Sifnos – History, Culture, Food


This past summer I had the pleasure of visiting the Greek island of Sifnos for the first time. It lies in the middle of the Cyclades between Serifos, Kimolos and Antiparos and is about 80 nautical miles from Piraeus.

Sifnos is also known for it’s contribution to the sciences and the Greek literary tradition.

The island can boast a large number of Sifnians who contributed to the social development and reconstruction of the modern Greek state: politicians, teachers, religious leaders, journalists, lawyers and economists.

Sifnos is known today as a summer resort, an island of natural beauty, with its hospitable and courteous inhabitants, its white washed traditional houses, its beautiful churches and chapels, its old monasteries and its popular as well as hidden-away beaches.

For me, Sifnos also attracted me with it’s reputation of having great food, unique recipes cooked in earthenware vessels due to it’s thriving pottery industry and it’s the birthplace of Tselementes.

Tselementes is perhaps the best known chef and food writer and he’s credited with catapulting Greek cuisine to new levels after his training in Europe and stints at some of the finest hotels.

Today, Greece’s food philosophy is a mix combining naturally grown and seasonal foods with the best herbs and spices to create simple, fabulous dishes and the “Tselementes effect” in the creation of a class system based on food. Wealth, sophistication, and status were associated with his creations.

This juxtaposition of cooking also exists with the patrons of Greek eateries. It is quite often that one will see the everyday Greek person dining side-by-side with Greece’s rich and famous.

I witnessed this phenomenon in Sifnos. One of the first things I noticed upon arriving in Sifnos was the long row of yachts that were docked in it’s port.

One night at a taverna, I was smack in the middle of ordinary vacationing Greeks and a large table filled with the clan of one of Greece’s wealthiest families, dining side by side with their Greek common-folk (this family owns one of Athens’ soccer teams).

Although this wealthy family dined on the prohibitively expensive lobster spaghetti (80 euros/kilo), the rest of us were more than happy to be feasting on Sifnos’ local dishes.

One such dish is Revithokeftedes or chickpea balls. Revithokefetedes can be simply described as Greek falafel. Chick peas get pulsed and mixed with herbs and spices and then deep fried to a golden perfection.

From gleaning the internet, I’ve seen revithokeftdes served up in hamburger pattie size and also in little meatball-sized format. When I was in Sifnos, all I saw were the small, meze-eat in two bites kind of Revithokeftedes.

There are two approaches to making Revithokeftdes…one is to soak the dried chick peas overnight or in a more modern and time-saving way, using perfectly acceptable canned chick peas.

Revithokeftedes are a wonderful addition to the repotoire of Greek appetizers. The mixture here is pulsed chick peas, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and chopped fresh dill.

Grab a bottle of ouzo, invited some friends, offer up some simple seafood dishes, a seasonal salad, cheeses, olives and throw in a plate of Revitokeftedes.

Revithokeftedes

500 gr. can of chickpeas
(rinsed and drained)

2 small onions, chopped

1 clove of garlic

1 bunch of fresh parsley leaves

1 egg

4 Tbsp. of chopped fresh dill

salt and pepper
sunflower oil for frying
flour for dredging

  1. Into your food processor, add the chickpeas, onions, garlic, parsley, dill and egg and pulse until a smooth paste. Add some salt and pepper to taste. If the mixture is too wet, add some bread crumbs to tighten the mixture.
  2. Form the mixture into small meatballs and reserve on a plate. Place in the fridge to set for at least an hour.
  3. When you’re ready to fry, bring the revithokeftedes back to room temperature and dredge in flour.
  4. Pour about 3/4 inch of sunflower oil into a frying pan and shallow fry your Revithokeftedes until golden brown. Blot on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  5. Serve immediately as part of an array of Greek appetizers (meze).

© 2008 – 2010,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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68 Comments for “Sifnos – History, Culture, Food”

FOODalogue: Meandering Meals and Travels

says:

Interesting little travelogue..I remember you mentioning the wedding in an earlier post and I was wondering what they ate. Falafel is my food of choice whenever I’m at a mall food court — even the Greek food stands call them ‘falafel”. I can see why now. Revithokeftedes doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue!

