If you've read my blog entry about mastic a few days ago, you'll know that, while still here in Greece, I am on the trail for exciting local ingredients.
I was wandering in the local supermarket when I came across a little packet of small tear-shaped brown kernels, that looked like tiny plump whole unblanched almonds. I immediately recognised them as mahlepi, another unusual Greek 'spice' with a very pleasant, fruity, bitter-almond flavour.
In the picture above (slightly bigger than life-sized) are these inner kernels of fruit pits
of a native Persian cherry tree, Prunus
Ground to a fine powder, the lovely fruity flavour of tiny mahlepi kernels lends itself to specialty Greek Easter cooking. Most well-loved is a brioche-type braided sweet bread called tsoureki that is traditionally baked and eaten only at Easter time. Besides mahlepi kernels, it is flavoured with mastic.
Mahlepi is also used in yeast cakes or cookies called vasilopita, and also for a special type of Easter cheese pie or cheese cake on Cyprus called flaounes.
Just as in the case of mastic, my encounter years ago with mahlepi lead me to want to include it as an ingredient in one of my cookbooks, but, alas, it never eventuated.
You see, most of the recipes using these kernels are rich with eggs, an ingredient I don't use in my cooking. When I come up with an egg-free mahlepi-flavoured recipe, I'll share it with you. Maybe in a future cookbook. If you know of one, let me know.
In the meantime, if you want to find out more about this fascinating ingredient, click here...
Posted by Kurma on 19/1/07; 12:06:27 AM
from the Travel dept.