I hate to cook. I really do. But I love to eat and so I somehow found myself in a cooking class while I was in Crete, Greece. What was I thinking? “Abundance of food to eat”, probably.
Meeting our local teacher
So when the sun was setting on our first night there, Jennifer from Moi, mes souliers, Amanda from MarocMama, Erin from Explore with Erin and I met with Maria, a local Cretan lady who gives traditional cooking classes in the very house in Chania, on the Greek island of Crete, that she was born on.
Maria hasn't always lived there. She moved to Athens for a while, but then came back. Chania and that house will always be her home, she told us.
Some things were just as I'd thought – plenty of olive oil, fresh ingredients, authentic tasting food, and delicious traditional recipes. However, there was a lot that surprised me. I immediately noticed this wasn't going to be a typical cooking lesson and it turned out I was right.
The cooking experience
I thought we'd all be standing in a big room full of stoves, preparing the same Cretan recipes by ourselves, following the instructions of Maria. Instead, we all sat in Maria's kitchen, surrounded by bottles of olive oil and condiments and helped her prepare the ingredients for the various traditional courses while she looked over the stove and the oven.
This experience was fine by me, though. I watched on and took photos while my fellow bloggers were cutting, cleaning and arranging potatoes, zucchini, and mint. Only near the end of the preparations did they feel that I'd have to cook at least some of my food myself, and so I was put in charge of dough-rolling (if that's even a verb).
True respect for cooks, because this sure is heavy on the arms!
Read more fun facts about Greece here.
So, what local food did we prepare?
Our Greek dishes
Zucchini and Greek cheese pie
Most of the experience was spent preparing a traditional oven pie which consisted of a layer of sliced potatoes and then consecutive layers of Greek cheese, mint and zucchini.
As you can maybe tell from the photo above, we didn't just slice the zucchini and throw it in there. First, it was very finely cut up by slicing queen Erin (honestly, that girl does millimeter work), then put in a bowl with salt to extract the water and then squeezed to get rid of all that water.
The mint was very finely cut as well and the Cretan cheese crumbled onto the layers in the baking dish. It wasn't feta, the Greek cheese we all know, but it quite looked like it except that it was much softer.
When Jennifer had filled up the baking dish with all the potatoes, cheese, mint and zucchini, the whole thing was drizzled with olive oil and then went into the oven for an hour.
When it came back out, it was heaven.
Just look at that cheesy crust!!!
But before that was ready, we prepared some other local Cretan dishes.
The Greek salad
I think almost everyone knows what a Greek salad is, right? It's a staple of traditional Cretan cuisine. Greek salad ingredients are tomato, cucumber, feta, red onion, olives and a lot of olive oil. Maria also added a bit of green pepper, which complemented the whole dish nicely.
We didn't prepare this salad as a course but as a side dish, dripping with refreshing olive oil, to have with the zucchini pie and the lamb we would prepare as well.
Lamb with egg-lemon sauce
Maria had lamb chops for us, but we would prepare them with a traditional sauce that none of us had heard of yet: egg-lemon sauce. The trick is to mix the two carefully so that the egg doesn't thicken and the sauce doesn't become chunky.
In addition to the egg-lemon sauce, Maria also prepared some kind of wild green that's often used in local Cretan cuisine. It looked a bit like long strings of lettuce, but tasted much stronger and more bitter, I found, than lettuce. I wasn't a big fan of that, but the lamb tasted great.
What it looked like when it was finished? Well…
Lastly, we made spanakopita triangles. These are triangles of dough filled with Greek cheese or with cheese and spinach. That's what we were preparing the dough for a few photos higher up.
Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the finished spanakopita as we were starving by the time they were ready and immediately dug in.
You know me.
What I do have after this experience, is a love for local Greek cuisine.
Plan your vacation on Crete
I travel a lot and I have built up a catalog of favorite sites that I always use when booking trips. These are reliable websites with good prices and a wide range of options. Read on to find out which ones I use.
Where to stay in Crete
- Booking.com is where I book most of my hotels because it always offers a wide range of filtering options. Its Genius program entitles you to special discounts after you’ve made a few bookings.
- Airbnb is my preferred site for booking apartments. In a similar way to Booking, it has several filtering options and I find the reviews helpful for choosing the right place.
Booking your flight to Crete
Skyscanner offers a comparison of flight prices across many different airlines. It also has a useful price alert feature.
Renting a car on Crete
Rentalcars.com has hundreds of rental car companies to compare in order to find the best deal based on your personal search criteria.
Welcome Pickups is great for booking airport transfers. Their site is super userfriendly and you can cancel up to 24 hours beforehand if needed.
Don't forget travel insurance
No matter how well you plan your vacation on Crete, something unexpected can always happen. A reservation gets canceled, you twist your ankle or you drop and break that new camera. In those cases, travel insurance has you covered.
I've had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I'm covered for every trip I go on but if you travel just a few times a year, you can get insured for each trip separately as well.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out SafetyWing. They offer super flexible plans that you can even sign up for while you're already on your trip. On top of that, they were the first travel insurance to cover COVID, and when I got COVID, they reimbursed all of my expenses without making a fuss. Their customer support team is great and I can personally recommend them.
PIN FOR LATER
We were offered this cooking workshop by Viator. Please know that I will always write honestly about comped experiences like this one. I would not have eaten it all if it hadn't been good.