Among other things, Sifnos has connected its name with Chef Nicholas (Nikos) Tselementes, not only because it is the birthplace of the famous chef and of many other distinguished chefs but mainly because the gastronomic habits of the past are a living part of its tradition.
Based on the local agricultural and livestock products, the sweet-smelling thyme honey, the wild greens and herbs, the Sifnians have exploited with remarkable technique everything that their land offered them, by cooking with love food and sweets baked in wood-fired ovens, and in earthen pots.
Every event of the sifnian life and every season keeps… its own taste for years now.
The main dish on the traditional Sunday table is the chick-pea soup, which is cooked in an earthen pot (tsikali or skepastaria) for many hours, all night long, in a wood-fired oven.
At the traditional feasts of Sifnos, the Sifnians organize the communal dinners, which remind us of the ancient symposiums and of the agapes (communal meals) of the early Christians, where they offer to everybody chick-pea soup and meat cooked in tomato sauce with spaghetti, cooked in special large cooking pots or during the period of the Great Lent, fried cod fish with garlic sauce and salad.
At Christmas, the finikia (honey-cookies) and the avgokalamara (honey rolls) smell delicious in every house of the island, while in the rural houses and the thimonies (simple one-roomed constructions covering the basic needs of the farmers) the Sifnians still make syglino (smoked pork) and pikti (aspic jelly).
A bit later, at the Carnival, the Sifnian housewives make dairy desserts such as rice pudding, cream or yoghurt made of goat’s or sheep’s milk, which is produced in large quantities during this time.
And of course Easter without the smell of the mastelo roast (lamb or goat cooked in the homonymous earthen pot, with red wine and anise, in the wood-fired oven), without the “Easter birds” (ring-shaped bread, kneaded in various forms of animals and birds) and without the honey pie (sweet made of boiled anthotira cheese and local thyme honey) is totally unimaginable for the Sifnians.
Weddings are always accompanied by rhomboid sifnian pastelis (honey and sesame candy bars)and by casserole marzipans or marzipans in the oven (with or without sugar).
Chick pea croquettes, caper salad (dry caper cooked with onions), manoura (yellow, hard spicy cheese that matures in red wine lees), and according to the season, chirovoskoi (wild greens) mizithra (sourish fresh goat cheese, ideal to use in Greek salad), dry figs, loli (sweet made of red pumpkin), sweet preserves and liqueurs made of fruits that grow in Sifnos as well as tisanes from the rich flora of the island, such as sage, mallow and bent grass are also part of the cuisine of Sifnos.
You can find the famous sifnian sweets such as anise cookies, butter cookies, casserole marzipans, marzipans in the oven, pastelis, loukoums, patties and sweet preserves at the traditional bakeries and sweetshops of Sifnos.
INGREDIENTS: 1 kilo of chick peas – 1 soup spoon full of cooking soda – ½ or ¾ of a kilo, onions cut finely – ¾ of a water glass of olive oil – salt – pepper – water – lemon (at the serving)
PREPARATION: At the night before put the chick peas into water. In the morning add the soda and leave them soak for another one hour. Leach them out very well at least 3 times. Put them in the “tsikali” (special ceramic chick pea soup utensil from local potteries) and add the finely cut onion, the olive oil, the salt and pepper and finally the water. The water that you’ll add must be enough so that when you can’t the skepastaria it reaches the edge of the utensil and at the same time it must cover the chick peas. Cover “tsikali” with its cover and put it in the wood oven and leave the chick pea soup to be cooked for about 6 hours!
TIP: You can stew your chick pea soup in the electric oven for 6 hours at 150 degrees.
INGREDIENTS: 5-6 kilos of small lamb or kid cut in portions – red wine – much dill cut finely – salt – pepper – vine-twigs – tinfoil or oil paper (according to where you are going to cook it)
PREPARATION: Wash out the meat with red wine. Put salt and pepper on it and powder all the portions with dill. Put on the bottom of the “mastelo” (special ceramic utensil for this specific dish without a cover from local potteries) the vine-twigs crosswise forming a grid. Put the pieces of meat over the wine-twigs. Spray the food with 1 ½ – 2 wine glasses of red wine (if it is clear, you can use the wine that we used to wash off the meat). Cover the utensil with tinfoil and use a fork or a knife to make small holes on it. Put it in the wood oven for 5 hours!
TIP: If you want to cook the food in an electric oven, make it cook for an hour at 200 degrees and then continue cooking it at 100 degrees. If you are going to use an electric oven cover the food with oil paper instead of tinfoil and do not open any holes on it!
INGREDIENTS: ½ kilo of chick peas – 4 boiled potatoes of medium size – 4 onions of medium size cut finely – grated mint – grated marjoram – parsley cut finely – salt – pepper – frying oil
PREPARATION: The night before, put the chick peas in water. In the morning put the cooking soda and leave them soak for an hour. Leach out very well at least 3 times. Put all the ingredients in the electric food mixer. Attention not in a blender! If the mixture is watery, add some flour and work the mixture to incorporate the flour in it. Make small round balls, cover them with flour and fry them.
INGREDIENTS: 1.100 grams of saltless myzithra (Greek skim milk cheese) or local cream cheese – 1 glass of sugar – 6 eggs – ¾ of a glass honey – cinnamon for powdering – butter and flour for the baking pan
PREPARATION: Work in the electric food mixer the myzithra cheese or the cream cheese with the sugar, the eggs and the honey. Then pour the mixture into the baking pan, after having buttered it and powdered it with the flour. Bake the pie in a preheated oven at 180 Celsius degrees for about 45’-50’. The moment you take it out of the oven powder it with cinnamon and cut it in middle pieces.