Looking for stunning scenery, fascinating history and lip-licking cuisine? Look no more!

Corfu

Greece’s “Emerald Isle”, ever-popular Corfu is blessed with lush green countryside, rugged mountains and idyllic views over the sparkling Ionian Sea. The North boasts endless golden beaches, and you’ll find unspoilt secluded coves all along the North East coastline. But there’s plenty for culture vultures too. The traditional resorts are set around harbours filled with fishing and leisure boats, and it’s well worth exploring charming Corfu Town with its elegant Venetian architecture and fortress.

View Villas in Corfu


Crete

The biggest Greek island, Crete’s exquisite landscapes, wonderful beaches and ancient history keep visitors coming back year after year. Catch some rays on the countless sandy stretches along the coast, and soak up the past at the impressive Minoan Palaces of Knossos and Phaistos. Or just enjoy sampling delicious local delicacies, like dakos – barley rusks topped with local cheese and fresh tomato. Bringing the kids? They’ll love making a splash at one of the many waterparks, or going on an epic 9D mythological adventure at Minoan’s World.

View villas in Crete


Kefalonia

The largest Ionian island, Kefalonia’s slower pace makes it popular with both families and couples looking to relax and unwind. Its distinctive rugged coastline and stunning turquoise seas make for incredible Instagram-worthy views around every corner. Take a boat trip to otherworldly Melissani Cave to marvel at its shifting blue waters and breath-taking stalactites, and step back in time at the Venetian castles of St George and Assos. And don’t forget to watch the magnificent native sea turtles bobbing around in the bay of Argostoli, the island’s bustling capital.

View villas in Kefalonia


Rhodes

Rhodes is the biggest island in the Dodecanese archipelago of the Eastern Aegean Sea. Known as the “Island of Knights”, its effortless blend of traditional and contemporary makes it one of the most desirable European holiday destinations. The Lindos Acropolis, with its striking pillars contrasting against the sky, is one of the island’s most impressive historical sites. But if you prefer the attractions of the natural world, Seven Springs is a tranquil paradise offering captivating scenery, beautiful walking trails and refuge from the summer heat.

View villas in Rhodes


Zante

You won’t find a warmer welcome than on Zante (Zakynthos).The jewel of the Ionian Sea, this beautiful verdant island boasts fabulous beaches, olive groves and dramatic cliffs and jaw-dropping sunsets. Hop on a boat to glorious Shipwreck Cove, perhaps Greece’s most famous beach, with its rusting ship hull and incredible photo opportunities. Set sail to the renowned Blue Caves and gaze in wonder at the extraordinary azure waters. Or climb up to Bochali, the hilltop Venetian village in Zante Town, for spectacular panoramic views of the island’s capital.

View villas in Zante

On the Gourmet Trail. Greece: Moussaka

Want a taste of Greece without leaving the country? Try our easy to follow Moussaka recipe.

Ingredients

750g/1lb 10½oz lamb mince

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp dried oregano

1½ tsp dried mint

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 tbsp plain flour

200ml/7fl oz red wine

400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato purée

2 aubergines, cut into 0.5cm slices

1 tbsp fine sea salt, plus extra for seasoning

100ml/3½fl oz olive oil

500g/1lb 2oz Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

Freshly ground black pepper

For the white sauce

50g/2oz butter

50g/2oz plain flour

400ml/14fl oz milk

25g/1oz Parmesan, finely grated

1 tsp finely grated nutmeg

1 free-range egg, beaten

Method

1. Put the lamb, onion, garlic, oregano, mint, bay and cinnamon in a large heavy-based frying pan and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the meat.

2. Stir in the flour and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Add the wine, tomatoes and tomato purée and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is tender and the sauce has thickened. Season again if needed and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, place the aubergine slices in a colander and sprinkle with the tablespoon of salt. Set aside for 10 minutes.

4. Rinse the aubergine slices under cold running water and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan and fry the aubergines for 2–3 minutes on each side, adding more oil when necessary. Remove from the pan and set aside to drain on kitchen paper.

5. Cook the potatoes in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain in a colander under running water until cold.

6. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.

7. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for a few seconds, then gradually stir in the milk. Add half the Parmesan and the grated nutmeg. Simmer the sauce gently for 4–5 minutes, stirring regularly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

8. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool. When cooled, stir in the egg.