Prudy

says:

That island is positively idyllic. How did you ever come home? Those chickpea fritters look really similar to a patty that I make, except mine is full of cilantro and cumin also. I’d love to make yours with the fresh dill. I should start by learning how to pronounce them.

Bren@ Flanboyant Eats

says:

Peter, I love that first picture, but I’m mad that lobster pasta could cost that much! What?!?! And i really am enticed by your chick pea balls. Hmmm. Great post.
Thanks for sharing.

Ben

says:

There’s nothing better than preparing and eating simple and delicious food to enjoy it with simple and delicious people, right? Nice story about your experiences in that island. How many Greek islands do you have left to visit?

Judy@nofearentertaining

says:

Great pictures Peter! I want one of those pretty boats!

That recipe is definitely one I will have to try!

Abigail

says:

Wow, those are making me really hungry now. I’ve made them before and you’re inspiring me to go for it again!

The Short (dis)Order Cook

says:

I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking “Falafel” when I saw these. I don’t have a problem with the similiarity though, as I happen to love the stuff. These look great.

kat

says:

That place looks like heaven! I’m betting if I made these my husband would go nuts for them, he loves chickpeas

Núria

says:

Mmmm Peter… I fell in love with your garbanzos croquettes/meatballs! They look fantastic for a tapa by the sea in a Taberna… or up in one of the boats.

Those waters take my breath away :D

Gloria

says:

So beautiful pictures dear Peter, Ilove the water colour!!! I love swimm! I Love all pictures and so handsome the MAN of the pictures, really!!! LOL

Love this dish mmmm!! Gloria

Giff

says:

your blog definitely makes me want to return to the greek islands. going to try a riff on your gigantes recipe tonight

Mike of Mike's Table

says:

These look delicious…and much more reasonable than the arm-and-a-leg lobster (yikes). I keep meaning to try to make falafel, but it just never happens. Now, however, I can expand my Greek cooking and try this instead.

Mike of Mike's Table

says:

These look delicious…and much more reasonable than the arm-and-a-leg lobster (yikes). I keep meaning to try to make falafel, but it just never happens. Now, however, I can expand my Greek cooking and try this instead.

Mike of Mike's Table

says:

These look delicious…and much more reasonable than the arm-and-a-leg lobster (yikes). I keep meaning to try to make falafel, but it just never happens. Now, however, I can expand my Greek cooking and try this instead.

Mike of Mike's Table

says:

These look delicious…and much more reasonable than the arm-and-a-leg lobster (yikes). I keep meaning to try to make falafel, but it just never happens. Now, however, I can expand my Greek cooking and try this instead.

Mike of Mike's Table

says:

These look delicious…and much more reasonable than the arm-and-a-leg lobster (yikes). I keep meaning to try to make falafel, but it just never happens. Now, however, I can expand my Greek cooking and try this instead.

Mike of Mike's Table

says:

These look delicious…and much more reasonable than the arm-and-a-leg lobster (yikes). I keep meaning to try to make falafel, but it just never happens. Now, however, I can expand my Greek cooking and try this instead.

Mike of Mike's Table

says:

These look delicious…and much more reasonable than the arm-and-a-leg lobster (yikes). I keep meaning to try to make falafel, but it just never happens. Now, however, I can expand my Greek cooking and try this instead.

Mike of Mike's Table

says:

These look delicious…and much more reasonable than the arm-and-a-leg lobster (yikes). I keep meaning to try to make falafel, but it just never happens. Now, however, I can expand my Greek cooking and try this instead.

Rosie

says:

This sounds a peace of heaven on earth Peter and your your chickpea fritters looks wonderful.

Rosie x

Lore

says:

Gorgeous landscape and delicious food, can anyone wish for more??
These keftedes look great, I could eat then as a whole meal with no regrets what so ever :D

Zen Chef

says:

A Greek version of falafel? I’m all for it!
Looks really good. Too bad we can’t recreate the fresh marine air and the scenery of those beautiful islands in our kitchens. Then that would be perfect.

