Dishes you should taste when in Corfu

Corfu’s cuisine is inextricably tied in with its history and this is what makes the food here so different from the rest of Greece. It is fascinating to look through a menu and try to deduce who brought what.

Corfiot cuisine is neither spicy nor bland, but rich in the flavours of the Mediterranean. Specialties consist of local ingredients found on the island, especially olives, lemons, vegetables, tomatoes and fish. Many dishes hark back to the days when cooks put all the ingredients in a single pot and left it to simmer all day.

Nowadays corfiot cuisine seems to be a little different from the typical greek cuisine, giving to the fish and all “products of the sea” like shrimps, squids, mussels and octapus the protagonist role in its dishes.

Nouboulo (or Noumboulo) – Pork Loin cold cut

Cured pork loin is a popular meat product in many parts of Europe. It most likely became a tradition of the island due to Venetian rule. Nouboulo, also known as Corfiot prosciutto, is made by the traditional method: Pork loin is smothered with coarse salt. Black pepper and oregano are also added. The meat is stuffed inside a pig intestine and smoked over a fire made with pennyroyal, sage, oregano branches, myrtle, laurel and lentisk branches. Then it’s left to age in a dry environment.

Corfiot Sweet Mustard

A condiment influenced by both British and Venetian Rule. The mustard is both sweet and spicy, sweetness from fruits and spice from mustard seed and peppercorns. Some recipes add cloves and nutmeg and sweet wine. The mustard can accompany meats, or be used in salad dressing.

Kumquats & Kumquat Spirits

Kumquats don’t originate on Corfu but have become an integral part of the island’s produce since the early 20th century.

  • Kumquat is a citrus tree, with origins in China, Japan and other south Asian countries. The earliest historical reference in literature dates back to the 12th century
  • In Chinese cuisine, kumquats are often smashed with honey, ginger, or even salt and made into a herbal tea to heal colds and flu.
  • The English name “kumquat” derives from the Cantonese gām-gwāt 金橘, literally meaning “golden orange” or “golden tangerine”.
  • Kumquat production in Corfu reaches 100 tons per year.
  • First brought to Europe in 1846 by Robert Fortune but didn’t arrive in Corfu until much later.
  • Today the Corfu kumquat has a PDO – protected designation of origin – and is mainly cultivated in northern Corfu.
  • The kumquat is usually not eaten raw as it’s flavour is bitter-sour and not really juicy in any way, but is used for producing fine liqueurs (made from the skin of the fruit), jams and sweets.
  • Most of the crop is used as liquor but the fruit is also used in cooking for example baked cookies, it’s also used to make syrups (ideal on greek yogurt) sauces and glazes for meats, salad dressings and desserts. they even boil and roast the fruit. It’s also used in cosmetics, toiletries and perfumes.

Sofrito

Sofrito is one of the most popular dishes in Corfu that is easy to find and the name refers to both the dish and the cooking style – to “slowly fry”. The dish originates from the Venetian influence but the Corfiot version is uniquely different…

A classic Sofrito in Italy may slowly fry onions, carrots and celery. In Cuba, you are more likely to find onions and bell peppers.

But in Corfiot Sofrito the main ingredients to be slowly fried are the beef and a lot of Garlic. I mean, seriously, a lot of garlic. In the realms of 2 cloves per small portion of beef. This makes for a meaty but pungent dish.

Corfu has its own variety of garlic called “kakavilia” – it has small bulbs with a fine reddish-purple skin.

Fish Bianco

After the Pastissada and the Sofrito, the dish that everyone raved about most in Corfu was Fish Bianco. It’s essentially fish simmered with white wine on a bed of potatoes. The potatoes are pan fried first with lots of garlic and olive oil, then white wine is added, along with salt and cloves, and then potatoes are left to simmer and soften.

Next, a fish like Seabass – Greek Seabass is called “lavraki” – is placed on top of the potatoes, with the liquid partially covering the fish. The dish continues to cook on a low heat until the fish gets soft. Then lemon juice, zest, chopped parsley and black pepper are added along with some flour, in order to thicken the sauce.

Fish Bourdeto

This dish is typically made with Skate, but any fish or seafood can be used. The dish originates from areas throughout Venetian controlled Adriatic ports. As always, everyone has their own variation.

The dish is a fish soup that was invented by fishermen as a way to use up fish that they were unable to sell. Slightly older fish, therefore, is re-invigorated – ie. made less old and fishy – by the use of spices.

Namely, a mix of both sweet and hot paprikas. Also, the sweet and sour style is also brought in with the addition of lemon juice, vinegar and a lot of sautéed onions.