9. Spoon one-third of the meat sauce into a shallow ovenproof dish large enough to hold 2.5 litres. Cover loosely with a third of the potatoes and then a third of the aubergines – you don’t need complete layers, just to arrange them roughly on top. Repeat the layers twice more, finishing with the aubergines. Pour over the white sauce, making sure it covers everything in a thick, even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake for 35–45 minutes, or until deep golden-brown and bubbling.

Floral Themed Villas

To celebrate the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 we decided to dig out some of our floral inspired villas and share a bunch of our favourites with you.

 

Villa Poppy, Polis, Cyprus

Situated in a fantastic central location, just 900 yds from the beach, is Villa Poppy. Ideal for couples and small groups, this 2 bedroom villa is spacious inside and out and is the ideal place for a relaxing week or two in the sun.

poppy_914_villa1e_w4

Villa Daisy, Lagos, Algarve

Part of our Very Villa Plus programme is the daintily named Villa Daisy. With 4 bedrooms, sleeping up to 9 people, you’ll have plenty of room for all the family. Enjoy your private, heated swimming pool and impressive garden space during your Villa Plus holiday in Portugal.

Daisy

Villa Lavanda, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote

Just a 20-minute walk from the centre of Playa Blanca is Villa Lavanda. With 3 bedrooms, bright and airy rooms and a private, heated pool you have everything you need for your dream holiday this summer.

Lavanda

Villa Rosemary Sostis, Agios Sostis, Zante

This centrally located, 2-bedroom property is Villa Rosemary Sostis. Situated just 500 yds from the beach, the villa is also close to the waterside restaurants and mini markets. Enjoy the privacy of your villa, with heated pool, or use it as a base to explore the island. The choice is yours!

Rosemary Sostis

Villa Lotus, Porec, Croatia

Nestled in the countryside is Villa Lotus, an ideal choice for those looking for a relaxing holiday away from the hustle and bustle of a busy resort. The property had a landscaped garden, perfect for sunbathing in after a refreshing dip in the pool.

Lotus

Villa Jazminez, Marbella, Costa del Sol

This delightful 3-bedroom property is Villa Jazminez. Set amongst a mature, private garden, you’ll have a private pool, al fresco dining area and plenty of privacy.

Jazminez

Which of these villas would you pick? Let us know in the comments below

 

By Maddy Morgan

 

Come dine with me in Corfu

Feeling peckish? This week Susie, our Product Performance Manager, discusses Greek Cuisine in Corfu. 

As a self confessed foodie, I always enjoy trying new things when travelling overseas and at home. While the cuisine is a big part of my experience, the location is just as important. In 3 busy days in Corfu, I visited a number of great spots that combined both perfectly.  

My first lunch was with colleagues by the marina just on the edge of Corfu town. They chose a selection of local, simply prepared dishes to share while we watched the luxurious yachts come and go. Later, we were on the western side of the island in the charming sandy bay of Paleokastritsa. Having visited the small Greek Orthodox monastery which sits above the bay, we stopped for a drink in a café with views across the sea. Watching the boats pass back and forth as the sun began to set was incredibly relaxing and helped me forget the 4am start that morning.

Coffee at The White House

Having visited a number of resorts the next day, we stopped for a late lunch at Vitamins on the outskirts of Nisaki. While it sounds like a contemporary café specialising in detox juices, it is a lovely, family run restaurant with spectacular sea views. I could have sat there for hours eating baked feta cheese with honey but there was work to be done.  

As I was staying in Corfu Town, I was able to see what a buzzing place it is for tourists and locals alike. The backstreets are full of smart looking bars with people spilling out into the streets where the  music and conversation was humming. I couldn’t miss an opportunity to dine on the Liston, the famous elegantly colonnaded street which reminded me of Paris and Bologna. The traditional cafes staffed by welcoming waiters were busy with families stopping for ice cream and old men catching up on news. I enjoyed the people watching with a simple Greek salad.  

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I had a morning to myself before handing in the keys to the hire car so got up early and headed back up the coast. I couldn’t come to Corfu and not see where the Durrells had lived. Avlaki is a beautiful bay and the White House, one of their former homes, is now a restaurant and hotel. The sea was calm and a yacht which had moored there for the night set off around the coast as I waited for breakfast. My final coffee was delicious and I enjoyed watching the cats playing. Were they distant relatives of some rescued by Gerald Durrell? Who knows.  

