Knidos Cookery Club is just back from a fact-finding mission to the Greek Islands and is bursting with new recipe ideas. Our main port of call was the island of Amorgos, the most easterly of the Cyclades group – a six-hour ferry trip from Piraeus, near Athens.
Our visit coincided with the Psimeni Raki festival, held annually on 26 July, a wild night of drinking and dancing (click here for video) fuelled by a local grappa-like spirit tempered with sugar, honey and herbs from the island to produce a drink that is around 20% alcohol by volume.
The drink is based on Rakomelo, which is served by monks to people visiting the amazing Panagia Hozoviotissa Monastery – a spectacular white building carved high onto the side of an imposing cliff face.
For a small island Amorgos produces a significant quantity of alcoholic beverages – check out the site of this local producer, Amorgion, to see what’s on offer. As well as Psimeni Raki and Rakomelo, they also make an interesting local version of tequila, known as Mekila, from prickly pears.
Another interesting place to visit on the island is the Amorgos Botanical Park, a great project that is reviving a traditional garden that had been left derelict for decades. Here’s a link to their Instagram page.
A group of volunteers are aiming to bring the garden, complete with its own cistern fed by a spring, back to life by cultivating herbs endemic to Amorgos. The project is funded by grants and by the proceeds from the sale of herbs such as their intensely-flavoured oregano, teas such as rockrose, and tinctures made from produce grown on the island and dried and processed by the volunteers.
One of the delicacies eaten during the Psimeni Raki festival to help soak up the booze are anevates, cheese pies baked with the aforementioned beverage. Unfortunately, Knidos Cookery Club couldn’t track down any of these pies but the use of Psimeni Raki has inspired us to make a boozy take on Greece’s spicy tirokefteri cheese dip.
Ingredients (serves 4-6 as part of a dip platter)
100 g feta cheese
100 ml Greek-style yogurt
25 ml Psimeni Raki
One teaspoon dried oregano
One teaspoon red chili flakes
Crumble the feta with a fork, add the yogurt, psimeni raki (use sherry or vermouth if you don’t have access to psimeni raki!)and herbs and spices. Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly with the fork and chill for a couple of hours before serving with other dips such as tsatsiki (yogurt, cucumber and garlic) and a dip of roasted aubergines served with yogurt.