Pasteli, sesame candies, the energy bar of the Gods

pasteli

Do you like sesame? Normally we get discreet tastes of it on bread or burger buns. You might be using its oil on salads or scooping up dollops of houmous on pita bread for its distinct flavour. In Greece we are very well acquainted with the humble sesame seed and we have a very soft spot for golden sweet honey. We use them both to make pasteli and this preparation is so old, it is only fair to call them the energy bars of the Gods. Continue reading

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Walnut cake, the Greek way – karidopita

A very juicy walnut cakekaridopita

When it comes to Greek names Michalis, Mike comes just after Yannis, Nikos and Kostas in popularity. Last Sunday was a big name day – one third of Greece must have been celebrating their Michaels and Michaelas. I was celebrating a very special Michalis too, my dad, and he has a a special request, karidopita, Greek walnut cake with syrup! Continue reading

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Leek pie and kourkoubinia

Smart ways to make your ingredients go a long way

kourkoubinia

Still on food blogging competition mode and all I think about is re-using. Last week I re-used my chickpea soup into chickpea burger, I had a few onions cooked into a sharp chutney and made my materials go a little further. This week, it is all about the pie and a bit of dessert, well, from leftovers fillo pastry. Making your ingredients go a long way, have something savoury and something sweet.  Continue reading

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Rice pudding

rice puddingThere is hardly a nation in the world without rice pudding. From Far East to Far west, this little pudding has gained everybody’s attention and affection. As old as rice and as simple as milk, rice pudding has been a staple of Greek home cooking too, joining the Middle-Eastern league for flavourfull filling snacks. Either as breakfast or actually dessert, I love it cold and with lots of cinnamon. Continue reading

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Kataifi, divine pleasures

    Kataifi

As far as traditional desserts go, we have a soft spot for syrupy ones over here. In general we have a sweet tooth in the family and we are very fussy on what comes through the door. Dessert has to be perfect! Greek patisseries will never seize to surprise me with their selection of classics and also very innovative desserts. Be it chocolate gateaux, tiramisu, profiteroles or oriental delights, there is always temptation around. Of course every place has its speciality too, but I should come back to this on another post. Home-made, of course, always wins hands down. Continue reading

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Bitter orange turned sweet aka neratzi

neratzi preserve

Mum has a lovely friend who tends to her garden, Olga. She is from Ukraine, grew up in a farmer’s family and Athens has been her home for quite some years now. The garden is certainly her territory, except perhaps for a few ‘exotic’ Mediterranean species that grow down here: neratzi (also known as bitter orange or Seville orange) being one of them
Continue reading

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Semolina halva

Another taste us Greeks have adopted from the orient, halva is known throughout the Balkans, North Africa, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and of course the Levant where it originated. Halva is a dessert rich in history, rooted in the medieval Arab world and tinged with a Persian influence. Perfect with tea or coffee, halva has seen many a glorious day. It used to be served to high-ranking Ottomans during their ostentatious banquets, usually with tea, pickles and other delicacies; what a delicious tea service that must have been!

There are innumerable variations of this dessert, you can add pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, raisins, dates, chocolate, butter instead of oil, lentils and carrots, rosewater or orange syrup, honey, spice it up with a little cinnamon, or cardamom, or even crocus. In Greece we categorise the different halvas into three main types: cheese, flour, or seed-based. The most common homemade halva is flour-based, with semolina flour. It is a very traditional dessert, eaten to celebrate life and death, and used to be served on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Halva is still popularly associated with lent, yet doesn’t garner the popularity it once had. Nowadays it is pretty much a grandmother dessert, but to me, halva is an extra-special comfort food.

Halva also makes a great breakfast as it’s very nutritious, do be careful if you are on a diet though. The best thing about halva, except for its sweetness, is that it’s dead easy to make. All you need is the 1-2-3-4 method, making this perhaps the easiest recipe to remember.

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups semolina
  • 3 cups sugar, (here I cheat, I use 2 and a bit as it can be too sweet)
  • 4 cups water
  • a Cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 Cloves
  • Orange or lemon peel
  • Almonds or pine nuts

Preparation

For this recipe you start from the bottom, 3&4, to make a light syrup. Dissolve the sugar in water and let it boil for 5 minutes. Also, add the cinnamon stick, cloves and orange or lemon peel to impart their aroma to the syrup. syrup

Now steps 1 & 2. Use the deepest pot you have to heat your olive oil (a little) and add the semolina flour. Be very careful, if it is very hot it will turn into a little volcano erupting on your hob. Keep on stirring with a wooden spoon for about 6 minutes until browned. You are ready for the nuts, add almonds or pine nuts (or both) to the browned semolina and let them brown a little as well.

semolina flour browning

semolina_halva

Now everything is ready to combine. Take the pot off the hob and use a ladle to pour on your syrup, one ladleful at a time. It should look like this.

halva - almost there

Place the halva back on the hob and keep on stirring until the mix no longer sticks to the pot. Spoon out portions into your choice of receptacle, to shape each serving, and let it cool down.

crumbly and ready to form

Perfectly enjoyed with coffee!

halva with coffee

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