Antikristo is one of the oldest and most unique techniques of cooking meat and is traced as far back as the ancient times of Homer’s Iliad.
Antikristo is a traditional way of cooking found in different parts of the world but is deeply rooted in Cretan culture, especially in mountainous areas.
It is a technique embraced by soldiers in ancient times, by those in the Byzantine Empire, by the rebels during the Turkish occupation, and by shepherds and herdsmen. It has been so popular because it does not require too much time, preparation, or ingredients. All you need is lamb and salt.
The procedure of cooking Antikristo almost reminds you of a ritual.
To make Antikristo, the cook typically uses a young lamb or a goat on some rare occasions. The animal is cut up in four, seasoned with salt, and passed through huge wooden skewers that are later placed around the fire.
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According to history, the soldiers and warriors in ancient times would use their spears instead of wooden skewers. Traditionally, the youngest shepherd would dig a hole in the ground and prepare the fire before carefully resting the skewers around the fire. The pieces of meat are placed in a circle-like formation around the fire, in contrast to barbequing as we know it. This allows the meat to be cooked with the flame's heat rather than the heat generated from the coal. In Greek, “antikrista” means opposite to each other, and this is where the name Antikristo derives from.
Under the Turkish occupation, the rebels would use this technique because the meat is being cooked significantly faster than traditional grilling techniques. They would always be in a rush and hiding, so they would only cook the meat for approximately an hour, leaving it primarily rare, to ensure that the fire wouldn’t reveal their location to the enemies.
Nowadays, the meat is slow-cooked for 4-6 hours and before being cooked, the meat is usually marinated or seasoned. What makes Antikristo such a unique way of grilling meat is that the slow grilling means that the lamb is given enough time to secrete all of its juices and develop many different flavours.
Interestingly, this is a dish prepared and cooked by men!