The Sweet Life

by Jennifer Gay
Athens News

AFTER a hearty meal, there's nothing like a bite into something sweet and succulent to "change the taste", as the Greeks say. Here, we select three very different types of traditional puddings: syrup-soaked ravani cake with a creamy yoghurt filling; dry, nutty biscuits and sugary baklava bursting with chopped almonds and walnuts. Serve with a bitter, grouty cup of coffee and glasses of ice-cold water.

Ravani with yoghurt (Yiaourtoravani)

Yields 12 servings

6 eggs
800gr full-fat yoghurt
300gr sugar
1 tbs butter, melted
600gr white cake flour
1 tsp baking powder

For the syrup

600gr sugar
1/2 litre water
3-4 drops lemon juice


1. In mixing bowl, beat yoghurt and sugar until thick and creamy.

2. Add lightly beaten egg yolks and melted butter.

3. In separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Gently fold in flour and baking powder. Stirring continuously, add egg white and flour mix to yoghurt and sugar.

4. Turn mixture into a large, shallow, lightly buttered baking dish. (Batter should not be more than one-inch thick).

5. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. Then turn off heat from top and bake, from bottom only, for 30 minutes more.

6. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Prepare syrup and pour hot over ravani cake.

Nut crescents (Skaltsounia me ksirous karpous)

Yields about 30 pieces

For the dough

3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Water
about 700-800gr flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the filling

2 cups coarsely ground walnuts
2 cups coarsely ground almonds
2 cups dry breadcrumbs
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
4-5 cloves, crushed
1 tbs grated orange peel
3 tbs honey


1. In large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine all filling ingredients.

2. In separate bowl, combine olive oil, eggs, salt, and water; gradually stir in enough flour to create a soft dough. Let rest for about 20 minutes.

3. Roll out dough and cut into small circles, about 9-10cm in diameter. Place a spoonful of filling in circle, then fold dough over filling to create a half-moon shape. Press dough together around edges to seal.

4. Lightly oil two baking sheets. Transfer crescents to cookie sheets and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 50-60 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and let cool for about 15-20 minutes. Dredge with powdered sugar and ground cinnamon.

Almond baklava (Baklavas me amigdala)

Yields 10 servings

1 packet filo
2 cups almonds and walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 tbs sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 piece mastic, crushed with a little sugar
10-15 whole cloves
1 cup butter

For the syrup

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick


1. In mixing bowl, combine sugar with nuts, ground cinnamon, and mastic.

2. Lightly oil bottom and sides of shallow baking pan. Layer bottom with 5 or 6 sheets of filo, brushing with butter between each sheet. Let ends hang over edge of pan.

3. Spread nut filling evenly over filo. Layer remaining filo over top, always brushing with butter between each sheet. Trim excess filo and turn ends into pan. Drizzle a little butter over top. With tip of sharp knife, mark baklava into diamond-shape pieces, taking care not to pierce down to the filling. Push a clove into centre of each diamond.

4. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 50-55 minutes, or until filo is golden brown. Meanwhile, prepare syrup and let cool. When baklava is done, remove from oven, drizzle a little butter over top, then immediately pour cold syrup over pan. Let baklava stand for awhile to soak up syrup before cutting and serving.

(Recipes compiled by Cordelia Madden)

This week at your local laiki

CULTIVATED since prehistoric times, plums were supposedly introduced into Greece by Alexander the Great from Syria or Persia where damson plums have long been grown. Prunus x domestica is the common garden plum of west Asian origin - probably specifically from the Caucasus Mountains near the Caspian Sea - misleadingly often referred to as the European Plum. Plums also originate from China and Japan and it is thought some are native to America. Often round in shape, others are oval or heart-shaped. Their colours are delicious: red-purple, blue-black, green, yellow and amber.

Plums (in Greek vanilies) have a high content of phytonutrients called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid - excellent antioxidants. Plums and prunes (retailers are now calling the latter dried plums to try and improve their image) also increase absorption of iron in the body - this is probably related to their high vitamin C content, as this vitamin is necessary for iron to be used effectively. Prunes are especially well-known for their high fibre content, while prune juice has long been used to "keep you regular".

Juicy, sweet plums are eaten fresh or used for jam and preserves, while the juice can be fermented into plum wine. When distilled this produces a brandy known in Eastern Europe as Slivovitz.

If prunes have been in the refrigerator, allow them to approach room temperature before consuming - you will find them much tastier and juicer. For something a little different, try sliced plums with goat cheese, sprinkled with walnuts and sage as a pizza topping. Poached plums in red wine served with lemon zest is luxurious while simple stewed plums sieved make a delicious desert served with yoghurt and honey.

Buy this book at 30% off!

This week's recipes are taken from Greek Cuisine, An Easy Guide for All, by Myrsini Lambraki and published by Ellinika Grammata. You can now purchase this book for 6.72 euros, down from its usual price of 9.60 euros. This 30 percent discount is offered exclusively through the Athens News.

You can pick up your reduced price copy in person from Ellinika Grammata bookshop (9 Christou Lada St, Athens). Otherwise, email your order to or fax it to 210-333-3971. Include your name and address, the name of the book and the fact that you are taking advantage of this special offer. DO NOT include payment or a credit card number. A courier will deliver the book and collect payment in cash. There is a 4.50 euros delivery charge. For more information call Vassilis Tsonoglou at 210-333-3970.


Wines of the week

OENOLOGIST Angelos Iatridis, wine-maker of Alpha Estate, picks five dessert wines to enjoy, well-chilled, after dinner on long summer evenings.

Domaine Costa Lazaridi 2002 Viognier (Viognier), Ktima Costa Lazaridi

Moschato Riou Patron 2001 (Moschato Riou), Parparousis

Samos Anthemis OPE 1998 (Moschato blanc), Cooperative Union of Samos

Vinsanto Argyrou 1987 (Assyrtico, Athiri, Aidani), Canava Argyrou

Moschato Riou 2000 (Moschato Riou), Antonopoulos

(Posting Date 10 August 2006)

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