora is a great option if you’re looking for traditional island food. Located in the heart of Noussa, this place is always full. You might have to wait a bit but it’s never too crazy. Definitely worth it though. Try a selection of mezze and the dakos pizzaKafenio.png

Markakis Restaurant if you’re looking for a bit of a splurge let it be here. The food is light, fresh and modern with the most beautiful of locations. The seafood here is incredibleMarakakisMarakakis seafood

If you plan on visiting the Greek Islands I’d love to know your tips on any other islands to visit or let me know what I’ve missed in Paros. Drop me a line in the comments!

Guide to the Greek Islands: Paros

Guide to the Greek Islands : Milos

Milos bannerWith 500 islands to choose from, it’s amazing how many travellers just stick to the same five islands. Having just arrived from Folegandros, I was shocked that my ferry to Milos carried at most 20 people. I knew immediately this was going to be an even more secluded island than I just experienced. One foot off of the ferry and I felt like I had been taken back in time. There was one road to the ferry and it was being blocked by a donkey. This is the Greece I’ve been waiting to see. Fun Fact Milos is where the statue of Venus de Milo, currently housed in the Louvre in Paris was unearthed. So it is a bit surprising that more people haven’t come to explore this island. It is also an island full amazing opportunities to hike, swim, sail, and kayak (oh and eat!). Everything I’m looking for.

Getting to Milos

Milos is incredibly well connected by ferry. It has connections from Piraeus (Athens), Folegandros, Heraklion, Ios, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Rhodes, Santorini and Sifnos (to name but a few). You can buy tickets same day but if you want to plan ahead you can book your tickets here.

Where to Stay

Much like the issues faced in Folegandros regarding scarcity of accommodation, this problem also exists in Milos to an even greater extent. If you’re on a serious budget your best bet is to find short term holiday rentals through Airbnb or TripAdvisor, but there are a few great hotel options to be found though.

Galini Hotel is definitely a surprise budget find. Overlooking the gorgeous blue water this no frills hotel has everything you need – clean beds, clean rooms, and free wifi. Prices start at €50

Galini hotelGalini room

Hotel Aeolis is perfect if you’re looking for some more modern comfort. The rooms are newly renovated, clean and bright, with some including small kitchens. Rooms are air conditioned, and have relatively fast wifi. Prices start at €88

aeolis hotelaeolis balcony

What to do in Milos

Milos is an active travellers wonderland. There is so much to do and so much natural beauty on the island

Beaches

There is no shortage of amazing beaches on the island. The two that stood out were the beaches of Sarakiniko and Kleftiko. Both beaches have been formed by the erosion of volcanic rock by the water, but Sarakiniko was left with pure white rock  that the locals often refer to it as lunar rock. The erosion of the rock has also created amazing caves to swim or even kayak in. If kayaking is your thing, Sea Kayak has some great tours of both beaches

Sarakiniko beachSarakiniko caves

Stroll through the Villages of Plaka and Pollonia

These towns will transport you back in time where the daily life revolves around the church, strangers are welcomed with open arms and food is all locally grown and farmed. If they don’t grow it, they don’t eat it.

The centre of Milos is named Plaka, and is located roughly 200m above sea level. Come here at sunset to take in the most spectacular view next to the old church and castle.

Sunset Milos.jpg

Walking through the streets of Plaka you’ll undoubtedly encounter many friendly locals that might invite you in for a drink of raki. Don’t turn them down. They are just that friendly and mean absolutely no harm! You’ll hear local music coming from the alleys, homes and restaurants. This is the place to be every evening.

Pollonia is the local fishing village and is definitely worth exploring. There are so many charming seaside cafe’s and restaurants to visit in the morning or for lunch. This is also a great place to rent a kayak and explore the shoreline

Pollonia.jpg

Visit the Catacombs

You can find catacombs throughout the island. Most of the catacombs that are accessible to the public are located near the village of Tripiti. They are considered an early Christian cemetery dug about 200 A.D. Since they were first discovered, over 300 graves have been found containing 5000-7000 early Christians. These catacombs were also used by locals as a hideaway from pirate raids.

