“I’m still writing 1997 on my checks” – Sarah Silverman. That’s kinda how I feel. But it’s definitely 2014 because I have just eaten plate full of homemade loukoumades. Loukoumades are a New Year tradition in Cyprus. My aunt told me that every 6 January when my grandma made loukoumades in the village, she would always cut the first loukoumada in half and throw it to the ceiling for the unbaptised spirits to eat and leave. (Err…that’s a true story. I hope I haven’t unsettled you … that’s not part of the recipe.)
I can imagine my grandma doing this in her kitchen, which must not have been very “kitchen” like but more like a cold room with a space heater and a stove. My loukoumades making experience is not as interesting. But, traditionally, we still make these around New Years. I can’t say that I stick to any more New Year’s traditions, save for making a vasilopita. The only thing on my “2014” list to do was to breed my dog, but there has been so much bad news coming out of Cyprus on the animal cruelty front, that I am now reluctant to bring new puppies into that reality. So Ernie – my chubby pug – will have a trip to the vet’s office in 2014 instead. On the cooking front though, I definitely have some things-I-want-to-try-in-2014.
Here is my top ten list:
10. Make my own orange blossom water. When I was 5 I put flowers in a bottle of water to make perfume. The result: bad perfume, good orange blossom water.
9. Pick artichokes and make something with them the same day. I went with my aunt and cut tons of beautiful artichokes last year and never took any home to cook with them for some reason. Doh. But this year I will.
8. Learn more about olive oil. It’s my last article in the “olive oil” series and I want it to be really good.
7. Create a really delicious ice-cream flavour. Because making ice cream is way more fun than I ever thought.
6. Buy a food processor. I realllllllly want a food processor. Is it too late to ask Santa?
5. Eat more fish. Because fish is good for you. And Cyprus has good fish. So, it just makes sense.
4. Make my own Cypriot sausages – loukaniko. That’s totally normal, right.
3. Go mushroom-picking. Do not pick poisonous mushrooms.
2. Make halloumi from scratch. I might try to milk the goat. Might.
1. Plant and grow some of my own vegetables. I love homegrown vegetables. And it’s silly that the seeds I bought are not-growing in my cupboard.
Just a few more things about this loukoumades recipe. Traditionally, Cypriot loukoumades are made with mashed potato – to get that starchy flavour – and are dipped in a sugary syrup flavoured with orange blossom flavour. These loukoumades are not traditional – I am still trying to master the art of the traditional Cypriot loukoumades – one that tastes like what you buy at the fairs. But as far as homemade loukoumades go, these are excellent. It’s the honey syrup that really makes them stand out if you ask me. Also, I used the recipe below, but stored it in the fridge for one day. I am not sure if this helped the dough rise a bit more than normal, but the texture was just perfect: hard on the outside and soft – but not gooey – on the inside. Another important tip – make sure your oil is hot, but not boiling! Anyway, I hope you enjoy this recipe. I will be publishing another one – more true to the traditional style – once I find one I am happy with! Enjoy! xx
5 cups flour (2 & 1/2 all purpose and 2 & 1/2 bread flour)
2 & 1/2 cups warm water
1 tbs fresh yeast
zest of 1 medium orange
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of sugar
for the syrup:
3 tbs honey
1.5 tbs water
750ml (about 2 & 1/2 cups) vegetable oil for frying
cinnamon for sprinkling
1. Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and orange zest.
2. Dilute the yeast in 1/4 cup of your warm water. Stir until it dissolves.
3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the diluted yeast.
4. Start adding the water until it becomes a sort of sticky, gooey texture. Not thick but not thin. Whisk the mixture by hand until it becomes a gooey dough. Continue to briskly whisk for about 5 minutes.
5. Cover it and keep it in a warm place and leave it for two hours. The dough should rise and bubble a bit. Then you are ready to start making the loukoumades. If you don’t want to make the loukoumades the same day, place the dough in the fridge for 1 day, ensuring to take it out 1 hour before you intend to make the loukoumades.
6. Bring your vegetable oil to medium heat in a small to medium sized saucepan. When the oil is hot, squeeze the dough between your fingers and thumb and then use a spoon to shape into balls. (I used a plastic spoon because the dough falls off easier than a stainless steel spoon. Also keep a little bowl of oil to the side to dip your plastic spoon in, in between making the loukoumades, because this will help the dough fall off more easily into the oil as well.)
7. Fry the balls in small batches until they float to the surface and turn golden brown (about 10-15 minutes). When you lift them out with a spoon they will feel lighter. Make sure you keep stirring the loukoumades as you cook them so they don’t just brown on one side. You may have to adjust your heat accordingly – you do not want burnt loukoumada on the outside and raw loukoumada on the inside!
8. Drain on paper towels.
10. For the syrup. This is not your typical Cypriot syrup which includes orange blossom water. Mix together the honey and water in a small frying pan. Add about 15-20 loukoumades into the pan and heat and stir the mixture until the honey syrup bubbles and the loukoumades are coated with honey. Remove and sprinkle cinnamon on top. Enjoy!!!