Aegean: Recipes from the Mountain to the Sea, written by Marianna Leivaditaki, features a beautiful collection of recipes inspired by the sea, land, and mountains of Crete. A few highlights include Sea Urchins on Toast, Stuffed Zucchini with Lemon Sauce, Beef Cheeks with Crushed Potatoes, Orange and Broken Filo Pastry Pie, and Trahana Soup with Dried Mint and Deep-Fried Cheese. I will also be sharing her recipe for Cheese Fritters with Honey following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Marianna Leivaditaki was born and raised in Chania on the Greek island of Crete. She spent her childhood helping in her family’s seafood restaurant and developing a love for food and creating recipes. She now resides in London as the head chef of Morito Hackney Road and travels back to Crete at every spare moment. This is her first cookbook.
Marianna begins with a short introduction of her childhood in Crete and how it sparked her passion for cooking and developing recipes. She then dives right into the incredible assortment of recipes. Aegean is divided into four parts: the Sea, the Land, the Mountains, and Recipes for After- each drawing from the fresh, seasoning ingredients found in Cretan cuisine.
The beautiful photography is provided by Elena Heatherwick. Most of the recipes are accompanied by a half to full-page photo of the finished dish. I especially love the images of the landscape, people, and food of Crete scattered among the pages. Titles are written in English. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Each dish includes a headnote with background information, personal stories, tips, serving size, and menu ideas.
Aegean is a great pick for those wanting to create restaurant quality meals inspired by Crete at home. Recipes range from family-style meals to more stunning presentations perfect for a date night. Most of the ingredients are readily available in the average American grocery store, but a few items that may require further searching include live snails, specialty cheese, rabbit, tahini, preserved vine leaves, fresh seafood, fenugreek, semolina, Cretan barley rusks, zucchini flowers, Turkish red pepper flakes, cardamom pods, sour cherries, and gum mastic granules.
Cheese Fritters with Honey
Marianna originally planned for these Cheese Fritters with Honey to be served as a dessert, but they ended up going on the menu at Morito Hackney as an appetizer and were a hit. I can definitely see why! They are reminiscent of the Sfakianes Pites from Sfakia in Crete- thin, pan-fried cheese pastries drizzled with thyme honey.
Feta and soft goat cheese (or Cretan mizithra) are combined with sautéed red onion, fresh mint, eggs, and flour, then refrigerated until firm. A tablespoon of this mixture is formed into a ball, then tossed well in flour and white/black sesame seeds (make sure they are well coated!). The cheese fritters are gently added to hot oil and fried until golden on all sides. After transferring to towels to absorb any excess oil, they are served warm with a drizzle of thyme honey and eaten immediately.
These Cheese Fritters with Honey may be on the menu as an appetizer, but they are definitely perfect for any time of day!
I also made Marianna’s Cretan Zucchini and Feta Bake with Sesame, Cheese and Yogurt Dip with Chilies and Marjoram, Slow-Cooked Oxtail with Peppers and Olive Oil Fries, and Buttery Cookies with Lemon Cream and Fresh Strawberries.
The Cretan Zucchini and Feta Bake with Sesame comes from the Land chapter and is perfect served alongside poultry. Traditionally made in an olive oil pastry, Marianna went with a lighter method. Thinly sliced potatoes and zucchini are tossed with fresh mint, cheese, tomatoes, olive oil, and oregano, then arranged in a large baking dish before topping with sesame seeds and baking until the vegetables are softened. It can be served hot or cold and is even better the next day as the flavors develop.
I made the Cheese and Yogurt Dip with Chilies and Marjoram from the Land chapter to use up some extra feta. A version of the Greek Tirokafteri (spicy cheese dip), feta is blended in a food processor with charred peppers, parsley, olive oil, yogurt, marjoram, and oregano. Serving it with grilled lamb chops or other meat is recommend or alongside fresh bread, olives, and raw vegetables.
The Slow-Cooked Oxtail with Peppers and Olive Oil Fries is an extremely comforting and flavor-packed meal from the Mountains chapter. Marianna states that the fry sales at her restaurant doubled when they started frying them in olive oil and now I am hooked too! It adds such an incredible texture and flavor to the potatoes. They are paired with tender oxtail that has been slowly simmered for about 3 hours in a mixture of charred peppers, celery, and white wine.
The Buttery Cookies with Lemon Cream and Fresh Strawberries from the For After chapter involves a few separate components, but they don’t take much effort to prepare and blend together so well. Crumbly butter cookies scented with cardamom are served alongside a lemon cream cheese yogurt and sweetened strawberries and rosewater. Immediately before serving, the dish is dusted with powdered sugar and sprinkled with crushed pistachios.
Cheese Fritters with Honey Recipe
Excerpt from Aegean
Cheese Fritters with Honey
- 1 red onion finely diced
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 7 ounces (200 grams) feta
- 7 ounces (200 grams) soft goat cheese or Cretan mizithra (traditional goat cheese)
- 1 small bunch fresh mint leaves chopped
- 2 organic eggs
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 1/4 cup (1 liter) vegetable oil for frying
- 2-3 tablespoons thyme honey for drizzling
- Put the onion in a small pan with the oil and cook gently until sweet and translucent. Set aside to cool.
- Crumble the feta and goat cheese in a bowl and add the onion, mint, eggs, and flour. Mix well until everything is combined. Place in the fridge for 30-40 minutes to firm up.
- Put the sesame seeds and flour on a plate.
- Take 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture in your hands. Roll into a ball and then toss in the sesame-flour mixture. Repeat until all the cheese mixture is used up.
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Check that it is hot enough by dropping a tiny bit of the cheese mixture- the oil should immediately start bubbling around it.
- Lower the cheese fritters gently into the hot oil and cook until golden and crispy on all sides. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and place on paper towels for a few seconds to absorb the excess oil.
- Serve with thyme honey drizzled all over. Eat immediately.