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.

Other books pages

  • 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.

  • Hydra Travel Writing Classic

    Peel Me a Lotus by Charmian Clift is a Hydra travel writing classic, describing her family’s life on this tiny Greek island near Athens in the 1950s.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • Best Rhodes Guidebook

    The best Rhodes guidebook is undoubtedly the A-Z Travel Guide to Rhodes, including Symi, with a new revised and updated edition for 2022.

  • A-Z Travel Guide to Kos

    The 2022 edition of the A-Z Travel Guide to Kos is the 15th edition of the best and most comprehensive guidebook to Kos in the Dodecanese islands of Greece.

  • A-Z Guide to Santorini

    The very thorough A-Z Guide to Santorini by Tony Oswin is now in its 15th edition, a sure sign that the guidebook is both popular and kept up-to-date.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Mermaid Singing: Kalymnos Travel Writing

    Mermaid Singing by Charmian Clift is a fine example of 1950s travel writing about the Greek island of Kalymnos in the Dodecanese.

  • Margarita’s Olive Press

    Margarita’s Olive Press is a modern gem of a book of Greek travel writing, in which the author falls in love with and renovates a property on Zakynthos.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Latest Posts

  1. Traditional Pies from the Windy Aegean Isles

    Islanders make a huge variety of pies. They roll out sheets of pastry like silk or make fluffy pockets of dough, and fill them with wild greens and delicious cheeses.

    Read More

  2. Discovering “Handcrafted Crete,” a New Coffee Table Book

    A new coffee table book by travel writer Isabella Zambetaki presents the enormous variety and wealth of Crete's handicrafts, past and present.

    Read More

  3. Mini Guide: Essential Tinos

    Read on for the best summer hangouts on charming Tinos, from village cafes and tavernas to spectacular beaches and cultural tours, in one mini guide.

    Read More

  4. Multifaceted Greek Experiences From Delphi to Nafpaktos

    From lush and historical natural sites with jaw-dropping views to shopping, dining and fun activities, this route offers a cornucopia of things to discover.

    Read More

  5. Kythnos: The Outsider of the Cyclades

    Even though close to Attica, Kythnos knows how to stay under the radar. This carefree island is the ideal destination for our first summer excursions.

    Read More

  6. 5 Amazing Spots To Enjoy Sunset In Athens

    When thinking about summer in Greece, one of the first things that pop into your mind, except for the sandy beaches and turquoise waters, is the unsurpassed sunsets of the Greek islands. Indeed, sunse…

    Read More

  7. Rivers In Greece That Offer An Incredible Swimming Experience

    Sun-drenched beaches with crystal-clear waters and fine sand are what Greece is mostly known for all around the world. And, justifiably so, since Greece has a coastline of a whopping 13,676 kilometers…

    Read More

  8. 15 Fun Holiday Activities To Enjoy With Your Kids

    Summer is already here, and the summer holidays are fast approaching. So, if you plan to enjoy them with your family, it would be great to have some activities planned. As you know, children (and adul…

    Read More

  9. 11 Shipwrecks Now Accessible to Divers

    Greece’s Ministry of Culture announces its decision to make 11 wrecks accessible to divers, under the supervision of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities.

    Read More

  10. Monemvasia: Europe’s Oldest Continuously Inhabited Castle Town is in Greece

    Monemvasia, on the southeastern shores of the Peloponnese, Greece is Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited castle town. Founded in 583 by inhabitants of the mainland seeking refuge from the Slavic an…

    Read More