Every year, around this time, a sweet and playful dilemma of choices and tastes…
Kourambiedes or melomakarona? Starting in early December, Greek homes set platters of beautifully arranged melomakarona, next to sow flacked kourambiedes.
Which is your favorite Christmas treat? The Moist, honey-soaked melomakarona or the crumbly, butter-rich almond kourabiedes?
Both are at the top of my list!
The word “melomakarona” is a combination of meli, which means “honey,” and makaronia, which comes from the ancient Greek word makaria, meaning “blessed”. Yes, there is no connection to “macaroni”, the Greek name for Italian pasta…
To offer a slice of history, long ago, makaria was a piece of oval-shaped bread made especially for funerary dinners to bless the deceased. Later on, the makaria was soaked in honey and became known as melomakarono.
Μrs Lila, my good friend Maria’s mother, makes her famous delicate Christmas bites of melomakarona and kourabiedes from a classic recipe of the town of Karditsa, in the Thessalia region. Every year, her tasty bites become so high in demand that she decided to create her very own little Christmas business that has already even taken over London! Just proves how a simple word of mouth can become a famed delicacy!
This year, while on a quest to finally find the perfect melomakarona recipe that would become my sons’ favourite treat, Mrs Lila kindly shared hers with me, the old fashioned way of course, without exact measurements but deep passion regarding the process.
I must say, I practiced a few times so as to find the exact measurements and share them with you! Since you get all the sweetness from the honey syrup, she advises to only use one cup of sugar. Crunchy walnuts are mixed with just a bit more cinnamon and cloves than expected… Finally, their bite size, that also adds to the charm. And, most of all, the art of sharing that I so treasure in people of depth and value, like Mrs Lila…
To order Mrs Lila’s melomakarona and kourampiedes, call +30 6932904317
Kyria Lilas’ Melomakarona
1½ cups olive oil
1½ cups corn oil
1 cup sugar
2 cups orange juice
2 teaspoons soda
1 cup brandy
½ cup semolina, small grain
1 kg flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
For the syrup:
3 cups sugar
2 cups honey
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups water
1 lemon, juice
750 g walnuts
1. In a large bowl combine the oils and sugar.
2. In a smaller bowl whisk by hand the orange juice and the soda until it becomes foamy. Immediately add it to the oil mixture in the large bowl.
3. Add the brandy and semolina and mix.
4. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder salt and half the cinnamon and cloves (the remainder will be added to the crushed walnuts). Add to the large bowl. Knead by hand until the mixture becomes a soft and oily dough.
5. Line several baking tins (not cookie sheets as there must be sides) with parchment paper. Measure out about half teaspoon size portion of dough and place in the tins (Note: the cookie size is one of personal preference—Kyria Lila makes them tiny).
6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until done (depending on the size of the cookies).
7. For the syrup: Add the sugar, the honey and water to a medium saucepan. Stir until it turns into a golden syrup. Add the lemon juice at the end.
8. Crush the walnuts in a food processor and when done, mix in the remainder of the cinnamon and cloves.
9. When the cookies are completely cooled pour the warm syrup over them so the bases of the tins are covered with the liquid enabling the cookies to absorb the syrup.
Sprinkle the aromatic walnut mixture over the top of each cookie and enjoy!