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Balanced Greek Nutrition During Lockdown and Beyond

An Interview with Chef Matthaios Sorotos

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I talk to Matthaios Sorotos, the Executive chef of Pergola restaurant at Iconic Santorini, about Greek cuisine, how to eat healthy and seasonal recipes for a balanced delicious meal.

Matthaios, can you tell us a bit about your background to introduce yourself?

I was born and raised on the Cycladic Island of Santorini. Besides my formal culinary schooling years on nearby Crete and a short period of time spent in Athens, all of my working experience has been here in Santorini.

When did you realise that cooking was your passion?

My first contact with a professional kitchen was at 12 years old, where I received guidance by my uncle who was a chef. It was not long after that I became passionate about cooking and decided that I wanted to become a cook. I began formal training in the culinary field at 15 years of age and from 17 to present in my 30’s, I’ve worked professionally within restaurants and hotels on this beautiful island.

In your mind, do you think that cooking can reduce stress and relieve anxiety?

Cooking for me is very creative and has no limits, something you can do with love which makes me happy. Greek food comes from the heart and it always gives me a good feeling to see visitors enjoying our freshly prepared dishes.

You are currently working at the Pergola restaurant at Iconic Santorini, a boutique cave hotel – what are the highlights of your menu there?

I enjoy adding modern touches to authentic recipes and flavours inspired from my childhood, working with recipes passed down through family generations. Visitors are encouraged to pass by the open kitchen to see what is being prepared for the day and learn a thing or two from us. Being really proud of my Greek heritage, I insist on the freshest local ingredients and quality products so there is no fixed menu at the Pergola Restaurant. We focus on traditional fare which our guests really enjoy, the offerings change daily based on availability and I visit the produce market every day without fail.

What is your personal favourite Greek dish?

I really love working with seafood so any recipe featuring fish or shellfish, both Greek and Mediterranean can be considered as my favourite.

In your opinion, what differentiates Greek cuisine from others?

Greek cuisine does not depend too much on creativity, rather simplicity but must feature the best raw materials to honour the unique recipes and taste of Greece.

If a person has never tried Santorini cuisine, what do you recommend to try first?

I would recommend sampling dishes which include fava; white eggplant; Santorinian cherry tomatoes (Protected Designation of Origin) and of course fish!

Can you tell us more about your signature All Day Breakfast at Iconic Santorini?

Our delightful breakfast has become a real talking point – served to the terrace space outide each residence, visitors can choose to be surprised with the day’s fresh array of continental options and hot dish selection or simply order exactly what they feel for. The best part of the Iconic breakfast is that our visitors can’t miss it as one can order whenever desired throughout the day. This is a real luxury for those seeking a late start during their vacation such as honeymooners and romantics.

Can you share some of your signature recipes for an unforgettable dinner?

Sure, I’m pleased to share my recipes for a few of our most popular dishes – Tomato keftedes (fritters); Fava cream with local sausage and Prawn Saganaki.

Tomato keftedes (fritters)

Ingredients

  • 1kg cherry tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 4 spring onions
  • 5gr corn flour
  • 40-50 peppermint leaves
  • Self-raising flour
  • Salt & pepper
  • Sunflower oil

Yogurt dip

  • 1 portion of yogurt
  • 1 lime jest
  • 5 pepermint leaves
  • 10gr olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Recipe

Add the cherry tomatoes, onion, spring onion and peppermint toa large bowl, all thinly chopped. Include salt and stir, leave aside for 20-30 minutes to bring out their juices. Add the corn flour and pepper, then gradually the flour while stirring all the time until the mixture becomes a thick mush and does not stick to the spoon. Pour enough sunflower oil in a frying pan to half cover the tomato balls. Wait until the oil heats (not too hot) then spoon the mixture in to the pan. Remove the tomato balls when crisp, place on kitchen paper to absorb the oil. Served on a plate with yogurt dip on the side.

FAVA CREAM WITH LOCAL SAUSAGE

Ingredients

  • 500gr fava split peas
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1700ml water
  • 300ml olive oil
  • 250gr santorinian sausage
  • 1 orange
  • Salt & pepper

Recipe

Wash the split peas 2-3 times with lots of water until there is no more starch. Drain the split peas, add to a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Once the water boils, remove the froth from the rim with a spoon. Add the fine chopped onions to a frying pan with half of the olive oil and simmer over a low flame until it softens. Mix the onions in oil to the split peas, adding salt, pepper and the zest of half an orange. Reduce the flame to half and let the peas cook very slowly, stirring all the time to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. When the split peas become creamy and absorb all the liquid, put the mixture in a blender with the rest of the olive oil and blend to a thick, creamy texture. Add the sausage to a frying pan with a table spoonful of olive oil and simmer for 2-3 minutes until it becomes crispy. Serve the split peas on a plate and place the sausage on top.

PRAWN “SAGANAKI”

Saganaki is a pan we use to mostly cook cheese, also seafood such as prawns.

Ingredients

  • 10 prawns
  • 2 ripe tomatoes cubed
  • 2 spring onions chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1 chilli chopped
  • 5-6 leaves of basil
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh oregano
  • 150gr feta cheese
  • 100ml prawn or vegetable broth
  • 50ml ouzo liquor
  • 3 t/spoons olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Recipe

Pour the olive oil in a frying pan and let it heat. Add the prawns, cook for a minute and turn each over. Include the spring onion, garlic and chilli, cooking for 2 minutes. Add the ouzo, tomato, salt, pepper and broth. When the liquid absorbs and the prawns are ready, remove from the heat and stir lightly to spread them out. Add the feta cheese, oregano and the basil. Serve in a bowl.

What are your plans for the future at Iconic Santorini?

I look forward to many successful seasons ahead as we continue to offer provide our warm Hellenic hospitality, leaving our visitors truly unforgettable memories to cherish.

How can our readers follow the hotel on social media?

Iconic Santorini is found on Facebook and Instagram at @iconicsantorini and the hotel website can be visited at www.iconicsantorini.com

Finally, can you please share your motto and your favourite quote?

Something which I remain fully committed to is that ‘if it’s not freshly available then it’s not being served that day!’ A phrase I often use in the kitchen after planning the schedule is best translated as ‘Alright, let’s make taste!’ ”

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