Μελομακάρονα — Honey Biscuits or Macaroons
There are rather too many sweet treats in Greece of which I’m not a great fan. For instance, I don’t like Baklava (Μπακλαβάς), Halva (Χαλβάς) or Galaktoboureko (Γαλακτομπούρεκο), which is a custard-filled pastry with syrup); it’s something about the texture of the first two that puts me off, and the custard one has rarely been good when I’ve bought it from a bakery. I’ve tried, heaven knows, I’ve tried.
But Melomakarona (Μελομακάρονα) are different, especially when there is enough honey syrup to make them moist. They are a Christmas indulgence over here and often given as presents.
This is a traditional recipe by Maria Pantzelioudakis from her previously mentioned cookery book. One of the ingredients is ‘alisiva’ which is designed to make the biscuits ‘crunchy and crumbly’. It is made using clean ash from burnt wood — bet you didn’t expect that!
720 ml olive oil
240 ml orange juice
125 g walnuts, finely chopped
grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
125 g cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder/soda
120 ml alisiva (see below for how to make)
1 kg flour (approx)
1 kg sugar
480 ml water
240 ml honey
juice of one lemon
2 sticks cinnamon
First make the syrup. Boil together the sugar, honey and water for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and the cinnamon and leave to one side to cool
Next make the alisiva. Boil half a cup of clean ash with 2 cups of water. Once it has come to the boil, remove from the heat and let the ash settle. Finally, strain and the clear liquid is ‘alisiva’. This recipe requires 120 ml of this liquid.
Now make the biscuits. Place all the ingredients except the flour into a large bowl and mix. Gradually add the flour and knead the mixture lightly. Be careful not to knead too much as this will make the biscuits hard. If necessary, add more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Shape into ovals agout 3/4 cm thick and place on a greased baking tray. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes until the biscuits are golden. Remove from the oven and pour over enough cold syrup for the biscuits to soak up. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and arrange on a platter.
Prepare to be be enamoured!
Take care and keep laughing!