 

5 of the best Greek islands to holiday

Greece’s charms span across the mainland and its many archipelagos. So much so, it’s often hard to pick which are the best Greek islands to holiday on. Regardless of whether you’re drawn by Zante’s coves or Crete’s picturesque harbours, here’s a summary of Greece’s finest five isles to visit.

Crete

Crete is Greece’s largest island, comprising everything from arid mountains to sun-kissed beaches. There’s plenty of cultural attractions – think the Archaeological Museum of Chania, or the Nautical Museum of Crete – alongside plush sunspots which are the hallmark of many Greek island holidays. Elafonisi beach is one such spot, made up of crystal-clear waters with shallows perfect for a gentle (and safe) swim.

Zante

Primarily known for its vibrant nightlife, Zante is in fact a multifaceted destination which caters for a lot of different tastes. The island’s capital, Zakynthos (or Zante Town) is overlooked by a Venetian castle that dates back to around the 1480s. Brave the climb and explore stone vaulted prisons, church ruins and lookout points for cannons.

Navagio Beach, otherwise known as Shipwreck Beach, is synonymous with holidays in Zante. Its pristine sands lie sheltered within a bay looking out onto the Ionian Sea – just make sure you get a sunbathing spot either next to or in front of the shipwreck in the middle of the beach, that way you’ll get a better view.

Rhodes

Rhodes and historic sites go hand in hand. The Acropolis of Lindos dates way back to Ancient Greece, and although large parts have been gradually eroded, the remaining pillars still cast an impressive sight over the surrounding coastline.

Alternatively, visit the Medieval City of Rhodes, one of Greece’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Wander over narrow sandstone bridges or park up by the harbour and enjoy a cold drink while soaking up classic Mediterranean views.

Corfu

Corfu and its fishing villages have all the right ingredients for an idyllic getaway. The Canal d’Amour beach near Agios Stefanos comprises calm, turquoise waters resting within a narrow bay. There’s sunbed facilities overlooking the sea, and on the higher grounds above the bay, so you’re left with no shortage of places to top up your tan.

Kefalonia

Last but by no means least, the Ionian Island of Kefalonia is characterised by its mystical caves, quaint villages and (of course) stretching beaches. The Melissani Cave, or Melissani Lake, is located on the east of the island. Its interiors are lit by sunlight during the day, thanks to a hole in one of the caves’ roofs, making for a calming, slightly surreal experience when you take a boat tour here.

For something a bit more challenging, hike up Mount Ainos, the highest point in Kefalonia. It’s 1,628 metres high, gifting walkers with panoramic views over the region and the nearby village of Lourdas. Back on sea level, the beaches near the village present endless amounts of serene sunbathing opportunities – lose yourself to a good book or simply unwind in the refreshing sea breeze.

Decided on a destination? Take a look at Greek island villa offerings from Villa Plus, and find a property which works for you.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Crete – beautiful beaches for a self-catering holiday

Crete is a Greek island made for lazing summer days away on. It doesn’t get much better than the stunning coastline surrounding Chania, or the inviting waters near Heraklion. When visiting Crete, beautiful beaches can be found almost everywhere. With a little planning (and some exquisitely prepared packed lunches) it’s all too easy to enjoy the perfect sand-laced daytrip here.

Without further ado, here’s a selection of the finest beaches this Greek gem has to offer…

Elafonisi, Chania

Elafonisi is a small islet off the southwestern coast of Crete, connected to the main island by a sandbank. The surrounding waters form a shallow, turquoise lagoon, which is ideal for paddling children who might not be ready for deeper depths.

When the sea is calm it’s possible to cross over here by foot. Traverse the pinkish sand dunes and explore the secluded island coves, or simply kick back with a good book and some refreshments whipped up from the plush interiors of your holiday home.

Nearby beach parking makes this spot easy to reach by car from self-catered accommodation, particularly if you’re staying in Chania.

Gouves, Heraklion

Gouves is famed for its sandy, safe and well-kept beaches. The water here is shallow, while many of the beaches where people swim are situated within small coves or bays, so they’re kept hidden from the stronger northern winds. Umbrellas and sunbeds are usually available to rent for the day. On top of that, there’s numerous shops and restaurants close by for whenever you’re needing replenished.

