Sifnos was always renowned for the quality of its cuisine and Sifnian cooks, for their high standards, were called to work at the court of the Sultan in the Ottoman Empire.
Nowadays Greeks still consider Sifnos as a synonym for good cuisine.
Its quality is linked to ancient recipes, handed down from father to son, based on local products. Everything is local: the ingredients (pulses, meat, cheese, the sweet-smelling thyme honey, wild greens and herbs), as well as the earthen pots in which to cook slowly in wood-fired ovens.
Quoting SlowFood definitions, food in Sifnos is:
Good, for its taste and quality, but also because it is an expression of social traditions kept alive through the centuries.
Clean, because it is produced with ancient techniques that do not harm the environment.
Fair, because it is produced by small farmers who sell locally their production and live on their work.
Every event of the Sifnian life has its typical recipes, but traditional recipes are commonly used also in everyday life.
There is a variety of foods: revitha, a chickpea and onion soup baked in an earthen pot in a wood-fired oven; revithokeftedes, chickpea croquettes flavored with mint and other herbs; mastelo,lamb or baby goat cooked in an earthen pot in the wood-fired oven; mizithra,fresh goat or sheep cheese; manuri, sheep or goat cheese matured in red wine; many sweets, mostly having as main ingredients honey and almonds.
Birthplace of Nikolaos Tselementes, author of popular books of Greek cuisine, Sifnos celebrates him every year at the beginning of September with a gastronomic festival in his name. Many other Aegean islands take part in the festival with their typical products and foods.
REVITHA (chickpea soup)
This is the traditional Sunday dish. On Saturday afternoon it is put in a wood-fired oven, where it cooks all night long, ready to be eaten at Sunday lunch.
Walking around in Sifnos on Saturday afternoon or on Sunday morning you will see people carrying earthen pots. The reason is that only a few families have a wood-fired oven at home, so the pot with revitha must be taken where one of these ovens is available. This is also an opportunity to meet friends and have a good chat.
– 500 gr. chickpeas
– 2 big onions
– 8 tablespoons olive oil
– 3 and 1/2 liters rain water (or mineral non-sparkling water)
Soak the chickpeas for 8 hours in 1 and 3/4 liter rain water, adding a handful of salt.
Drain the chickpeas, and rinse them well 3 times. Rub and “knead” them each time: this will soften them.
Put the drained chickpeas in an earthen pot , add the onions cut in thin slices, the olive oil, salt and 1 and 3/4 liter water.
Cook slowly overnight in a wood-fired oven.
NOTE: For a good result of the recipe the use of a “light” water is important.
If a wood-fired oven is not available, you can try to cook it in an electric oven at 150° for 6 hours, though the result will not be the same.
KAPAROSALATA (caper salad)
Capers in Sifnos grow everywhere and are very fragrant.
Sifnians pick them at the end of spring and dry them. You can easily buy them in Sifnos and take them with you to prepare this tasty salad.
– 1 cup dry capers
– 2 cups onions cut in thin slices
– 1 cup olive oil
– 1/2 cup vinegar
– a glass of water
Soak the capers overnight.
The following day drain the capers and pour them in a pot of hot water, bring to a boil and remove the capers, drain and squeeze them. Repeat this process 3-4 times, changing the water each time. This will make the capers less bitter.
Fry gently the onions in olive oil until golden, add the capers, salt and a glass of water and simmer until the water will be almost completely reduced. Add the vinegar and simmer to a creamy texture.
Leave to cool before serving.
NOTE: for this recipe you must not use pickled or salted capers, but only dry capers
REVITHOKEFTEDES (chickpea croquettes)
This is a traditional dish that you will find in every restaurant or café in Sifnos, and that will be offered as a “mezé” at feasts or at home.
As it’s always the case for a beloved recipe, each restaurant or household has its secrets: you will taste different kinds of revithokeftedes according to their shape and to the kind and amount of herbs and spices. This is the recipe we got from an old lady of Artemonas.
– 500 gr chickpeas
– 2 medium sized potatoes
– 1 teaspoon marjoram
– 1 teaspoon of fresh mint leaves
– 1 teaspoon dill
– salt and pepper
Soak the chickpeas overnight. The following day rinse and drain them.
Boil the potatoes with their skin, then peel and slice them. Mash them with the chickpeas in a blender. Add the onions and the herbs finely chopped and mix well.
Shape the mixture into slightly flattened balls and deep fry in oil until golden brown.
NOTE: if the mixture is too soft to form balls, add a little flour.
Good, clean and fair
Slow Food was started by Carlo Petrini in the 1980s with the aim to defend regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life.
Today Slow Food represents a global movement involving thousand of projects and millions of people in over 160 countries. Its approach is based on food quality that is defined by three interconnected principles: good, clean and fair.
Good: a fresh and flavorsome seasonal diet that satisfies the senses and is part of the local culture.
Clean: food production and consumption that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or human health.
Fair: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers.
In over two decades of history, the movement has evolved to embrace a comprehensive approach to food that recognizes the strong connections between food, planet, people, politics and culture. Slow Food opposes the standardization of taste and culture, and the unrestrained power of food industry multinationals and industrial agriculture.