Donoussa, a tiny isle with such a pretty-sounding name, floats alone in the Aegean’s waters between Naxos and Amorgos, welcoming and bathed in light. The northerly winds blowing down from Thrace overwhelm it as they breeze over open seas from the northern Aegean. Its poetic name was inspired from these very winds that «undulate» (donoun in Greek) over it. Today, Donoussa has some 120 permanent residents who live a tranquil life doing a little of everything—growing onions, grains, vegetables, and pulses to meet their family’s needs. At Mersini, a verdant settlement shaded by apricot, peach, and fig trees, cool waters bubbles from the springs at the foot of the century-old plane tree near the tree of Ayia Sofia. On the island’s eastern shore, at Cavo Moschonas, the so-called Fokospilia (literally, seal cave) is one of the last refuges of the Mediterranean monk seal monachus monachus. Donoussa small size belies the range and variety of its flavorful cuisine. Chunks of porks fried in lard are the basis of kavourmas while another delicacy, pastourmas is made from sun-dried pork rubbed with herbs and spices. A popular holiday dish is patatato—goat rump or leg, onions, garlic, potaties, tomatoes, and bay simmered on the stove top. Finely chopped fennel and rice combined with rice, bulgar wheat, and tomato is wrapped in cauliflower or cabbage leaves for a dish called yiaprakia. The local version of the ubiquitous savory cheese pie, tiropitari, is fried and made with mizithra cheese, fresh milk, and mint, and hortopites (savory pies featuring wild greens) are filled with a mix of chard and fennel. Home-made aranista, klosta, and pitaridia are carefully stored in glass jars. And there’s the crunchy baked rifi filled with coarsely-ground bulghur wheat, goat’s milk butter, chicken livers, rice, raisins, and aromatic herbs and spices. Traditionally, at weddings on Donoussa guests were served with sweets similar to the loukoumi made from finely-ground wheat flour kneading with sugar. On Epiphany, it is customary for women to go from home to home, taking with them the so-called fotopites, a type of crisp deep-fried dough puffs drizzled with honey. Donoussa’s axialomizithra is a soft cheese made from yogurt that pairs well with raki and capers in brine.

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