If you’re travelling with children, make the most of your time and pack up toys, inflatables and a tasty picnic before setting off. Mades, a Blue Flag-listed beach, is also not far from Gouves. Take the time to visit for a wholly tranquil few hours.

Elounda, Lassithi

The easternmost region of Crete tends to be quieter than other parts of the island, making it idyllic for couples in search of a secluded getaway. Just north of Agios Nikolaos you’ll find the fishing town of Elounda, which sits near a lagoon sheltered by the Spinalonga Peninsula.

For the ultimate day out in Elounda, pack food, water, a camera and plenty of sun lotion, then hop on a boat over to tiny Spinalonga Island. The island is a former leper colony, although don’t let that put you off! Today, it’s made up of an abandoned fortress flanked by a number of pristine shorelines which epitomise the beautiful beaches Crete is known for.

Falassarna, Chania

One of the best things about staying in self-catered accommodation is the outdoor space available – you can buy pool inflatables and store soggy wetsuits and bodyboards without worrying about ruining the hotel carpet! With that in mind, active tourists seeking a bit of adventure in Crete should plan a trip to Falassarna Beach. Not only is the sand soft and the waters clean and clear, but the westerly winds often result in some exciting wave action.

Make a day of it and head down with some bodyboards then hit the water. If you’re feeling even more daring, take advantage of the water sports on offer at the beach. Paragliding, anyone?

Experience these beautiful beaches for yourself and look at Villa Plus offerings on the island.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Best Mediterranean places to visit for cycling holidays

There’s something idyllic about cycling along a clifftop track while the sea gently crashes beneath you. Apart from that and the whizz of your hubs, the world seems mysteriously quiet. It’s moments like this that make cycling holidays in the Mediterranean region so appealing.

Between Spain’s Costa del Sol and Cyprus’ eastern shores you’ll find some of the best Mediterranean places to visit for cycling holidays. Here are a few that any cyclist should tick off.

Spain – Costa del Sol

Like the name suggests, Spain’s Sun Coast largely makes for brightly-lit rides which, depending on when you visit, can get a little hot, so bring a hydration pack! One such Costa del Sol cycle starts from the small hillside town of Mijas.

Study a few maps then make for La Cala Golf Course, a popular spot for golfers that’s south of Mijas. The route entails a mixture of arid single-track and two-lane roads, suited to either hybrid bikes or cross-country models. Like all great bike rides, it’s a mixture of ups, for a challenge, and downs, which leave you with a little more time to enjoy the stunning Andalusian views. Once you get to the river near the golf course, stop for a picnic, made up from the kitchen of your self-catering holiday rental, then prepare to do it all again on your way back to Mijas.


Image by Antonio, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Spain – Costa Blanca

Many professional cycling teams use the Costa Blanca as a training hub in the winter. The smooth surfaces here appeal to road cyclists who thrive on gradual climbs, speedy descents and flat stretches.

One of the most renowned climbs in the region is known as the Coll de Rates. You can easily access it from nearby towns, like Javea and Calpe. From Coll de Rates, make your way to the village of Parcent, where the route starts off with a light incline until you reach the summit. Soak up the verdant views of the surrounding region then replenish with a refreshing drink and get ready for a leisurely cruise back down.


Image by Phillip Capper, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Greek islands – Crete

If you’re ever struggling to tackle a Greek hill, promise yourself a big platter of mezes when you finish your ride to spur you on. Other than the end-of-ride meal, however, Greek island cycling makes for unbeatable holiday memories on routes you’ll always remember, many of which are found on Crete. A lot of Cretan roads are large and quiet, too, resulting in a wholly tranquil experience when you’re speeding across the island.

While it’s perfectly easy to trundle along these roads at your own pace, a real test of endurance is to brave the near-90km journey from Chania through the inland hills to the stunning village of Kallikratis. From here you’ll be able to see much of the island’s enticing coastline. Make sure you bring a camera, then capture the moment with a panoramic shot which’ll always remind you of your Crete cycling holiday. If you don’t fancy doing it over again, though, get a holiday companion to drive over and take you back to your villa rental.


Image by Andy Montgomery, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Cyprus – Paphos

Cyprus serves cyclists a selection of island routes for many different preferences. The city of Paphos and the surrounding resorts of Coral Bay are home to road and off-road paths suited to everyone from the everyday commuter to the endurance junkie who craves another fix of kilometre-rich coastal roads.

