Greek food is all about very fresh, high-quality, local produce and simple preparation that lets the ingredients shine. In terms of preparation, there are two main ways - Psistaria (the "Grill”), and Magirefta ("home-cooked” style food). Magirefta has remained the dominate cooking style at home, and while families within the village will often grill - due to lack of space nearly all urban Greeks will visit tavernas for grilled food. In most of the places we have visited in Greece, we have seen many locals out and about enjoying their nearby tavernas for grilled fish or meat and well-known magirefta dishes such as moussaka, pastitio, stifado and keftethes.
The people of Argostoli, Kefalonia, are no exception and early on Sunday afternoon, the tables of Palia Plaka Taverna in Argostoli Harbour were filled with beautiful local families, from Papou's to cherub like babies all enjoying the beautiful view of the glistening bay and patchworked ocher and green specked hillside. It such a thrill to find a gem such as Palia Plaka - away from the well trodden touristy tavernas. We found it via Mr K's brilliant interrogation of the gentleman who runs the petrol station, near to the village where we are staying.
While you can ask for a menu, at Palia Plaka you are just as welcome to do as the locals do and go up to the kitchen and see all the preprepared dishes. There were courgette balls filled with cheese, lightly fried eggplants and anchovies, a stuffed rolled loin of pork, spanakopita, pastitsio, little spatchocks that had been roasted wrapped in a parma style ham with white wine and herbs, lamb in a rich red tomato sauce with olives and krithaki (orzo) sauce and many other dishes.
|Huge bowl of Horta, €3.90|
Boiled and then topped with fruity olive oil, lemon and salt, horta vrasta (“boiled horta”) is one of my all-time favorite dishes in Greece. So we skipped the fried goodies on offer and went straight to the greens for starters. Horta are made up of a variety of different wild greens including leaves of purslane, silverbeet, asparagus, nettle, chicory, young poppies, dandelion, curly endive and milk thistle.
Horta can taste sweet, tart or bitter depending on the choice of greens or combination of different greens being used. The last time I was in Greece, it was summer and I think I nearly ate my own body weight in the sweet summer horta called vlita (known as Amaranth in Australia).
Just before leaving for Greece, in spring time Sydney Mr K and I enjoyed eating plenty of purslane, sourced from our local Lebanese grocer. We ate the pursulane both fresh and cooked in the style of horta vrasta. If you are in Australia, keep your eyes open to spot this beauty at the market, if it is still in season. The small crunchy, lemony purslane leaves are absolutley delicious - plus this herb has more omega-3 fatty acids than some fish oils. Incredibly low in fat, it's high in vitamins, fibre and is an excellent source of Vitamin A, C and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids.
|Kotsi with roasted lemon and herb potatoes, €11.90|
|hunkiar begiendi, €9.00|
After the horta, in our little party of four, we enjoyed a dish of "kotsi" a slow roasted pork shank with an absolute mountain of creamy autumn potatoes, slick with olive oil, lemon and herbs. Madame Zen was delighted by her choice, hunkiar begiendi, cubed veal in a rich tomato sauce over a smokey eggplant sauce.
|Bakaliaros Skordalia, €11.90|
|Rabbit in red sauce,€9.30|
Mr K went for a traditional Bakaliaros Skordalia, salt cod fried and served with a silky potato and garlic sauce. I decided to try a traditional Ionian dish of kouneli kokkinisto, rabbit in a piquant tomato sauce. This divine dish is often served at my mother in law's table, with her Zakynthian approach. It was interesting to try the Kefalonian version with plenty of red wine vinegar, garlic and black peppercorns. It did not disappoint!! I was lucky enough to be able to track down a recipe for the Kefalonia preparation of this dish that I can try on return to Sydney.
Kefalonian rabbit in red sauce
1kg rabbit, cut into serving pieces
1/2 cup wine vinegar
Handful of black peppercorns
1/4 cup olive oil
2 heads of garlic (unpeeled)
1/2 kg of fresh tomatoes, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Marinate the rabbit pieces overnight in the wine vinegar in a glass or ceramic dish along with peppercorns.
2. Heat olive oil in a heavy based pan and brown the rabbit pieces.
3. Boil the garlic heads until soft and then squeeze out garlic cloves into the pan with the rabbit. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the meat is tender and the sauce is thickened.
To finish out host bought us a HUGE plate of the most delicious orange scented galaktoboureko - a custard pie wrapped in filo pastry, along with a very generous pile of ice cream. It was all complimentary. We enjoyed the pie with thick, dark Greek coffees.
After lunch we decided to stretch our legs and take a long walk (with the locals) around the length of the stunning Argostoli harbour side. If you are ever in Argostoli, you must visit Palia Plaka - the food is fresh and flavoursome, the proportions are ridiculously generous, the service is friendly and attentive and it's excellent value. While it is at the far end of the Harbour, the walk is an excellent way to make room for a beautiful lunch - with the locals, well off the beaten tourist track.
Palia Plaka Taverna
Agnis Metaksa 2
Argostolion 28100 Greece