Our recipe this week comes from the island of Sifnos. Melopita is a cake made with honey and anthotyro cheese, a soft white cheese resembling ricotta. On the island of Sifnos, as we learn in this video, it is is traditionally made during Easter, when households had anthotyro cheese around. Today of course we do have access to such cheeses all-year round, but it’s always interesting to see how seasonality is present in things one would least expect, like a dessert cake.

As you may know if you’re following this blog, when it comes to traditional Greek recipes, there are as many recipes as there are cooks. The one we have for you here is slightly adapted from Mrs Maria’s in the video, adding just a bit more anthotyro cheese and a few pinches of salt to bring out the honey’s sweetness. It somewhat reminds us of a honey cheesecake, but the texture is lighter and the flavour of honey is much more intense. We used wild thyme honey, a monofloral nectar honey from predominantly wild thyme flowers, as it’s both the honey used in Sifnos, but also one of our favourite ones!

Serves 6

650gr anthotyro cheese (you can replace it with any other soft white cheese like ricotta, or email us and we can order some for you)
250gr wild thyme honey
5 eggs
150g sugar
a few pinches of salt
2 tbsp olive oil
50gr semolina

Preheat your oven at 180C

In a large bowl, roughly mix the cheese, honey, eggs, sugar and salt with a fork. Using a food processor, blend the mixture in batches until smooth. If you have a large food processor, you can skip the bowl and simply add all the ingredients in the food processor. You should be left with a silky batter, slightly looser than cake batter.

Grease a large baking tray (we used a 30cm one) with the olive oil and add the semolina, so that the bottom and sides are covered. Pour in your batter. Your cake should be quite thin, around 2.5cm tall.

Bake for around 40 minutes, or until your cake is no longer wobbly. Serve cold.


On Sunday we celebrated Greek Easter! There are many traditions that go with this celebration. There’s the lamb on the spit, of course; our beloved tzatziki; dying eggs red; fasting for 40 days; eating loads of tsoureki, the traditional brioche-type bread; the traditional magiritsa soup, made of offal.

Galatopita is a tradition upheld at Marianna’s home, and in many other Greek hourseholds as I’ve discovered while researching for this post. Galatopita literally means milk pie. Its custard-like filling has a buttery, creamy texture and a subtle, comforting sweetness. It is made of milk, sugar, fine semolina and eggs. Some variations around Greece include filo, while others omit the filo. The recipe we’re using is by Mrs Kalliopi, Marianna’s mum. It was hand-written, with just a rough estimate of the ingredients, and no cooking instructions. More of a reminder for the experienced cook of what goes into the galatopita. We absolutely love such recipes!

In the past, this was traditionally made with fresh, unpasteurised milk. So if you can find some, do use it for this delicious dessert. We used goat’s milk for ours. If you try any plant-based milk, do let us know how it turned out! As this recipe only has very few ingredients, do try and get the best you can afford. Definitely get the cinnamon to serve, this is not optional, it’s part of tradition.

So let’s enter May, and celebrate spring with this sweet delicious dessert. Thank you Mrs Kalliopi!

Serves 10

1200ml milk (approx. 6 cups)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
200gr white sugar (approx. 1 cup), plus more for the baking tray
150gr fine semolina (approx. 1 cup)
6 eggs
Olive oil and more semolina (for the baking tray)
cinnamon (to serve)

Preheat your oven at 180C.

Place your milk in a large heavy-bottomed pot and over medium heat. Add the vanilla and stir well. Add the semolina and sugar. Using a whisk, start whisking all the ingredients together. As the milk warms up and the semolina hydrates, you will slowly see the mixture thickening up. Do not forget to whisk the mixture, otherwise the milk will burn at the bottom of the pot – you do not want that. The texture we are going for is like that of a very thick béchamel sauce, or Greek yoghurt.

After the mixture thickens up, after around 15-20 minutes, remove your pot from the heat. Very slowly add the eggs, one by one, whisking constantly so that each egg is incorporated before moving to the next one. You should end up with a very smooth, silky mixture.

Butter or oil a shallow baking tray and dust it with plenty of semolina. Pour in your mixture. Sprinkle more sugar and cinnamon on top. Bake at 180C for 40-45 minutes, until the cream is set.

Serve with plenty of cinnamon.

