Mahalepi, a sweet recipe from the US via Cyprus

QUARANTINE DIARIES, COMFORT FOOD & ALL THE SMALL THINGS THAT KEEP US GOING

Chef Krystina from kouzounas’ kitchen is sharing her experience of the lockdown and a wonderfully sweet recipe from Cyprus: mahalepi.

A few words about you and where did the quarantine find you?

I am a passionate American Greek chef from Sacramento CA, residing in Pollock Pines, California… a place that is nowhere near close to Los Angeles lol. I live in a “xorio” I like to say because it is almost at 4,000 elevation surrounded by beautiful trees and the famous lake, Sly Park.

I am a chef and food blogger at Kouzounaskitchen.com. I share mostly Greek recipes with my very own twists to the traditional recipes.

What did it change for you ?

The quarantine brought changes for me in many ways ! Family lives about an hour and a half away from me, and knowing my sister is pregnant due in June, I can not celebrate this with her. We celebrated 2 birthdays in April- mine on the 15th, and my boyfriend’s on the 1st of April; that was interesting. My sister planned for all of us to do a fun video call celebration. I am thankful for technology, because honestly I don’t know what half the population would do if we couldn’t talk to our loved ones on video. A shout out to technology!!

Firstly, my heart breaks for all the people who lost a loved one to the covid 19. It’s heartbreaking to see the entire world hurting at the same time. You want to be able to help these people in Italy, or the USA, or any countries that are hurting with high numbers of cases, but you can’t. We can only hope that this virus will be contained and we can all get back to our normal days of living.

On the positive, I think this has brought people together more than ever. I think people appreciate life more and appreciate each other. We need to be concerned for our world, especially our environment, so maybe this will make people step back and think.

 The connection I had with my customers changed a bit. Delivering food to my customers was hard because I wanted to shake their hands to say thank you for the support, I couldn’t do that.

How many loo-rolls can you count in your cupboards?

Lol I never understood the craziness of people overbuying toilet paper?! We have probably 10 rolls currently, and I am happy that my boyfriend works at Costco as we get first dibs on groceries.

Comfort food: Mahalepi

I am sharing a new recipe that came to me as of a few years ago.

When I traveled to Cyprus last year to help open a taverna in the village of Lageia, I helped develop some of the recipes on the menu.

One of the menu items was this delicious recipe for a Cypriot dessert called Mahalepi.

What is Mahalepi?

It is a Cypriot pudding made with water, milk, or even both usually served with a rose water syrup which is what we had in Cyprus at a well known bakery. I know this recipe dates back years and years. The Lebanese make it  and they call it “muhallabieh” as the actual recipe sounds very Arabic in a way. Either way I am not sure from where it derived from, but it is a beautiful dessert to enjoy.


Vanilla Mahalepi with Mango Strawberry Sauce


Ingredients

  • 1 cup of water or milk
  • 1 tablespoon of organic sugar
  • 4.5 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla powder
  • 1 cup strawberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
    Optional: 2 tablespoons of toasted pistachios coarsely chopped
    Optional: Dried rose petals

Directions

  1. In a small bowl dissolve the cornstarch with the milk or water. Whisk to mix together.
  2. Place mixture in a pot over medium heat and add the sugar and vanilla. Stir to combine, and then cook until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, and let cool a bit.
  3. Prepare 2-3 ramekins and lightly grease the inside of the ramekins. Pour the mixture in the ramekins making sure to leave some space from the top. Chill the mahalepi covered for 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Serve with the mango strawberry sauce, and top with sprinkled pistachios. You can get fancy and add the dried rose petals.

Sauce: Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Once mixture is thickened, remove from heat and place sauce in a blender and blend until smooth. Cool and set aside until ready to serve.

How do you cope?

I cope by continuing to cook, cooking is my therapy! The kitchen makes me happy, and if you haven’t tried making your own bread at this time, you should.

Where will you go eat once this madness is over?

Oh haha I am laughing because if you ask a chef this, we don’t really have 1 solid answer. But if I have to pick 1, it is probably my friend’s sushi restaurant called Nagato Sukiyaki located in Sacramento. I am devoted because it is a 1 hour drive for me, and I do go there as often as I can because it is the BEST sushi I have had in the world.

Share a wish, just so we can finish on a happy note

I wish for the entire world to live in peace.

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” —Jimi Hendrix

from California with love,

Krystina

PS: If you wish to be part of my quarantine cuisine diaries and share your experience on Eat Yourself Greek (EYG), please drop me a line here. Thanks, Eugenia

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