Thursday, 24 June 2010

Oreilletes (Γαλλικά ξεροτίγανα)

Our family evening snack food consists of the same kinds of food day in, day out: kalitsounia, dakos, sandwiches, home-made pizza, yoghurt and/or fruit in cooler weather,and the quintessential Greek toasted bread dipped in olive oil. Recently they complained to me that they were bored of eating the same old thing. I found this simple recipe on Alison Parker's site.

Pastry and dough making, like bread, are not really my cup of tea. They take time, and they also create a mess. I usually buy my pastry needs from a specialist shop that makes traditional Greek pastry when I make pies and pasties. I have to be in the mood to make a dough from scratch, like I was recently, when I read about Alison's oreillettes.


Oreilletes, a kind of sweet pancake, are made by frying small rounds of thinly rolled-out pastry. Alison tells us that they are a French recipe, often made for Mardi Gras. The pastry can be made in the morning (or at night) and left to rest, until you are ready to fry it in the afternoon as a snack (or the next morning for breakfast), a very handy technique for the rushed home cook who doesn't always have the time to prepare and cook a meal in one go, as well as clean up the floury/oily mess afterwards.

oreillettes oreillettes
Making oreillettes

Oreillettes resemble, to a certain extent, the Cretan xerotigano, a fried sweet pastry dough, cooked in rounds, and then dipped in a honey-based syrup.

wedding dessert xerotigano
Xerotigano, a long narrow strip of thinly rolled out pastry, twirled around a stick as it is dipped into boiling hot olive oil; after it is cooked, it is left to cool and then dipped in a honey-based syrup. It is always served at weddings and baptisms in Hania.

In fact, xerotigana, like avgokalamara, beignets and bugnes (also known as angels' wings), are very similar to each other, despite being made by different cultures for different reasons. Sweet fried pastry (similar to funnel cake) is made in dome form or other in most cultures around the world, and is often topped with confectioner's sugar or dipped in syrup (like the Cretan xerotigana). This is why I decided to dip my oreillettes in syrup instead of dusting them with the more traditional confectioner's sugar. Syrup-dipped fried pastry falls within the sweets range that my family is already used to eating, making the French oreillettes seem less of a novelty and more of a twist to a more familiar favorite (in this case, the Cretan xerotigana). I used the leftover syrup from some tangerine spoon sweets that we had bought in Pelion during our recent summer holiday.

The taste, appearance, ingredients and method of preparation of sushi falls very far away from the Mediterranean food spectrum.

In fact, whenever my creative culinary skills produce international cuisine that falls within the Mediterranean food spectrum, I can safely bet that I can keep the family happy, even if they can't put a name to the food I present to them. But when the appearance, taste, ingredients and method of preparation/cooking fall well beyond the common pool of Mediterranean foods shared by the cultures that inhabit this body of water, then I know that I will be dining solo - as I recently did when I made sushi, using smoked salmon and sheets of seaweed: although the appearance could pass off as a Japanese kind of dolmadaki, the taste of the seaweed, coupled with the appearance of the filling did not convince my family that they would bear any resemblance to a vine-leaf rice parcel...

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