If you have ever travelled to Greece, it’s most likely that you have lost your heart to dakos, like Yotam Ottolenghi, this mouth-watering snack.
Cretan rusk, paximadi or dakos is the basis of the Cretan snack. It might seem confusing but dakos is the word for the Cretan rusk (paximadi) in Crete as well as the salad with it. Paximadi (or the dish with it) can also be found under the name of koukouvagia. Another brilliant version is the one from Kythera, ladopaksimada” (rusks baked with olive oil).
A rusk is twice-baked, dehydrated bread, in order to be maintained and eatable longer than fresh bread. It was considered a staple in Greece, especially for all those families who couldn’t knead daily. This product was essential to the diet of sailors, shepherds, farmers and all those who would spend a lot of time away from home. Consequently, this food is considered to be one of the first standardised products in Greece.
This tasty alternative to bread is flour-based of course, except that it is made mainly or exclusively out of barley flour. In addition, it has a high nutritional value; as it is rich in a number of vitamins of the B complex including folic acid and B6. As far as barley rusks are concerned, they are rich in magnesium, selenium, amino acids, fibre, phosphorus, silica, chromium and antioxidants. It has no preservatives but, it does have salt.
It is shaped either in thick wedges, rounds split horizontally in the middle, or into smaller crouton bites. Mind your teeth though, rusks are quite hard and must be softened with either water, wine, olive oil or broth before eating.
A secret for the best dakos you’ve ever had: sprinkle water on the rusks in order to soften them before adding the tomatoes. Make sure you use ripe, juicy tomatoes, grated over the rusks so it absorbs all the juice. Season and drizzle with some evoo. Finish the dish with crumbled feta or mizithra cheese (or a mix of both), a generous drizzle of evoo, some wild Greek oregano, Kalamata olives, capers or kritamo, if desired.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
But don’t limit yourself to dakos: add your rusks to salads and soups for volume, enjoy them with delicious yoghurt, a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil, great with a fried/ poached egg as well, a classic when combined with cheese or charcuterie; a product that is wise to keep in your pantry, always.
Find our Cretan barley rusks at Borough Market and start your delicious story from there.
Photo credit: Psilakis N.& M., Kastanas I., O politismos tis elias-To elaiolado, Karmanor, 2003.