When I think back to that wonderful week I spent on Santorini the first thing which come to mind is the brilliant blue sea. Before I went to Greece I always thought pictures with brilliant blue sky and sea had been photoshopped, so I was amazed when I saw it myself!I took the boat to Santorini from Athens, which might take quite a bit longer than the short-hop flight to the island’s tiny airport, but it did get the best view of Santorini when we first approached and saw the village of Oia tumbling down the cliff side. I remember scrambling with my camera phone as we entered the lagoon, trying to get some pictures of the towns sprawling the cliff face, but all too soon we were docking at the island’s ferry port, about to take the very windy road up the cliffs to get to Imerovigli.
After we unpacked our bags and took in the awesome caldera-side view, it was straight to lunch at a local taverna just across the road. Being an island I was keen to see what fish and seafood they had on the menu. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Santorinian cooking but I’d have put a big bet on it being heavily influenced by the sea and austere landscape. When I looked over the menu I wasn’t disappointed. There was a lot of local produce, as expected for an island and a decent amount of fish.
Many of the restaurants, cafes and tavernas I ate in during that week prominently featured seafood or fish and I got the chance to try a fair few things for the first time. I’d never seen or tried octopus before and I’ve got to say when I saw a tentacled sucker sticking out of this seafood salad I was more than a little apprehensive shall we say!
I can’t say that I cared for Mr Octopus that much but I did fall in love with many of his under-water cousins. One of my favourite dishes (and I had this a a few different places!) was the seafood pasta. With the biggest, freshest, juciest prawns and muscles this had to be a real winner! It was always made with richly flavoured yet at the same time almost delicate tomato sauce. I’ve had some pretty successful goes at making it myself back in the UK, but never quite recaptured that certain something.
If you get to visit Santorini, I’d recommend taking what was one of my highlights, if not the highlight of my stay, a boat trips around the lagoon. You’ll get to walk on what is still (at least a little bit) an active volcano, swim in hot springs and try some really great fish. Apart from all that, the great views and being out on the open water I really loved all too briefly visiting Thirassia. The second of the islands making up Santorini is quite underdeveloped compared to the main island. It’s got a sizeable fishing population and you’ll get some really good fish in the unprepossessing restaurants along the small harbour. I can’t quite remember how many portions of fried calamari or fish kebabs I had here but lets just say it was an aweful lot! I wasn’t a big calamari fan till I tried it here, its one of those foods which are easy to cook badly, but I loved it on Thirassia.
Thinking back to the wonderful meals we had on the island I think they just about always involved fish and seafood, whether as a starter or a main course. I have cooked several fish recipes since I went to Greece and this is my latest Greek and Santorini inspired fish recipe.
Santorini sea bass baked in parchment paper with roast potatoes
Ingredients for 2
2 whole sea bass gutted and washed
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 red onion
1 medium tomato
1 small bunch dill
1 red chilli
2 x 30cm squares of parchment or baking paper
1 baking tray
Preheat your oven to 180c. Prepare the whole sea bass by removing the heads and tails then cutting off the fins. You can usually ask a good fishmonger to do this. Wash the fish inside and out to make sure they are clean.
Prepare the vegetables.
Slice the red and green peppers into large slices and put to one side; then slice the tomato as well. Thinly slice the red onion. Finely dice the red chilli and finally thinly slice the lemon. Wash the dill and drain in a colander.
Some assembly required.
Lay out the parchment or baking paper. In the centre layout half the red and green peppers. Sit the tomatoes on top, layer this with some of the red onion (reserving some for the tops). Take a couple of sprigs of the dill and put in the fish cavity then lay the sea bass on the vegetables. Top with a few slices of red onion and two slices of lemon then just a sprinkle of the diced chilli.
Bake for 25-30 minutes depending on your oven. The fish is ready when it is firm to the touch and flakes easily.
Greek inspired roast potatoes.
500g new potatoes
200ml chicken or vegetable stock
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons of Olive oil
Wash the potatoes and chop to bite sized pieces.
Mix the chicken stock, lemon juice and olive oil in a mixing bowl then stir in the oregano. Add the potatoes and coat in the lemony oil. Transfer to a roasting dish and roast for 30 minutes.
Serve the fish in the unfurled parchment paper with some Greek inspired roast potatoes.
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