One my fondest memories about growing up in Greece are the open-air cinemas which open at the beginning of the summer and usually run well into September. There’s nothing more romantic than watching a film under the stars in the company of a loved one, the air heavy with the scent of jasmine flowers.
My local cinema in the suburbs of Athens was a typically charming one, with rickety director chairs, gravel underfoot and cats wondering around in front of the screen. Not so typical perhaps was the cake that you could buy at the concession stand. Samali is a semolina based cake, very sweet, dense and fragrant. It was sometimes served with mastic gum (Μαστίχα) ice cream which cut through the syrupy sweetness.
When I saw the Foodies100 challenge to come up with a heavenly recipe using the premium Greek Gods Greek-style yogurt I knew I had just the thing! This recipe may well tickle Aphrodite’s taste buds but I would suggest you share it with a loved one instead.
Fragrant semolina hearts with honeycomb frozen yogurt
400g caster sugar
170g golden syrup or honey
pinch cream of tartar
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
50g unsalted butter (optional)
Line a deep baking dish (at least 20x20cm) with baking paper and spray it with cake release spray. Set aside.
Put a pan or tray with some cool water near your stove. Put all the ingredients apart from bicarbonate of soda in a deep pot and simmer over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Clip on a candy thermometer and raise the heat so that the mixture comes to a boil. When temperature reads 150 C/ 300 F take the pot off the heat and plunge into the tray of water. Immediately stir in the bicarbonate of soda with a whisk – the mixture will bubble volcanically. Carefully pour the candy into your prepared tray and leave to set without touching the tray (otherwise the bubbles may burst). Once completely cool, break into pieces and store in an air-tight container.
Honeycomb Greek Gods frozen yogurt
I used the Honey flavour Greek Gods yogurt. It is very rich, creamy and smooth – my toddler said ‘mmm, ice cream’ when he tasted it, which inspired me to turn it into frozen yogurt. Combined with some honeycomb it makes an absolutely killer frozen yogurt.
1 tub Honey Greek Gods yogurt (minus 120g which you will use in the cakes)
2 tbsp runny honey or agave syrup
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
2-3 tbsp crushed honeycomb (or to taste)
Stir the honey and vanilla paste into the yogurt and mix well. Pour into a lidded container (metal one preferably) and freeze for 5-6 hours or overnight.
Put several pieces of honeycomb into a food processor and blitz until they resemble breadcrumbs. Put aside. Put the frozen yogurt in the processor (you may need to wait until it softens slightly and then break it up a bit) and process until the yogurt is smooth – this may take several minutes if it is frozen solid. Add the honeycomb and mix well. Pour back into your container and freeze again.
These little fragrant hearts were inspired by Samali and Ravani cakes which are popular in Greece and Middle Eastern countries. My recipe is lighter and less dense – it melts in the mouth. The cakes themselves are not overly sweet – all the sweetness comes from the syrup which is poured over the cakes while they are still warm. They are moreish, fragrant and irresistible. Makes about 10-12 mini cakes.
100g self-raising flour
75g fine semolina
60g ground almonds
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
120g Greek Gods Honey yogurt
2 medium eggs
1-2 drops orange flower water
zest of an orange
1tsp vanilla extract
peel of an orange
spent vanilla pods or vanilla bean paste
1-2 drops orange flower water
Splash of cognac or brandy (optional)
Note: you can bake in a cake tin to make a cake rather than mini cakes. In Greece Ravani is normally baked in a large baking tray (but for that you must double the recipe).