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Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Staka dip with eggs (Στάκα με αυγά μάτια)

Here's a special meal that will be difficult to make in any place in the world except of course Crete. Not even my fellow Greek food bloggers can make this in Athens - they still have to substitute the ingredients for more generic products, which of course don't retain the original taste. Some regional produce (like cheese) doesn't travel well; it's also highly sought-after, with demand being greater than the available supplies. This dish is also one of those acquired tastes - not many people these days would be terribly interested in eating cholesterol-filled fried food. In fact, the only time we allow ourselves a dish like this is when we buy spring-fresh produce before Easter.

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read the poem
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Staka is a kind of buttery cream. It looks like curd cheese, but melts upon touch. You cannot pick it up and lead it to your mouth without it melting in your hands. Once it melts, it looks very much like butter. Once it has melted over medium heat, it is thickened with a little milk and flour (seasoned with salt), and the result is a thick non-congealing dip. The longer it cooks, the thicker the dip, and the more separated the oil becomes from the dip. It can be eaten as it is, the way it's normally done in restaurants, served as a side dish for a main meal.

As we were enjoying this dip at home (I had bought some staka to make a lovely traditional Cretan Easter meat pie), we were more indulgent. We added one more ingredient to it: two eggs, cooked in the oil which collected on one side of the saucepan, after I had spooned away the dip. The oil slid towards one edge of the saucepan, into which I broke the eggs. The result was that instead of eating gigandes, oops sorry, elephantes makedonias, as they are now called (since gaining protected-origin status) with leftover Easter lamb as our main meal, we ended up eating them as a side dish...

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CRETAN PRODUCE:
Xinohondro (hondro)
Stamnagathi
Marathopites
Avronies (wild asparagus)
Wedding pilafi
Orange juice
Lagos stifado
Sorrel
Silverbeet
Bougatsa Iordanis
Black mustard greens
Malotira
Cheese
Sfakianes pites
Olives tsakistes - pastes
Olive oil