Catacombs.png

Sailing

The best way to explore the amazing shores of Milos is by boat. If you’re willing to splurge a little, a half day sailing tour is your best bet. I got a great deal using Viator. Tours depart at 9:15 and return at 15:15. The tour takes you through many picturesque fishing villages with colourful houses, then through the lava and lunar rocks. You’ll have the chance to explore the many caves with all snorkelling equipment provided. Lunch provided consists of a number of salads and fruit. The second half of the tour is just spent relaxing on the boat and it’s simply a wonderful way to cover the island. Highly Highly recommend

Milos sailing.jpg

Where to Eat

There is no shortage of wonderful and traditional places to eat and drink in Milos. As I mentioned I definitely recommend grabbing lunch at least once in Pollonia and grabbing most of your dinners in Plaka

O Hamos if you’re looking for the most traditional of Greek experiences, O Hamos was quite simply one of the greatest meals of my life with many vegan and vegetarian options availableO hamaO Hamos food

Enalion is an amazing place for seafood. Located in Pollonia, directly on the beach, the food is as fresh as it gets. Don’t forget to order the traditional tomato and olive flatbreadEnalion breadEnalion squid

Utopia Cafe this is a wonderful place to come and unwind at the end of a long day or in the heat of the afternoon. You’ve never had a frappe so refreshing. Definitely come here at least once for sunsetUtopia.png

Best time of year to Visit

While you can visit year round, some accommodations shut down during the off season. For me the best time to visit is in the spring or late summer. Summers can get extremely hot but this is still a wonderful place to get away from it all, all summer long.

If you do visit Milos let me know what you think in the comments. I’d also love to hear your Greek Island tips.

Happy Travels

Milos Pin

Roasted Vegetable and Halloumi Salad

My favourite way to cook vegetables is to roast them. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, how hot it is or wherever in the world it is that I am, there is no better way of releasing the maximum amount of flavour from vegetables. I’ve included halloumi when roasting vegetables here in Greece because it’s become my favourite way to bulk up a salad. Unlike other cheeses, halloumi stands up to heat and retains its shape and texture  (it also doesn’t hurt my stomach…anyone know the science behind that?). Outside of Greece, halloumi is relatively easy to find in most grocery stores nowadays. It’s something that can’t be replaced with another cheese so if you can’t find it I would either omit it or throw in some hard cheese after roasting. If you want to keep this vegan you can substitute with vegan feta by tossing in after roasting.

I know this seems to be more of a cold weather kind of thing but trust me you can still roast vegetables for a fresh summer meal. You can top it on some flatbread, scatter over some fresh greens, or pile it on top of grains or pasta. I’ve infused this salad with more Greek flavour using a lemon oregano marinade.

Roasted Vegetable and Halloumi Salad

Serves 2 as a full meal or 4 as a side

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking tray
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, or 1 tbsp fresh, chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced and 1/2 zested
  • 2 tsp salt
  • pinch or two of fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (around 400g) zucchini or squash
  • 1 (around 315g) eggplant
  • 285g (2 cups) cherry tomatoes
  • 1 (225g) block halloumi
  • handful of arugula, rice, pasta or flatbread to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Coat one large baking tray with olive oil. In a bowl combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, oregano, zest (not juice), salt and pepper
  2. Cut the zucchini in half lenthwise, then into 1/2 inch moons. Do the same with the eggplant. Halve the cherry tomatoes and cut the halloumi into 1 inch cubes. Add all of this to the marinade and stir to coat evenly
  3. Spread out on the roasting tray and roast for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the vegetables and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are evenly browned. Remove from oven and let cool
  4. Place vegetables on top of fresh greens, rice, pasta or flatbread

IF YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE BE SURE TO TAG YOUR PHOTO #FIGSANDMAPLE

Roasted Vegetables and Halloumi pin.PNG

 

 

 

 

 

Vegan Feta, Watermelon and Basil Salad

Feta, watermelon, basil salad coverAs the temperatures rise, I always find myself craving refreshing meals and this one is a staple around Greece. Is there anything more refreshing than watermelon on a hot day? Pair that with some fresh from the ground basil, and some salty “feta”. If you feel like taking it one step further try grilling the watermelon. One of the best salads you’ll ever have. I don’t recommend making this in advance. It really needs to be as fresh and cold as possible.

Tofu Feta, Watermelon and Basil Salad

Serves 2-4

  • 1/4 watermelon, cubed or cut into triangles if grilling
  • 2 handfuls of arugula
  • 1 small bunch of whole basil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 recipe tofu feta
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 lemon, juiced or cut in half if grilling
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
  1. If grilling, heat grill to high and place watermelon triangles as well as lemon halves on the grill. Grill for a few minutes until the flesh is charred. Shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes.
  2. To prepare the salad, take the bunch of basil and wrap it up in a roll. Take a knife and slice into thin strips (chiffonade). Combine with arugula. Toss with “feta”, watermelon and drizzle with lemon and olive oil. Season with ground pepper to taste

IF YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE BE SURE TO TAG YOUR PHOTO #FIGSANDMAPLE

feta-watermelon-basil-salad-pin.png

Guide to the Greek Islands: Folegandros

Folegandros cover.PNGRather than attempt some all encompassing guide to the Greek Islands (which is impossible to do) I’ve decided the best way for me to let you all know about choosing which Islands to visit once I’m done. In the meantime, I’ll let you all know about the Islands i’m currently in, what they’re known for, who they’re suited for and what to do.

