Specialities and delicacies from Milos
On Milos, anyone who is keen on delicious food will find both some local specialities typical of the island and less traditional but nevertheless all the more tasty products that will make their holiday extremely worthwhile in culinary terms. The temptations are great since, like everywhere in Greece, in fact, you are almost constantly confronted with the enticing displays of bakers, confectioners, ice cream parlours and delicatessens. Especially when you’re strolling on a summer evening through Adamantas, Pollonia or Plaka, the lit-up shop windows exercise an absolutely magical attraction. My very first experiences of Greece are forever marked with just such impressions from the Plaka in Athens.
Many traditional dishes, as so often in the course of decades or even centuries, have been created out of necessity in order for people to survive with the limited foodstuffs available. Here on Milos it is often melons, pumpkins and tomatoes that are processed in the most varied ways.
The popular white Milos pumpkin is such a staple food. It can be turned into something hearty but it serves mainly as the basis for the Kouféto spooning compote typical of Milos. Tomatoes also form the basis of many foods. The need to protect fresh tomatoes by any means and to conserve them has given rise to products such as Belté tomato paste and, quite simply, dried tomatoes.
Shopping tips: Delicacies and sweet foods
Panagiostis Vichos’ delicatessen with its complicated name of “Paradosiaká Edésmata,” which means nothing more than “traditional foods”, is located in the central square in Adamas. Here there are sweet little tarts from the chilled counter, home-made ice cream, typical pastries, classics like Pasteli sesame bars and halvadopittes, Milos wine and much more.
There is a culinary topic that the Greeks have perfected and made their own: the production of wickedly sticky sweet desserts. There is probably not a single Greek confectioner (the Greek term “Zacharoplasteío” sounds much more promising), which you can walk past without casting a fascinated glance at the perfectly decorated and presented displays.
The Raptis family in its shop of the same name in Adamas displays mainly a spectacular selection of little and large tarts, chocolates and sweet foods of a similar kind. The products are properly chilled, always fresh and so varied that you need a long time to try everything. The inconspicuous Raptis headquarters used to be in Triovasalos, whilst a prestigious outlet was based in Adamas. Finally, in 2014, the very modern and generous-seeming shop opened in a new building in Adamas, by the road as you leave the village in the direction of Triovasalos. I can only strongly recommend to fans of the Greek glossy paper-wrapped small cream cake culture that they have a colourful mixed box put together here some time.
Tyrokomeío "O Charalambákis"
Somewhat remote and located in Pachena and therefore all the more worth a mention at this point is the “O Charalambákis” cheese factory. Charalambos “Babis” Mallis runs not only the Hotel Asterias but also a farm and produces typical Milos wine and traditional types of cheese. Since 2013 they have been available to buy directly in the small farm shop on the family property. The production is certified and is managed by a Cheese Master. If you like hearty cheese typical of the island, it’s definitely worth a visit. In any case, you pass Pachena anyway on the drive to Pollonia.
Overview of specialities typical of Milos
Kouféto is a typical confection from Milos. Not dissimilar to marmalade in character, you can happily eat it on its own as a “spooning compote” (glykó koutalioú). Central European pancreases cannot always deal with it like that so combining it with yoghurt or using it simply as a marmalade on white bread or a croissant is recommended. Koufeto is produced from the white pumpkin referred to above, honey and almonds. You can find it not only in delicatessens but also in many bakers.
Grape molasses cookies are baked from a dark dough reminiscent in taste of ginger biscuits and – who would have thought? – contain grape molasses. Derivates of the simple grape molasses cookie may be enriched, for example, with raisins or sesame seeds. The shape may also vary: whorls, spirals, everything is possible. In my opinion, there are big quality differences in particular in moustokoúloura. Sometimes they are dried out, sometimes too soft.
