Music, history, tradition and pastafrolles biscuits from Corfu island

Traditional Corfu clothing in a Greek movie of 1967 (source)

The island’s residents are Greek Christians. They are good people, humble in their habits and dependent on the Venetians. Most had long hair, a small carafe over their foreheads and usually wore a kind of hat. There were no beautiful houses on the streets, because it had not been long since the last time the Turks had destroyed the city.

Antoine Regnault, French traveler, 1549, from the book Εδεσματολόγιον Κέρκυρας (2012) by Savalas Publishers (translated by Eat Dessert First Greece)
Panagia ton Vlachernon, a monastery dedicated to Holy Mary of the 17th century and in the background Pontikonisi island.

This is how a French traveler of the 16th century described Corfu… Later, with the passage of time and history, in the beginning and the middle of the 19th century the travelers presented the island in their own view…

In Corfu there were two ports, one of which was located in Perama and was well protected from the winds thanks to a small rocky islet located at the entrance and called “Pontikonisi”. It used to be very spacious, but now it is filled with sand and mud, so that even small boats find it difficult to enter the port. The main port is located near the city walls and is protected from the winds coming from Epirus. The predominant plants on the island are olives, orange, lemon, pomegranates and fig trees vines, almond trees and cypresses..

Edward Podwell, British traveler, 1801, from the book Εδεσματολόγιον Κέρκυρας (2012) by Savalas Publishers (translated by Eat Dessert First Greece)
Panoramic view of the city, port and walls of Corfu island.
View from the Old Fortress of Corfu

Corfu is a very small and narrow island, located very close to the Albanian coast. The city was under Venetian occupation until 1789 and its characteristic features are the narrow streets and low houses. Near the sea laid the most beautiful square in the world. The beauty of the island was indescribable. It looked like a real paradise. This charm comes from the variety of the landscape and the excessive greenery that is everywhere. The predominant plant is the olive tree and there were huge olive groves.

Edward Lear, British traveler, 1848, from the book Εδεσματολόγιον Κέρκυρας (2012) by Savalas Publishers (translated by Eat Dessert First Greece)
The old town of Corfu island
Natural landscape of the island

The cities that then attracted m tourism from civilized Europe were Athens, Constantinople and the Ionian Islands. The Ionian Islands were chosen for their climate, their natural beauties. The Ionian Islands served as resorts for beautiful vacations, featuring the product of combining and blending Eastern and Western lifestyles and customs.

Albert Mousson, Swiss traveler, 1858, from the book Εδεσματολόγιον Κέρκυρας (2012) by Savalas Publishers (translated by Eat Dessert First Greece)
Achillion of Corfu, an imposing palace built in the late 19th century in Pompeian rhythm for Empress Elizabeth of Austria, one of the most famous royal mansions in Europe.

As you may have already noticed, in our new travel article we will go on a mental trip to Corfu island through the book Εδεσματολόγιον Κέρκυρας by Savalas Publishers, with stories, traditions, music, traditional clothing and authentic local savory and sweet recipes. In the end, we will make Corfiot pastafrolles, biscuits filled with plum jam to close our sweet journey.

We warmly thank Savalas Publishers for the books they sent us! We will write more articles about the whole wonderful series “Edesmatologion” with customs, traditions and authentic recipes of our homeland, Greece, stay tuned!
At the end of the article you’ll find the recipe for delicious Corfiot pastafrolles.

We started with a fragmentary look back at the recent history of Corfu, through the eyes of European travelers. The tours were a habit of the time, thanks to which many historical and folklore elements were preserved from various parts of our country. Like our sweet -mental and real- travels, in which we try to collect fragments of history and preserve them through our articles, in the small scale that we can.

What can be more characteristic of the Ionian Islands and Corfu than kantada, a local serenade! Music, like food, as well as clothing, are elements of the local culture of a place, in which its history and tradition are imprinted. That is why it is important to study and preserve them.

Traditional Corfiot clothing from the book Πατροπαράδοτες ελληνικές συνταγές (1994).

As we read in the book Εδεσματολόγιον Κέρκυρας (2012), kantada is a special musical genre of the Ionian Islands, closely linked to love, since it uses voice and lyrics to express emotions. The name comes from the Latin verb cantare which means singing.

Part of the painting “May Day in Corfu” by Charalambos Pachis, one of the most important representatives of the Ionian School of Painting. The custom depicted in the painting is the following: on May Day on the island the villagers brought to the city a trunk of cypress, with a foliage adorned with wooden wreaths and colored ribbons. Easter red eggs, pine cones, artichokes and other gilded fruits were hung on its leaves, making it look like a Christmas tree! Τhey would carry the tree around the city streets, doing what else? Singing! (source)

Kantada appeared at the end of the 19th century, with western influences. At that time, the urban folk song began to take shape in Greece, with two currents, the Ionian serenade, which laid the foundations for the development of Athenian song and rebetiko music. Initially, serenades (kantades) were heard at celebrations and social gatherings, while later they took the well-known form of love confession under the girl’s balcony or window.