For a real challenge, cycle into the Troodos mountain range from Paphos. The journey itself is roughly 65 kilometres and is mostly downhill, making for a highly enjoyable and breezy trip. It’s suited to both road and off-road cyclists – just make sure your trusty steed is fitted with a good set of brakes for when you need to stop!

Take the time to soak up gorgeous Cypriot views, like that of the Diarizos river, which you’ll encounter along the way. It’s the fourth largest river on the island, although every twist and turn makes for a serene spot for a sandwich and a bottle of water. Failing that, you can always dip your feet in the river to help cool off before hitting the road again!


Image by Tomasz Huczek, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Mediterranean destinations have all the right ingredients for a cycling holiday – sun, scenery and a fair whack of sandy strips where you can put your feet up after a long day of pedalling!

Thinking about bringing your beloved bicycle on your next getaway? Here’s how to go about taking it onto an aeroplane.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Good snorkelling holidays for villa-loving travellers

Holiday rentals provide the perfect basecamp for snorkelling getaways. Hiring a villa gives you the freedom to prepare your own packed lunches and dinners, and you’ll have plenty of room to store your snorkels, flippers and wetsuits.


Image by Lance, used under CC License (CC by 2.0

Good snorkelling holidays unlock a country’s most enthralling secrets. Pack your underwater camera and get ready to delve deep in some of these top destinations…

Costa del Sol, Spain

Costa del Sol is blessed with tepid waters bustling with marine life. On top of that, there’s plenty of sun-kissed beaches where you can set up camp before a few hours of snorkelling. Visit Maro beach, near the town of Nerja, and try to find its fascinating underwater cave if you’re feeling daring.

The shores surrounding Las Yucas and La Viborilla beaches, near Benalmadena, house a wide range of fish such as tuna, bonitos, and dolphinfish.

Costa Blanca, Spain

Like Costa del Sol, the Costa Blanca is a snorkelers’ paradise. Explore the region’s shorelines and you’ll quickly find that it’s simply brimming with underwater life. Granadella Cove, near Javea, has notoriously clear waters. Not only that, it’s quite sheltered so younger snorkellers can see the bay’s treasures, too.

The Algarve, Portugal

Portugal’s Algarve coast comprises playful Atlantic waters and warming sands. It’s also home to the famed Ria Formosa lagoon, one of the country’s many natural wonders. Here you’ll find one of the largest populations of seahorses in the world – wipe down your face mask and prepare to dive amongst them.

Cyprus

If you visit Cyprus during summertime, you might encounter beautiful green and loggerhead turtles on the island’s western coast. The island’s Cape Greco National Park is well worth a visit, too, complete with some of the clearest waters in the region and picturesque in every sense of the word.

Corfu, Greece

The Greek island of Corfu has plenty of spots for a good snorkelling holiday. Its pebbly beaches tend to have clearer waters, but you might want to wear a wetsuit or flippers to protect your feet from the jaggier rocks! Keep your eyes peeled for a diverse range of silverside fish, alongside flathead mullet and painted combers.

Pula, Croatia


Image by Christoph Sammer, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Croatia’s idyllic Adriatic coastlines are the envy of the world. Pula houses some of its finest and along with these renowned views, it has a number of great snorkelling spots.

Take Brijuni National Park, a short boat journey from Pula. The waters of these 14 small, protected islands are alive with flora, fauna and old Roman artefacts. In Verige Bay, on the western coast of the park, you can get a guided tour to explore submerged archaeological sites. Take full advantage and get excited for a day of underwater education.

Whether you’re travelling as a family, with friends or with your partner or spouse, a snorkelling holiday provides an unrivalled way to get to know a country’s ins and outs. Uncover exotic species of fish or simply paddle around and let the waves wash over you – underwater getaways are always ones to remember.

Have a look at some of the Villa Plus offerings in these hotspots and let your snorkelling dreams come to life.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

How to Eat Like A Local in Zante

People travel for many reasons – exotic beaches, new cultures and luscious scenery being but a few of them. There’s one reason that pops up increasingly often, though, and that’s indulging in foreign cuisines. Here at Villa Plus, we’re inspired by our customers love of immersing themselves in local food and culture while on holiday. That’s why we’ve launched Eat Like a Local – a partnership with the UK’s top cookery schools geared towards giving you the finest foreign recipes out there.

