”We wish you the very best”
“Thank you! Please take a “xerotigano” … “
I fetched one of these very tasty traditional sweets. And, admittedly, I enjoyed it very very much. I recall with nostalgia the huge pans with the golden spiral “xerotigana” offered in Cretan weddings and served in honeyed, golden pyramids. I am in such a wedding today (Oh!…I forgot to tell you… I am in the island of Kythira).
If you had ever visited Greece in the past you may have heard of “xerotigana”. And maybe you have had already a taste, since the syrupy sweets called “xerotigana” remain the most famous sweets of the Aegean islands. They come in many different variations. But with a basic and common element: they are the “par excellence” most formal and festive sweets indispensable to weddings, engagements and baptisms. Very festive sweets, indeed !
But who made the ones I tried today? I asked around, I learned and immediately I went to see them being done here in Tsirigo (Kythira’s other name).
“And what is so different in those ones?” I dared to ask when I went to the lovely house of Mrs. Rita Konomou; she is the experienced cook.
“Well they are quite different…” she replied. “The trick is in the dough, which is made from eggs and flour. Only! Water is strictly prohibited. ” No other materials are allowed. The baking powder and any other “clever” ingredients are not accepted in this recipe, I suppose…
“We roll the dough with flour and as many eggs as we wish (naturally depending on the amount of sweets we are planning to make). Firstly, we roll out the dough nicely with our hands. Secondly, we cut it in stripes with the rolling-cutter tool which leaves it’s mark as “teeth” along the edge of each of the stripes. «Says giggling, my dear lady Rita…
Who literally is performing elaborate “embroidery” with … dough! To my amazement… She made some small boats with yeast and joined them in a ring as if they were linked with a needle!
“Then we burn oil, but not too much because our “xerotigana” will turn black.” At this point speed is of essence. With a skillful move the “embroidered wreath” is immersed in the oil and – miracle of miracles – inflates in seconds! “We immediately turn it upside down” says Ms Rita, as she is pulling it out. “And it’s ready to serve on a dish…”
Then she poured warmed high quality local thyme honey (so it would be fluid but not watery), with cinnamon and toasted sesame seeds. The taste is quite delicate and ethereal. “Xerotigana” – along with “bezedes” and “rozedes”, some other nice local sweets – they are never excluded from our local weddings and baptisms.
“For the same festivals, (weddings and baptisms) we do “avgokalamara” as well she says preparing herself to cook once more. She follows the same procedure but just as she cuts the indented stripe of dough, she wraps it skillfully around the fork and she gradually sinks it into the oil while twisting it at the same time!
It really needs a lot of skill because the whole process is executed quickly, with a particular know-how otherwise the “avgokalamaro” very easily loses the golden spiral harmony and becomes something like a “destroyed helicopter”…Ha!…ha! I tried to do one myself and I did the… “helicopter tragedy”, believe me …
Where to find such a “silky” sweet in Kythira? Well… you must be invited to a local wedding, here in Tsirigo.
If it is your own one…I guess… it’s even better!
Where am I?
Kythira is located across the southern tip of Peloponnesus. The quickest way to go (other than by air) is to drive all the way down to Neapolis, at the coast of Peloponnesus and then take the ferry across for less than just an hour.
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