Greek food, Sydney to the Cyclades, is bursting with Mediterranean flavour. While many may first look to dishes such as moussaka, souvlaki, seafood or tangy salads prepared in the finest Greek olive oil, the cuisine is also marked by a range of delectable desserts. Here’s an introduction to a few Greek sweets the family will love.
Melamakarona is a type of rich, delicious cookie dipped in honey syrup. The name is from the words “meli” (honey) and “makaronia” which was apparently a Medieval Greek term for a type of biscuit (and not pasta as it sounds). It’s believed the honey became part of the recipe later on in Byzantine times, and while the biscuits may have been a traditional Easter treat, they are now part and parcel of Christmas celebrations in Greek households everywhere. Honey is sometimes used as a symbol of fertility in Greek festivals, so the move to a Christmas biscuit may have been associated with a time of new beginnings (the New Year).
Many would associate baklava with Turkish and Middle Eastern food, but it’s been a staple in Greek households for hundreds if not thousands of years. Baklava is made of layers of paper-thin filo pastry, filled with nuts including walnuts, almonds and most frequently, pistachio, baked and sweetened with a sweet syrup of honey and either lemon, cinnamon, rose water, cardamom or cloves depending on the regional variation. While many nations take credit for the creation of baklava (who wouldn’t want to ‘own’ such a delicious treat), it’s believed the technique that first allowed pastry to be rolled paper-thin is most certainly a Greek innovation. Today, it’s frequently found at Greek tables at Easter, Christmas and any other time of celebration.
One not to miss, bougatsa is prepared from a filo pastry that’s filled with a creamy filling and dusted with powdered sugar or cinnamon. Bougatsa originated in Greece in the city of Serras. While it’s still especially popular in northern cities around Serras, plenty of regional variations occur further afield. In Chiana on Crete for instance, it’s called bougatsa Chanion and filled with sweet custard. Here it’s also made by special pastry shops open only in the early morning. Veria produces a super sweet and creamy version, and in Thessaloniki it’s less sweet and a lot more crunchy. In some places you will also find savoury versions with meat and cheese fillings.
Savour the sweet
If you’re looking to visit Greece and want to sample some dishes first, or if you just want to discover fresh and flavoursome Greek food in Sydney, then why not pay a visit to our atmospheric waterside restaurant. And be sure to bring the family, because no matter what dishes you try, Greek food is all about sharing great food and great times together.