Aunt Jemima or Uncle Socrates? Click to Enlarge Image.
What did the ancient Greeks eat? This question has been asked for centuries and it has spawned numerous scholarly, specialist, and dilettante studies on the matter. There have also been countless attempts at re-creating ancient Greek recipes and the Internet is full of such investigations. However, we need not look too hard to discover one ancient Greek food which is still around today; indeed it is a staple of numerous modern European and North American cuisines.
In Canada and the United States we know them as pancakes or flapjacks, in France they are called crêpes, and the Scots and Irish know them as drop-scones or griddlecakes; in Australia and New Zealand they are referred to as pikelets, and in Russia they are blini. The Greeks call them tiganites (Gk. ?????????, pronounced as ?tee-gha-NEE-tehs?) which is from the ancient Greek taginites (?????????) and they have been a popular breakfast food in Greece since at least the 6th century B.C. The oldest reference available to us is from an ancient Athenian comic poet named Cratinus who describes the steam rising from warm pancakes in the morning; these pancakes were generally served with honey poured overtop, as well as fruits and nuts.
To this day, tiganites are popular throughout Greece. They are served much as they were 2600 years ago, usually with honey drizzled overtop, and sometimes with cinnamon, fruits and nuts, or a soft fresh sheep and goat?s milk cheese known as anthotyro spread over them. There is even a religious festival on the island of Corfu (Kerkyra) where they serve their traditional ?tiganites tou Aghiou? or ?the Saint?s Pancakes? on December 12, in honour of that island?s patron Saint Spyridon. So, the next time you sit down in front of a plate of steaming pancakes, you can reflect on how little some things have changed since the time of Socrates. Ingredients:
1 cup (250 ml.) all purpose flour
1 cup (250 ml.) of milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml.) Greek extra virgin olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon (5 ml.) baking powder* (optional)
½ teaspoon salt (3 ml.)
Butter for frying
Greek blossom honey or maple syrup for topping
Some chopped fresh fruits and/or walnuts* (optional)
Combine and sift the flour, baking powder * (optional) and salt into a mixing bowl. (I used the baking powder as I like a fluffier pancake, but it is not necessary)Beat the egg in a separate mixing bowl then add the olive oil and milk and mix together well, then add mixture to the bowl with the flour and whisk to combine the wet and dry ingredients to form a smooth batter. If you prefer a thinner pancake, add a little more milk to the batter.Heat a medium sized frying pan and add a tablespoonful of butter to melt over a medium heat. (Traditionally, olive oil is used instead of butter to fry the tiganites, but I also use butter from time to time as I like the flavour and it results in a lighter pancake.) Once the butter has melted, use a ladle and drop a dollop of the batter into the centre of the pan such that it will spread out into a disc as it cooks. When the edges of the disc start to dry and bubbles appear, flip the pancake to cook the other side and cook till done. Serve hot with some butter and honey drizzled overtop. You can also add some chopped walnuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Note: As I live in Canada, I oftentimes use excellent Canadian maple syrup in place of the honey which is normally used in Greek cooking.
Makes 6 ? 8 tiganites.
Kali Orexi! (Bon Appetit)
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.