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Μελομακάρονα — Honey Biscuits or Macaroons

melomakarana

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!

Ingredients

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)

Syrup

1 kg sugar
480 ml water
240 ml honey
juice of one lemon
2 sticks cinnamon

Method

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!

Sarah

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Garlic is for Heroes Postcard
Garlic is for Heroes Postcard

There’s a taverna down the road from us in Chorafakia called Sunset. Not a name to conjure with, I grant you, but you can glory in a burnt orange sky while eating delicious home-made food.

The owner-chef, Maria, was born in 1950 in the mountain village of Semprona and arrived in Chorafakia at the oh-so-young age of 16 to marry Jacob Pantzelioudakis. She likes nothing more than providing traditional Cretan recipes using fresh food. She grows her own fruit and vegetables and rears  her own chickens, lambs, goats, rabbits and more. When so many tavernas this side of Crete (north-west), cheat their customers with mass-produced moussakas heated in a microwave, it’s a relief knowing you will be served freshly cooked food every time.

In our early years here, we were naïve enough to eat in a taverna at one end of the Venetian Harbour in Chania. I had moussaka and Mr FND had a steak—what was he thinking of! The first had been microwaved to within an inch of its life and had evidently first seen the light of day a week before. The second had seen service at Chernobyl. We sent both meals back. We already knew that the Greeks like their meat well done but this well done? They tried again with exactly the same result. Even Mr FND’s Retsina was grotesque. We gave up and went to complain, and saying we refused to pay. There was a huge furore with the restaurant owner, the chef and us. We were accused of scamming them. I won’t continue but you get the picture. Needless to say, we have never returned.

MussakasMeMelitsanesKePatates01The best moussaka I have eaten here in seven years was cooked by our friend Stela when she invited us to supper. I no longer order moussaka anywhere. I lie. There is another taverna in one of the nearby villages that does a mean moussaka. But it’s still not as tasty as Stela’s.

The following recipe is adapted from Maria’s self-published cookery book, Maria’s Recipes. Sadly, we had an accident a few months ago which meant that part of the book has been blighted by water damage. What is even sadder is that Maria has not been able to afford to do print run for the last couple of years or I’d buy a further copy.

There’s Taramasalata and Tzatziki but have you heard of Skordalia? It’s a garlic dip and fans of garlic will want to double up the following quantities. In fact, to serve four, I’d suggest you quadruple the ingredients!

skordalia-maria

Photo of Skordalia Dip from Maria’s Recipes with evidence of the water damage and torn pages!!

Skordalia (Σκορδαλιά) Garlic Dip

Ingredients

3 medium potatoes
3 slices of brown bread
1 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
salt & pepper to taste

Method

Peel, boil and mash the potatoes. Soak the bread in water then squeeze hard to remove excess water and place together with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Drizzle with olive oil.

Yes, it’s that simple! It can be served as a dip but is most often served as a side dish with salted cod. However, it goes well as an accompaniment to most fish, meat or vegetable dishes.

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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