Corfiot kantada from the book Εδεσματολόγιον Κέρκυρας (2012).

What would the girl prepare for her loved one? Definitely one of the traditional dishes of the island, and a dessert for a treat! Let’s see what these could be…

As we read in the book Εδεσματολόγιον Κέρκυρας, the cuisine of the island is Venetian with Mediterranean characteristics. Many foreign ships used to pass through the busy port of Corfu, leaving products and knowledge. The four centuries of Venetian rule left their mark on the island’s cuisine. We learned that Venetian cuisine was based on meat, fish and game, with many spices, and of course spaghetti. In the island it has been adapted to local conditions and products, such as olive oil.

In the Εδεσματολόγιον Κέρκυρας book we read that the Venetians brought to Corfu corn, tomatoes, beans, peppers, coffee, chocolate… Also sugar and spices, which came from the East since the 10th century and were so expensive that they were sold in small luxury packages and left as a legacy to future generations. There were two cuisines on the island, the purely Venetian urban cuisine and the rural cuisine based on local agricultural products.

Corfiot buttery pastafrolles, a dessert of Italian origin. The name comes from the Italian pasta frolla, a shortcrust pastry. Read more about pasta frolla in our previous article!

We chose some of the typical foods and sweets of Corfiot cuisine, to get a “virtual” taste of its special recipes and in the end we made sweet cookies with jam filling, Corfiot pastafrolles!

Pastitsada or Pastitsado

Rooster pastitsada (source). We have learned that the authentic Corfiot pastitsada is made with a mixture of spices that distinguishes it from other stews. The mixture is called “spetsieriko” from the word spetsieris (a pharmacist’s assistant) and includes eighteen different spices. It used to be sold in pharmacies, but it was also made in homes. The families had their own recipe for soetsieriko that they wouldn’t give to anyone!

Sofrito

Corfiot dish made with fish, usually scorpion fish, perch, batoids or octopus, onion, sweet red pepper, hot red pepper and tomato paste. Other recipes do not use tomatoes at all and the red color results from the peppers! (source)

Bourdeto

Typical dish of the island, made with beef, white wine, garlic, pepper, salt and parsley. Served with mashed potatoes, french fries, rice or even spaghetti. (source)

Bianco

Dense fish soup, made with fish of all kinds, potatoes, lemon juice, garlic, pepper and olive oil. (source)

Loukoumades (doughnuts) of the Saint

They are prepared on the eve of the celebration of St. Spyridon, patron saint of the island, “so that the house may smell and the saint may rejoice in his celebration. (source)

Fougatsa or Fogatsa

The traditional Easter sweet bread (tsoureki in Greek) of Corfu is a variation of a Venetian recipe made with kumquat liqueur (πηγή)

Koutsouloi piperatoi

Baked dough made with flour, water, sugar, honey and pepper. They are made of dough strings wrapped so that they look like the shape of a dropping! (source: Εδεσματολόγιον Κέρκυρας)

Bianceta

This is the name of amygdalota (almond macaroons) in Corfu. Their special feature is that they are flavored with mandarin (source)

The savory and sweet delicacies of Corfu are of course much more… From the many savory and sweet recipes of the book Εδεσματολόγιον Κέρκυρας (2012) by Nadia Sarantopoulou and Giannis Sarantopoulos, published by Savalas Publishers, we chose to make buttery pastafrolles filled with plum jam and they came out delicious! You must absolutely try them!

Pastafrolles (filled biscuits)

*We are translating the original recipe, as it is published in the book.

Ingredients

450 gr flour
220 gr sugar
225 gr butter
4 egg yolks
1 whipped egg white for coating
2 tbs cognac
2 vanilla capsules
Plum jam
The recipe and the ingredients for the pastafrolles we will make.

Method

Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat well with a mixer until fluffy. Then add the yolks, cognac, vanilla and beat the mixture for a few more minutes. Finally, add the flour and knead.

Leave the dough to rest for a while and then roll it into a sheet. Cut large biscuits with a cookie cutter, pour a teaspoon of jam onto each cookie, wet the edges of the dough with a little water and cover with a second cookie.

It came out by chance and we captured it… from Eat Dessert First Greece with love!
Some of our cookies will be bigger, with a hole in the middle to show the jam filling!
With the pieces we removed we will make mini filled cookies!

Spread the surface of the filled cookies with the egg white and sprinkle with sugar (alternatively, don’t spread them with egg white, but, after closing them, dip them in powdered sugar). Place the cookies in a well-buttered pan and bake in a preheated oven at 160°C (being careful for them not to gain too much colour) for about 40 minutes.

We spreaded the surface of our cookies with whipped egg white and sprinkled with brown sugar.
We filled about two pans and baked them at 160°C for 35 minutes in our oven.

Pastafrolles have a buttery taste that brings back childhood memories and the smell that filled the house as they were being baked is simply indescribable…

Therefore, we wish everyone sweet Corfiot creations, as we are sure you’ll try them out!

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