On self-catering holidays to Zante, the entire gastronomy of Greece falls into your lap. Whether you’re wanting a lighter salad or some fried fish, here’s a selection of dishes from some of the UK’s top cookery schools made to give you a certified taste of this Greek gem.

Cambridge Cookery School

Founded in 2008 by chef and food writer Tine Roche, Cambridge Cookery School staff comprise everyone from Japanese sushi chefs to cordon bleu-trained artisan bakers

Here, Tine sheds some light on how to make a delicious (and easy) melitzanosalata.

Cambridge Cookery School’s melitzanosalata

Ingredients:

4 large purple aubergines
1 lemon – juiced
2 garlic cloves – grated or crushed
Sea salt and ground pepper
125ml olive oil
Dried thyme
Black olives

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, halve the aubergines lengthways, then place them face up on a large baking tray.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil, garlic and a little thyme, then season liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until soft.
  4. In a large bowl, mash the aubergines with a fork, then a wooden spoon to incorporate air and make a fluffy cream. Taste and add as much lemon juice and salt as you feel it needs.
  5. Arrange onto four separate platters, drizzling with olive oil and placing black olives in the

Keep up to date with Cambridge Cookery School on their website and on Twitter.

Cookery School at Little Portland Street

Rosalind Rathouse founded Cookery School at Little Portland Street in 2008. The school trains chefs to cook Mexican, Indian and Spanish cuisine, amongst many other delicacies – including those from Greece.

Whet your appetite a little further with their calamari fritti recipe.

Cookery School at Little Portland Street’s calamari fritti

Ingredients:

500g calamari (preferably tentacles) cleaned and cut into rings
2 cups of flour or semolina
½ a teaspoon of salt

Method

  1. Season the flour with salt and mix well, then use it to coat the calamari.
  2. Heat the oil in a dry, deep sided saucepan to prevent it from splashing.
  3. When the oil is sufficiently hot, add the calamari. You can test if it’s hot enough by adding a small piece of bread into the oil. If it browns quickly, then you’re ready to fry the calamari.
  4. Fry a handful of calamarai at a time so that the oil temperature isn’t reduced, and the fish crisps up well. Once it turns a light golden colour, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon. By cooking them quickly they’ll remain tender, but still be crisp.
  5. Serve with pieces of chopped, fresh lemon.

Find out more about Cookery School at Little Portland Street on their website and follow them on Twitter.

Manna from Devon Cookery School

Ran by David Jones and his wife Holly, Manna from Devon Cookery School specialises in wood-fired cooking, fish cookery and breadmaking, alongside taking guests on foodie adventures across Europe.

Manna from Devon Cookery School’s Zakynthos-inspired slow-cooked octopus

Here’s David’s recipe for slow-cooked octopus…

Ingredients:

1kg cleaned octopus, squid or cuttlefish
1 green pepper
15ml olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
180ml red wine
600ml chicken or shellfish stock
30g cornflour
30g pitted and chopped black or green olives
1bsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and pepper

Method

Salt and pepper

  1. Heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius, gas mark three.
  2. Slice the octopus (or squid or cuttlefish) into 1cm strips.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together in a large ovenproof pan and season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Put the lid on the pan so it’s well sealed, put it in the oven and shut the door.
  5. Come back in two hours, take the lid off the pan and test that the octopus has become tender. If it needs a bit longer, put the lid back on the pan and cook until it’s ready.
  6. When it is, sprinkle a little more chopped parsley over the slow-cooked octopus and serve with good bread and a green or tomato salad.

Stay up to date with Manna from Devon Cookery School on their blog or follow them on Instagram.

Philleigh Way – baked feta

Philleigh Way is a Cornwall-based cookery school and restaurant ran by brothers-in-law James Martin and chef George Pasco.

The school is inspired by generations of old Cornish recipes, but this time, they’ve tried their hand at Greek baked feta…

Philleigh Way’s baked feta

Ingredients:

200g feta cheese
1 pinch of dried red chilli flakes
Extra virgin olive oil
A handful of finely chopped oregano leaves
Two cloves finely sliced garlic
A handful of sliced cherry or plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
½ a tablespoon of capers
½ a red onion, finely sliced
A handful of torn basil leaves
A handful of Kalamata black olives

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, gas mark six.
  2. Tear off a large section of tin foil, place the block of feta in the centre and assemble the rest of the ingredients on top
  3. Pull up the sides of the foil and crimp along the top, forming an airtight pouch.
  4. Place on an oven tray and bake for 12 minutes. Serve with warm crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Check out Philleigh Way’s website and follow them on Twitter.

