I love Greek food – pretty much all of it! From the fresh fish you get treated to on the Greek islands, to the sumptuous Stifados and Kleftikos that you imagine shouldn’t be appealing in scorching hot weather, but somehow are!
On a recent trip to Kefalonia, Mr Manning and I tried all sorts – of course (got the half stone weight increase to prove it). But one dish stood out. It is said, according to the husband, that a particularly good eating experience is always visible from the “shoulder shrug” that spreads through me when I taste something fabulous. And this particular dish was off the shrugging-scale!
Saganaki is something that appears on pretty much every menu you can find, often as a starter. The best-known saganaki dish is fried cheese – often local cheeses like kefalograviera, kefalotyri, or sheep’s milk feta, melted in a small frying pan until bubbling then served up with lemon juice and pepper.
But Saganaki isn’t actually the cheese – the name refers to the small frying pan it’s cooked in. Saganaki comes from Sagani, the frying pan with two handles.
And this means that it’s not just cheese that you can have “saganaki-style”. There’s shrimp saganaki, mussels saganaki – often feta-based with a spicy tomato sauce, and on this occasion, mixed seafood saganaki.
It might not sound like much – there’s no “jus”, or “puree” or “foam” that’s often associated with an out-of-this-world dining experience. But this was the perfect example of what good food should be – simple, full of flavour and texture, and just TO DIE FOR.
Presented with a one-person sized tureen, I opened the lid to find a steaming mass of freshly-caught seafood: squid, crab, oysters, clams, mussels, white fish, and prawns, all swimming in a spicy, aromatic tomato-ey broth. Each piece of shellfish cooked just right, delicate, not a hint of rubbery texture, and all tasting sweetly of the sea.
But the seafood was just the start. Never has a mere broth induced so much shoulder-shrugging in this foodie fan. A delicious mix of seafood-flavoured sauce, oozing tomatoey goodness; soft, sweet onions; and rich, salty feta. Dipping bread in this manna from Kefalonia was the perfect full stop to the best starter I’ve had in a very long time.
Needless to say, the tureen was clean by the end of that session!
So when you’re next in Greece, don’t stick to mezzes and vine leaves. Make sure you find yourself a seafood Saganaki. It’s simply scrumptious!