I decided to visit Folegandros because I needed a little change from the crowds and find a little piece of the Greek Islands that hasn’t been affected by tourism. I had heard about Folegrandros when researching where to find the best hiking trails in the Cyclades. I was happy to find that it was also one of the quietest islands. Perfect

Getting to Folegandros

There are frequent ferries running from Piraeus in Athens (8h), the Western Cyclades (Serifos, Sifnos, Kythnos, Milos and Kimolos – 2h 30min) and the Central Cyclades (Paros and Santorini – 1h 30min). You can book your tickets in person at any port or book in advance online here.

Where to Stay

Unfortunately, because Folegandros is one of the off the beaten path islands, there really isn’t much infrastructure for tourism. Accomodations range from expensive hotels to moderately expensive hotels.

Vrahos Boutique Hotel This is a wonderful hotel right in the heart of Folegandros built into the hillside facade of Karavostasis. There is an infinity jacuzzi, onsite restaurant with some amazing food including an amazing breakfast buffet overlooking the mediterranean. Rooms are clean and modern with 5 main beaches within walking distance. Rooms start at €146. There are many activities included in this price including free bike and kayak rentals. An amazing deal!Folegandros hotelFolegandros hotel 2Folegandros hotel 3

If you’re looking for something more budget friendly, there is a small selection of affordable Airbnb‘s on the island

What to do in Folegandros

Cycling

One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the island is on bike. I recommend doing it right away. You can rent a bike from Vrahos Boutique Hotel and ride it into Chora or Livadi village. Stop off for some refreshments or food on the way.folegandros-cycling.png

Hiking

Folegandros is an ideal place for hiking. There are a lot of footpaths which cross the whole island and pass by dry stone walls and abandoned windmills, picturesque white chapels and traditional stone settlements. Some of my favourite hikes are

  1. Ano Meria (Taxiarchis)-Livadaki- Faros Aspropountas (lighthouse)-Ano Meria (windmills) (round trip 2 hours 10 minutes)Folegandros hike.png
  2. Chora-Stavros- Fira-Angali (45 minutes) Folegandros angali.jpg
  3.  Ano Meria-Ai Yiannis-Marmaro- Agios Nikolaos-Angali (1 hour)Folegrandos hike 2.jpg
  4.  Ano Meria-Agios Andreas-Agios Georgios-Lygaria- Zoodohos Pigi (1 hour 15 minutes) Folegandros hike 3
  5.  Ano Meria-Agios Pandeleimonas-Ampeli (30 minutes) Folegandros north

Kayaking

You can rent kayaks from the Vrahos Boutique Hotel and take a tour around the crystal clear waters of Karavostassiskayak folegandros.png

Cruise around the Island

This is by far the best way to experience the island of Folegandros. Reserve a full day tour with Diaplous Travel. The tour lasts 6 hours and takes you to five of the most incredible beaches in Folegandros that can only be reached by boat. Depending on the weather conditions the tour will take you on the north and south sides of the island. It is best to take this tour when there is very little wind. Reservations are necessary. Prices start at €20 and a light meal is served on board.

Folegandros cruiseFolegandros cave

Where to Eat

To Goupi An inexpensive restaurant serving traditional island food. I definitely recommend ordering a selection of Mezedes as opposed to a larger dish. Pair it up with some ouzo. Amazing combination.To Goupi.png

Pounda One of the most famous restaurants on the island. I’d say it was a reasonably priced splurge. Located in Chora, tables here are set in a beautiful garden setting and adorable little stray cats walk between tables looking for scraps. the food was fresh, and not too heavy. Do not even think about leaving here without having the zucchini fritters. Breakfast here is also so incredible.PoundaPounda breakfast

Best time of Year to visit

While you can visit year round, some accommodations shut down during the off season. For me the best time to visit is in the spring. Summers can get extremely hot and even though Folegandros isn’t as busy as the other islands it’s still best to come here while you can take advantage of all the hiking and cycling that you can before the heat gets to be too much. With that being said given the crowds on other islands in the summer, this is still a wonderful place to get away from it all, all summer long.

If you do visit Folegandros let me know what you think in the comments. I’d also love to hear your Greek Island tips.

Happy Travels

Folegandros Pin