Avenue Cookery School – chickpea salad

Established in 2004, The Avenue Cookery School is a family-run school, teaching students to scrap the cookery books and use them only as a means of inspiration.

With a recipe for chickpea salad this good, they must have been inspired by the best…

Avenue Cookery School’s Chickpea Salad

Ingredients:

20ml olive oil
150ml cider vinegar
1 red chilli
2x 400g tins of chickpeas
6 cloves of garlic, pureed
1 bunch of fresh chopped coriander
2 finely sliced onions
1 bunch of fresh chopped parsley
1 bunch of fresh chopped mint
4 finely sliced spring onions
Extra virgin olive oil
100g crumbled feta

Method

  1. Sautee the onions until soft then add the chilli and garlic, cooking for a further two minutes until the garlic is cooked.
  2. Add the vinegar and cook until it has reduced
  3. While still warm, pour over the chickpeas.
  4. Just before serving, mix in the coriander, parsley, mint and spring onions. Season and sprinkle with the feta.

Keep updated with The Avenue Cookery School on their blog and follow them on Instagram.

Ready to take your foodie fantasies to the next level? Look at Villa Plus offerings in Zante and get ready to taste the wonders of Greece.

 

Crete holidays – cheap things to do on a self-catering break

 The Greek island of Crete is among the world’s most beloved holiday destinations. The chances are you’ll know it for its sun-splashed resorts and world-class nightlife. But there’s far more to Crete than Preveli Beach and Heraklion’s strips – it’s also a hotspot for culture and history, home to awe-inspiring Aegean ruins and gripping museums.

Best of all? It’s a fantastic destination for a budget holiday. You can keep Crete holidays cheap by booking a self-catering holiday home, and enjoying activities like these…

Hit the beaches

Crete isn’t short of pearlescent beaches. In the summer months, the sea is reliably balmy and therefore perfect for a spot of swimming, particularly in the bays surrounding Istron. For a cheap beach day, load up on snacks in your holiday villa, pack a few towels, a beach umbrella, a snorkel and lots of sun lotion, then head to your nearest stretch of sand.

Popular beaches include Balos, near Chania, and Bali, which is close to Rethymnon. You can typically rent sunbeds and umbrellas for a few euros – a small price to pay if you’d rather relax in the shade from time to time.

Serve up a traditional Greek feast

Greece is known for its cuisine, and a holiday to Crete wouldn’t be complete without sampling some local delicacies. To save some of your hard-earned pennies, make the most of your self-catered accommodation by preparing a Greek banquet at home.

Start with traditional dips like tzatziki and taramasalata. For an easy main, make some pork or chicken souvlaki – chunks of meat on skewers which are grilled or barbequed, then served with warm pitta. If you can get your hands on ready-made filo pastry, another easy main is spanakopita (spinach and feta pie).

For dessert, put together a platter of local Cretan cheeses, fruit, and fresh baklava from a local bakery.

Visit attractions for free

Most of the major attractions on Crete have an entry fee, but depending on when you travel it’s possible to save money. Throughout March, many historic and archaeological sites around the island offer reduced ticket prices – the fascinating Heraklion Archaeological Museum can be visited for as little as five euros.

During the peak season, on International Monument Day and International Museum Day, certain attractions are completely free.

Pack a picnic and go wandering

If you’re the adventurous type, then spend a day exploring the Cretan wilderness. Keep an eye out for Cretan shrews, badgers, and martens. One of the best places for nature is the park surrounding the White Mountains, which are known locally as Lefka Ori. It’s situated on the west of the island, in the Chania region. Here you’ll find the beautiful Samaria Gorge, one of Europe’s longest gorges, and of course the White Mountains themselves.

Stay safe and make sure you wear good walking shoes and sun lotion, then pack a nutritious picnic (fruit, nuts, cheese and water are a must) to keep you going along the way.

Inspired? Browse Villa Plus rentals in Crete and take the first step towards your big Greek adventure.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.