You can of course now obtain dried tomatoes not only in southern holiday destinations but also at discounters back home. I would nevertheless like to specifically recommend those from Milos. They are sun-ripened, sun-dried, preserved in sea salt and uniquely aromatic in flavour. In contrast to dried tomatoes stored in oil, here they are sold in dried form as loose bulk goods. They are naturally very salty and should be soaked in water before use – for example to make tomato keftedes!
Belté (tomato paste)
Aromatic Milos tomatoes can also be processed to produce a highly-concentrated paste which you will come across in many places if you look closely. It appears, unnoticed because used sparingly because of its saltiness, on the little pieces of white bread in the middle of meze dishes, with grilled fish or with potatoes from the oven. In any event, it’s definitely not simple tomato puree but a local speciality that in my experience is also home-made and stored in many fridges at home.
What might be taken at a superficial glance in bakers’ displays as pizza is as a rule traditional ladénia, a speciality from Kimolos. The analogy with pizza is of course obvious, but even the dough base of ladénia is different – not leavened dough but a kind of hearty batter that is almost fried when baked because of the vast amounts of olive oil. The ladénia topping is clearly defined: tomatoes, onions, capers, olives - and no cheese.
Due to a lack of cows on the island, the cheese produced on Milos is based as you would expect on sheep’s and goat’s milk. There are various kinds of hard cheese with the intensity of taste varying with the degree of ripeness. The opposite of Milos’ hard cheeses is Misíthra, an unbelievably mild cream cheese, usual made from pure goat’s milk. It doesn't only go with a hearty meal but is also traditionally eaten with watermelon or a little honey. The processing and shelf life of a cream cheese of course make it unsuitable, unlike hard cheese, as something to bring back from your holiday. But the above-mentioned cheese factory in Pachena also offers prepacked Misíthra, which can at least provide real enrichment for self-catering holidaymakers.
Kritamo was recommended to me a long time ago as an accompaniment to salad and it took me a little while to discover that it was the same thing as samphire. Once you recognise this plant, you will come across it all the time on many of the beaches. Samphire has a very distinctive taste and should therefore be used sparingly but it gives salads a really exotic flavour.
You come across water melons (Karpoúsi, sg.) very often on Milos and anyone that upholds tradition grows the old drought-resistant varieties. These “old seeds” are characterised by extremely large seeds that can easily be confused with pumpkin seeds in their appearance. With these giant seeds, eating melons is even harder work than it already is otherwise but the old Milos melons still taste very fruity.
One somewhat unusual speciality is karpousópitta, a melon tart. The idea of putting what is after all very watery melon in a tart is remarkable but in the end, after an inevitably very long baking process the flesh of the fruit has turned into a marmalade-like mass. The form and feel of this melon tart are reminiscent of a thick, limp pancake. In my opinion, karpousópitta tastes best when very fresh, juicy inside and with an inside still with at least a tendency to crunchiness. Later it goes a bit soft.
Anyone who pays attention when passing through the landscape will frequently see beehives here and there. The little creatures will hopefully be helping themselves to wild thyme and other herbs that make up the characteristic Greek phrygana (scrubland). Local honey is available in the most varied types in many shops.
With a clear conscience we can recommend Dimitris Tseronis’ honey that he produces himself and sells in his shop on Karodromos opposite the National Bank. There are two types, thyme honey and normal blossom honey.
Contrary to the romanticising notion that “local” Milos wine is the non plus ultra for individual down-to-earth tourists, I would give a constant warning about the uncritical consumption of wine by the glass. The range of quality is wide and at one end of the scale it is almost dangerous to health. On Milos there is some really good wine by the glass that won’t do you any damage the next morning but there are also some horrible concoctions that in some cases do not come from Milos and by definition should not be called wine. In the restaurants and tavernas, as a rule, they serve reasonable wine by the glass but that doesn't come from Milos either. By contrast, local bottled wines that are officially sold in speciality shops and many other shops are in my experience good, if pricy. But after all, with this you are acquiring the ideal holiday souvenir to take away. The Konstantakis Winery in Pollonia should be mentioned here. It produces the most varied vintage wines of very good quality.