CULTURE

Healthy Greek sweets with a long history

What could be a healthier choice than almonds, walnuts, and honey, when faced with the task of preparing dessert? A new recipe book has just been published using just this combination to make traditional Greek sweets, which have almost disappeared from the dinner table. My aim was to bring all this to the young, in order for them to include it in their daily lives, said Simoni Kafiri in an interview with Kathimerini English Edition of her book, Me Amygdala, Karydia kai Meli: Anthologion Ellinikon Glykon (Almonds, Walnuts and Honey: An Anthology of Greek Sweets). With all these changes which society is faced with, there is a fear that things will get lost. I wanted all this knowledge to be brought together, for present and future generations. So Kafiri embarked on a wonderful culinary adventure, coming up with sweets from all over the country which use the three basic ingredients. Beyond offering a selection of traditional recipes, however, the author serves a lesson in history as well. From Ancient Greece, to Hellenistic times and Byzantium, with the influence of Turkey and Asia Minor, and right up to the 21st century, the recipe book traces the origins of each sweet and shows the historical continuity in culinary matters. The book is a family affair, and the beautiful pictures that were taken by Kafiris’s son, Constantinos, demonstrate that traditional sweets have never looked so modern. They depict everything from baklava to loukoumades (honey dumplings), which, served with an elegant blend of old cutlery, silver and china, are given a fresh touch. Born in Athens in 1943, Kafiri studied decoration and graphic design, before embarking on a journalistic career in women’s publications. In the 1970s, for instance, she collaborated with the Daily Telegraph and Good Housekeeping, while in the early 1980s she developed the Practical Woman magazine, serving as its editor in chief until 1998. She also became deeply involved in Archestratos, a center for the preservation of Greek gastronomic tradition; Almonds, Walnuts and Honey: An Anthology of Greek Sweets is her first book. Furthermore, Kafiri offers a lexicon of useful terms and techniques, which serves its purpose not only as a guide to the book’s recipes, but also as a reminder that a historically rich culinary tradition needs to be practiced properly. Published by Ellinika Grammata, Almonds, Walnuts and Honey: An Anthology of Greek Sweets is scheduled to appear in an English edition next year. ELIS KISS Simoni Kafiri suggests soutzoukia… Also known as moustolambades, these sweets made from must jelly and walnuts are called soutzoukia, the Turkish name for sausages. In his Plant Lexicon of 1914, Gennadius refers to them as glefkokollastes. In Crete they are called kremandalies and in Cyprus sioutzoukkoi. Though soutzoukia are an age-old recipe and were made in many regions, the best ones still come from Thrace. When we were children, whenever my mother found must jelly during the summer holidays, she used to make armathies, or strings, of soutzoukia. It was a nourishing sweet to eat at school during breaks. Ingredients 2.5 kilos clarified must 300 gm roasted wheat flour 1 kilo shelled walnuts A few scented pelargonium leaves Roasted sesame seeds Using a thin cotton thread about 50 centimeters long for each soutzouki, tie a knot in one end and thread it through a large needle. String the walnuts carefully, like worry beads, and fasten a clothes pin to the end of the thread. Boil the must. Sift the flour into it, adding the pelargonium leaves, and stir until the mixture thickens. Reduce the heat and dip the threaded walnuts into the mixture. Once they are well-coated, suspend them hanging over a tray because they will drip. Keep the must flour in liquid form by simmering it over a low flame. If it thickens any more, dilute it with a little clarified must. When the walnuts cool, dip them into the must flour mix again. Repeat the process until the walnuts are completely covered and are the size you want them. When you have finished dipping them, sprinkle them with sesame seeds before they become cold. Leave them to dry completely or put them in the sun to dry out under a fine cloth.