Ikaria Book Review

Ikaria by Meni Valle, brings together the best and healthiest Greek recipes with an evocative travelogue about Ikaria, one of the world’s Blue Zone places.

Photo of Ikaria from the cookbook Ikaria by Meni ValleIkaria


Ikaria is one of the North-East Aegean Islands a few miles from Samos, though about half its size. You can get there by ferry from Samos, from Mykonos, or from Athens.

What Is A Blue Zone?

What is special about Ikaria is that it is one of only five places in the world that has been designated a so-called Blue Zone. A Blue Zone is an area where people live for longer than average, with about one person in every three living into their 90s. There are many reasons for this, but a major factor is diet. The only other Blue Zone place in the Mediterranean is Sardinia, with the remainder are in Japan, California, and Costa Rica.

The Ikarian Table, sample spread from the cookbook Ikaria by Meni ValleThe Ikarian Table

Ikaria Book Review

What better place in Greece, then, to have a cookbook devoted to traditional recipes from than Ikaria? This is more than just a collection of recipes, though. It’s also a beautifully-written and photographed handsome coffee-table book, though I expect my copy to soon be spattered with olive oil stains as we try out some of the recipes.

Ikaria Author

Meni Valle, author of the Ikarian cookbook, IkariaMeni Valle

The author of Ikaria, which is sub-titled Food and Life in the Blue Zone, is Meni Valle. Valle is an Australian Greek cookbook author and food teacher, who also leads culinary tours to Greece, naturally including to Ikaria. Some of her other books include My Greek Kitchen and My Mediterranean Kitchen

Superb Photography

Photographs from the book Ikaria by Meni Valle

The photography in the book is by Tessa Kiros, who specialises in food and travel photography and whose father is a Greek Cypriot. She is also an author, though, and her own books include Food from Many Greek Kitchens.

Baked Vegetables with Eggs from the Greek cookbook Ikaria by Meni ValleBaked Vegetables with Eggs

Travels in Ikaria

The author and photographer travel together to get the photos for the book, to collect the recipes, and to meet the people of Ikaria. They talk to women in their own kitchens about their traditional dishes, and to people they meet on the way about the secret to long life on Ikaria.

The author asks one man:
‘What do you think is the secret to longevity?’
He answers:
‘Meni, here in Ikaria we do not try to add years to our life. Instead we add life to our years. We make the most of every day.’

Tabouli Salad from the Greek cookbook Ikaria by Meni ValleTabouli Salad

Ikaria Recipes

The recipes in the book are largely vegetarian. This isn’t a choice by the author, but it’s simply a reflection of the diet on Ikaria. Many of their dishes are made from fresh seasonal ingredients, and though there is a section on Seafood and Meat it has only ten recipes in it. The majority of these are seafood recipes, as fresh seafood is also a big contributor to a healthy diet, as we also know from studies of the Cretan Diet. It isn’t that red meat is ignored, but on Ikaria it’s an occasional treat rather than something people eat several times a week.

As well as Seafood and Meat, the recipes are divided into Salads, Accompaniments, Vegetables, Legumes, Pasta, Bread and Pies, and Sweets. As well as the recipe itself, and the instructions, each recipe also has a little introduction. Some of these make suggestions for variations on the recipe, some suggest what goes well with the dish, while others are longer background stories about either the dish or the ingredients.

All in all, this works whether you’re interested in Greek recipes or wanting to read about Ikaria. If you’re interested in both, it’s a gem!

Buying Ikaria

Ikaria: Food and Life in the Blue Zone by Meni Valle is published by Hardie Grant Books and is available from their website. It’s also available from Amazon.

Some other books pages

  • Greece Book Reviews

    Greece Book Reviews on the Greece Travel Secrets website with reviews of the best guidebooks to Greece, the Greek Islands, Athens, Crete and elsewhere.

  • Books About Greece

    If planning a trip to Greece, what are the best books about Greece to read before you go, or to take with you, to give you a sense of place?

  • The Summer of My Greek Taverna

    The Summer of My Greek Taverna by Tom Stone is a memoir of his time on the Greek island of Patmos in the Dodecanese, running a restaurant.

  • Wild Abandon

    Wild Abandon by Jennifer Barclay and published by Bradt Guides is A Journey to Deserted Places of the Dodecanese islands in Greece, including Rhodes and Kos.

  • Eurydice Street

    Eurydice Street, A Place in Athens by Sofka Zinovieff is an honest account of what it’s like to move to Athens and live as a foreigner, learning Greek customs.

  • Northern Greece Guide

    The Bradt Guide to Northern Greece is a detailed guide to Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Macedonia, Thrace, The Pelion, The Sporades and the rest of Northern Greece.

  • Monemvasia Book Review

    Greece Travel Secrets reviews the photography book Monemvasia with extracts from works by Yiannis Ritsos and Nikos Kazantzakis.

  • A Rope of Vines

    A Rope of Vines by Brenda Chamberlain is an evocative memoir of the author’s time living on the Greek island of Hydra in the early 1960s.

  • Lonely Planet Greek Islands

    The Lonely Planet guide to the Greek Islands is a thorough and helpful guide to all the Greek island groups, with Athens included.

  • Lonely Planet Greece

    The latest edition of the Lonely Planet travel guide to Greece is a comprehensive 750-page guidebook to the whole country.

  • Lonely Planet Crete

    Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.

  • Great Greek Poets: Cavafy, Sappho, George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis

    There are many great Greek poets, with two authors winning the Nobel Prize for Literature and names include Sappho, Cavafy, George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis.

  • Fire on the Island

    Fire on the Island is a romantic thriller novel by Timothy Jay Smith set on a fictionalised version of the town of Molyvos on the island of Lesbos.

  • Culture Trails

    Greece Travel Secrets reviews the book Culture Trails by Lonely Planet, which has a section on Artistic Athens and 51 other perfect weekends for culture lovers.

  • Bradt Guide to the Peloponnese

    The Bradt Guide to the Peloponnese is the best book on the Greek region which includes attractions like Mycenae, Epidavros, Olympia, Monemvasia and Nafplion.

  • A Thing of Beauty

    A Thing of Beauty by Peter Fiennes describes ‘Travels in Mythical and Modern Greece’ and places the Greek Gods in the context of modern-day Greece.

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