 

 


Remember last week’s semolina halva? This week, continuing our journey to the magical land of halva, we are making sesame halva with honey! Traditionally this sesame halva is made with sugar and tahini. However, as many (including us!) prefer honey to sugar, many recipes now opt for sweet, runny honey instead. The texture is less crumbly and resembles that of toffee, which we must admit, we absolutely love.

For this, we’ve used our whole tahini, but you can use the classic one as well. We’ve also used a combination of strawberry tree (Arbutus) and orange blossom honey. Both coming from the Peloponnese, arbutus is a rare “bitter” honey made by bees feeding on the Arbutus unedo tree flowers (strawberry tree), while the orange blossom honey is a delicate, sweet honey with a citrus taste and a light amber colour. They pair perfectly in this halva!

This is the basic recipe, to which you can add cocoa or chocolate, various nuts (almonds are a classic!), or sesame. We love pistachios, as they have this beautiful pink-green bright colours which make the halva not only taste, but also look delicious!

This is a quite filling snack, so a little goes a long way. Cut it in small square pieces and enjoy with your afternoon tea, for breakfast or as post-dinner dessert!

 

280g tahini (whole or white)
280g honey (we used both strawberry tree honey and orange blossom honey)
80g raw, unsalted pistachios or any other nuts of your choosing

Place your pistachios at the bottom of a non-stick cake tin. You can finely or roughly chop them and/or roast them if you prefer. We left them raw and whole.

Stir well your tahini in the jar and add it in a small saucepan. Over low heat warm it up for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and place in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan and over low hear warm up the honey, until bubbly and caramelised. To check if it’s ready, drizzle a bit in a glass with cold water. It should shape as a soft ball and not be runny. If you have a candy thermometer, you should aim for 115C.

Once your honey is ready add it to the tahini. Using a wooden spoon, stir everything together. Almost immediately, you will see the mixture changing texture, as the ingredients come together. When it gathers around your wooden spoon and not touching the sides of your bowl you are done!

Carefully pour the halva in the cake tin over your nuts. Let it set for a few hours. Cut in small pieces and serve!

 


Halva is a category of desserts which are very popular in the Balcans, parts of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. There are many variations, flavour combinations and textures. Today we are preparing halvas simigdalenios, literally translated as semolina halva. It is a dessert served all throughout Lent in Greece, and in many other occasions throughout the year.

It is also known as the 1-2-3-4 halva, as the key ingredients are measured by volume: 1 x olive oil, 2 x semolina, 3 x sugar, 4x water. In the classic recipe, the olive oil is mixed with the semolina, the sugar with the water and then the two come together. We’ve simplified the recipe, simply adding everything gradually in the same pot. We’ve also weighed the ingredients, so that it’s easier for those of us who do not like measuring things in cups.

The traditional recipe calls for the aromas of cinnamon, cloves and orange. We’ve also added almonds and raisins. You can add your preferred spices, use whichever nuts you prefer and other dried fruit instead of raisins.

Serves 6

100g olive oil
200g coarse semolina (you can also use fine, or a mixture of the two)
300g sugar (we used light brown sugar, but white sugar works as well)
400g water
1/3 tsp ground cloves
2/3 tsp ground cinnamon
zest from 1 orange
50g raw almonds (you can also use any other nuts you prefer)
50g Corinth raisins (you can also use any other dried fruit you prefer)

Roughly chop the almonds, so that they are the size of the raisins. Or however you prefer, it’s a personal choice, really.

In a bowl mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, orange zest. Set aside.

In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot and over medium heat pour the olive oil and semolina. Stir until the semolina is golden-brown, around 10 minutes.

This step is crucial. So leave all distractions outside the kitchen. Take your time in “roasting” as we say in Greek the semolina, and your halva will have a nutty, intense, wholesome flavor. But this step needs lots of care, so stay with it for those minutes, stirring and contemplating the beauty of the heat, as it transforms the white-yellow grains into golden brown. Or the beauty of those moments of stillness.

Once the semolina is ready, add the sugar-spice mixture and stir for a minute. Add the almonds and raisins and stir for another minute, smelling as the aromas come together.

Remove from the heat and very, very slowly add the water. It will splatter, so be careful.

Lower the heat to its lowest setting. Return the pot to the heat and stir until the mixture thickens up, around 15-20 minutes.