Peter G

says:

This is a great write up about Sifnos…I had no idea it had become a “millionaire’s hangout”. As for the “revithokeftedes” I too prefer using canned chickpeas. I think these are better than felafel.

Nicole

says:

I wish I were there…. Sooo beautiful. I need a vacation. The revithokeftedes look fabulous too.

We Are Never Full

says:

loved learning about sifnos. what i really loved (and, if i wasn’t such a good catholic girl, tried to steal off the wall) that adorable clay sign of the coffee cup. great post! who’s that model in front of the flag?

maybelle's mom

says:

if you subbed a couple of the herbs, this would be totally indian. But, of course, having read your post, I have a greater appreciation of Sifnos. and a desire to be there..

maybelle's mom

says:

if you subbed a couple of the herbs, this would be totally indian. But, of course, having read your post, I have a greater appreciation of Sifnos. and a desire to be there..

maybelle's mom

says:

if you subbed a couple of the herbs, this would be totally indian. But, of course, having read your post, I have a greater appreciation of Sifnos. and a desire to be there..

maybelle's mom

says:

if you subbed a couple of the herbs, this would be totally indian. But, of course, having read your post, I have a greater appreciation of Sifnos. and a desire to be there..

maybelle's mom

says:

if you subbed a couple of the herbs, this would be totally indian. But, of course, having read your post, I have a greater appreciation of Sifnos. and a desire to be there..

maybelle's mom

says:

if you subbed a couple of the herbs, this would be totally indian. But, of course, having read your post, I have a greater appreciation of Sifnos. and a desire to be there..

maybelle's mom

says:

if you subbed a couple of the herbs, this would be totally indian. But, of course, having read your post, I have a greater appreciation of Sifnos. and a desire to be there..

maybelle's mom

says:

if you subbed a couple of the herbs, this would be totally indian. But, of course, having read your post, I have a greater appreciation of Sifnos. and a desire to be there..

Kevin

says:

These look so light and moist and good. They look similar to some zucchini balls that I had when I was in Greece that I wanted to try making.

Bellini Valli

says:

I woulld of course love these on Sifnos or at home. Thanks for letting us know a few interesting facts about the island. I remember many yachts at a small harbour on Kea near one of their more secluded beaches.Their was a ship called Hey Jude if I recall….I had wondered at the time if Paul was aboard:D

Nina Timm

says:

I would love to find these on a meze platter….there will be none left for the other guests!!!

Katerina

says:

Great post as always Peter, I feel like I am there. If only we could all afford the lobster spaghetti right? Although the chickpea meze look fabulous too!

canarygirl

says:

Ohhhh YUM! Hey, are these served with any particular dipping sauce, or just on their own? Peter I loved this post…Sifnos sounds like a beautiful place.

Heather

says:

You and your tan arms and keftedes.

(Sorry, that was a lame comment, but it’s past my bedtime.)

Mochachocolata Rita

says:

peter…there’s something with the layout?…or it’s just my eyes?

loving the idea of Revithokeftedes (i am sureee i wont be able to pronounce this correctly hehe)…normally we just use potatoes for things like this…but i’d love to try chick peas ^_^

Antonio Tahhan

says:

yay for Greek falafel : ) These look absolutely wonderful, Peter!! The island looks gorgeous!!

Pam

says:

It is so beautiful there! I always have chickpeas in the pantry for hummus and this looks like a great recipe to also keep in mind.

Greek Coulinary Tourist

says:

dear god, life’s worth living after these revithokeftedes

don’t you just love the mediterranean cuisine (overall)?

:)))

cook eat FRET

says:

i need to go on a greek kick
these look wonderful
great freakin’ food
when are you putting out a book?

Solange Belém

says:

Blog lindo e maravilhoso!!
O descobri por acaso, mas, foi uma feliz descoberta para mim. As receitas são impares, e com certeza devem ser deliciosas!
Vou já para a cozinha, surpreender minha família com estas guloseimas. Parabéns e um abraço

Sol