Again, do not leave it alone, the halva doesn’t like that. Yes, this is a recipe that takes time and care. But you will be rewarded. Soon, you will have a delicious halva. But as you may have realised by now, these moments of stillness, as you stir the halva, smell the aromas and breathe -without any distractions- are perhaps even more precious than the halva itself.

You will know it’s ready when it’s quite thick and there is resistance as you stir.

Now there are two schools of thought here.

Some prefer the halva hot, so in that case you are done and you can serve immediately. Others however prefer the halva cold. It’s a big debate in Greece, you must know. So if you want to serve it cold, pour the halva in a greased cake tin (even better if it’s non-stick), and let it cool down a bit. Place in the fridge to let it cool completely. Remove from the tin and serve.

After you are done, take a walk around the house. Perhaps the most rewarding thing when you make halva is the smell that fills your home.

Let us know which of the two ways you prefer (hot/ cold, or maybe at room temperature!) and in any case, do serve with extra cinnamon!


Last week we celebrated Greek Easter. Celebrations this year were very different, with large family gatherings being replaced by phone and video calls, baskets filled with food gifts and love shared from a distance. It was a strange Easter, no doubt.

With our families often far away, we spent a lot of time preparing old family recipes. You see, food always makes us feel closer to home. In my family, we made the traditional mageiritsa soup, a soup made with offal and lots of spring greens. Marianna made her mothers’ traditional recipe of flaounes. Flaounes is a cheese-filled pastry from the island of Cyprus, that is traditionally prepared for Easter. Marianna’s family usually makes flaounes on the Thursday before Easter, and eats them on Easter Sunday – and the entire week after!

Marianna’s mother, Mrs Kalliopi does all sorts of amazing dough-based recipes. Remember her olive oil apple cake? And her kourou dough?

So this year, she sent us from Athens her hand-written recipe of flaounes, which we couldn’t but share with you this week! I always find it exciting to get hand-written old family recipes, don’t you?

This recipe makes more flaounes than you can eat (around 12). This is because making them is a communal process, where neighbours come together and all cook together. Now, at times of quarantine, make the whole recipe and share the flaounes with your neighbours!

Dough
1kg all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp mahlepi, ground (we got ours from Spice Mountain)
½ tbsp mastiha, ground to dust with ½ tbsp sugar
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Filling
700g graviera cheese, grated
2 pieces of halloumi, grated
10 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup Corinth raisins
3 tbsp dried spearmint

1 egg and sesame (for baking)

In a large bowl, sieve together your dry ingredients: flour, baking poder, salt, mahlepi, mastiha.
Add the butter and using your fingers, mix everything together, until you have a texture that resembles small breadcrumbs.
Whisk the milk and eggs together and add to your mixture.
Kneed until you have a dough that is not sticky.

Let it rest for an hour, in a warm place.

Preheat the oven at 170C.

While your dough is resting, make the filling: grate the cheeses all together. Whisk the eggs, adding the baking powder and spearmint. Mix together the cheeses, egg mixture and raisins. You should have a filling that is slightly dense in texture.

On a clean surface, dust some flour and using a rolling pin, roll out your dough. Cut large rounds of dough, using a small plate as a guide.

Place 2-3 tablespoons of filling in each round, and fold the ends inwards, so that you have a neat parcel – but not all the way, you should be able to see some of the filling in the centre. Pinch the ends with a fork, to ensure the dough will hold its shape during baking..

Place the flaounes in a buttered baking tray. Whisk the egg and brush generously over each flaouna. Sprinkle with sesame.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.


How was your Easter? We are all now well rested from the long weekend last week and getting ready for our own Greek Easter. Easter in Greece is one of the most important holidays. Starting from Clean Monday, the days of lent prior to Easter prepare us all for this week. Going to church, making sweet tsoureki and painting eggs are only a few of the traditions we uphold during those days.

On Easter Sunday, families gather together for the Easter lunch. Lamb is served, alongside a simple salad with lettuce, spring onions and plenty of dill. Then, each family has its own additions. Some will prepare pies, others will have various types of meat. At Oliveology we always go for tzatziki. This refreshing dip balances perfectly the intensity of lamb. And we make ours with plenty of garlic of course.

So, in the classic recipe the main ingredients are yogurt, cucumber, garlic and dill. But we are going to take this one step further this Easter. Marianna’s very own family recipe swaps the cucumber for raw beetroot, giving this pink tzatziki sweetness and crunch.

For a large bowl you will need

500g yogurt
3 cloves of garlic, minced to a paste (if you love garlic then feel free to add more)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil plus more to serve
1 large beetroot
3 tbsp. fresh dill, plus more to serve
salt  (to taste)

Grate the beetroot. Place in a bowl, squeezing away any excess liquid (you can use the liquid for smoothies, soups or cocktails). You can skip this step if you prefer a less thick tzatziki. Add the yogurt and dill and stir well. In a separate bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Combine the two. Mix until all flavours have blended together. Taste and season with salt. Serve with plenty of dill and olive oil.

 


If you haven’t tried Greek tsoureki before, then you are certainly missing out! Soft, fluffy, with a beautiful brown semi-soft crust and an amazing stringy texture. Its distinct, rich flavour and intense aromas come from the two aromatic spices used: mastic and mahlab, which give a really characteristic flavour and smell. Freshly ground mastic (masticha), is an aromatic spice from Chios island, and aromatic mahlab or mahleb (mahlepi), is a spice made from ground seeds of cherry.

Ingredients

40g fresh yeast
60ml water
75g special flour for tsoureki (a flour mix, high in protein)
45g butter 82% fat
135g sugar
100g eggs
85ml milk
10g mahlepi (a spice made from cherry stones)
20ml orange juice
Zest from an orange
3g grounded mastic (resin obtained the mastic trees in Chios island, PDO product)
1g salt
A portion of vanilla (powder)
425g special flour for tsoureki
40g melted butter 82% fat, in medium temperature
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
40g thinly sliced almonds
Red eggs (if desired)

Method

Sprinkle yeast over lukewarm water and let it stand for 10 mins. Afterwards, add 75g of flour, stir to combine and leave it to rise in a warm place for approximately 45 mins.

In a pot combine 45g butter, sugar, eggs, milk, mahlepi, juice and orange zest, mastic, salt and vanilla and warm up the mixture until it’s lukewarm. Stir to combine with a whisk. Add the mix to the electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and start adding flour gradually, stirring between additions. Combine the initial mix (with the yeast) as well and mix until the dough is elastic. Finally, add melted butter and keep mixing until the dough doesn’t stick to the mixer bowl anymore. Transfer the dough into a buttered bowl, cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for approximately 45 mins, until doubled in size.

Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and cut the dough in 350g balls. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Divide the dough into three and roll into three stands. Plait the strips together, place on the baking tray and leave to rise in a warm place for approximately an hour, until doubled in size. Brush the top of the bread with egg wash, sprinkle some almonds and push the red eggs (if desired) into the bread. Finally, bake tsoureki at 170° for 40 mins. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Καλό Πάσχα – Happy Easter!


Clean Monday or Kathara Deftera as we call it in Greece is the day of the beginning of lent prior to Easter. It’s a moveable feast, moving every year with Easter. As such, its name means exactly that: leaving behind anything “unclean”, including non-fasting foods.

A public holiday in Greece, clean Monday is the day when families gather together and set the table with foods made especially for the day. If the weather is nice, tables are moved outside and picnics are planned. And along with delicious food, kites come out. Yes, clean Monday is the day when we fly a kite, kids and grown-ups together. It’s a day of being around nature, eating fasting foods and seafood, celebrating the beginning of spring and of the pre-Easter period.

The traditional lagana bread is being prepared, and platters with salads, some shellfish, taramosalata and other fasting foods are laid on the Clean Monday table. This year, Marianna herself has prepared  taramosalata for her team. Using her gran’s’ great recipe with boiled potatoes the consistency is more creamy.  However there is another version using stale bread instead of potatoes. Marianna experimented using Create Dakos rusks to replace the stale bread. Dakos worked wonders and gave taramosalata a thicker consistency and deeper flavour! We are waiting for the team’s verdict to decide which one works best! Watch this space.

Ingredients:

200g cod roe
200g boiled potatoes or stale bread or Dakos rusks
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
Juice of 2-3 lemons
Lemon zest
300ml extra virgin olive oil

Kalamata olives to garnish

Soak the bread or dakos in water. Squeeze out all water. Peel and roughly chop the onion. Blend together the potatoes/moist bread/dakos, cod roe, onion, lemon juice, adding a bit of water if needed to loosen the mixture. Slowly add the olive oil. Taste and add more lemon juice if needed.