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Archive for April, 2015

Ravani/Ραβανί

Revani

Easter for me is the true beginning of Spring.  Like our winter clothes, the foods in the kitchen start to change. The heavier dishes of casseroles, soups and steamed puddings begin to be replaced with a wider range of seasonal vegetables, salads and fruits. What better recipe to show this than Ravani – the lightest of sponge cake, laced with a light sweet syrup with a hint of lemon.  The coconut works so well with this recipe as it adds a wonderful texture to the sponge and goes beautifully with the lightly flavoured citrus syrup.

Every home in Greece must have it’s own recipe. I couldn’t guess how many variations there are of this recipe.  Ravani is a typical Greek traditional semolina cake that is baked for festive occasions.  No doubt with the Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations coming up this weekend there will be an array of Ravani cakes being made.

I can remember Panayota, my aunt’s cook, making this.  No doubt a recipe handed down to my aunt from her mother (my great grandmother) and then perfected to my aunt’s taste over the years.  She was a very exacting lady and would hover over poor Panayota making sure no mistakes were made.  I can remember sitting in her beautiful light and airy Salonee on a large sofa that was, like every piece of furniture in the room, covered in its custom made fitted linen cover.  I had to fight the strong urge of jumping up and lifting up these covers to discover what lay underneath. My aunt is no longer with us and I never ever found out what those covers hid. It will remain one of those mysteries.

I was always very respectful and would sit politely until a small plate would be presented to me. On it would sit a piece of their ravani cake and a linen serviette, just in case.  My aunt would sit across from me with Panayota proudly standing behind her, waiting for my reaction.  Hollywood has never called, but at least my aunt was convinced that I loved it.  Trouble was, I was never too keen on their version!  It was heavier and sweeter than this recipe and it definitely didn’t contain coconut, to which I am rather partial.

I think I can now say that I have found my own version of the recipe which I hope will continue down the family line.  I know I won’t be getting any commanding performances, as my family are quite happy to tell me if they don’t like it.  The sun may be a little shy this weekend in London but the Ravani will certainly be shining out over our Easter celebrations.

Ravani/Ραβανί

Ingredients

6 eggs separated (large)

140g caster sugar

50g desiccated coconut

70g plain flour

140g fine semolina

For the syrup

300g caster sugar

300 g water

1 unwaxed lemon cut in half.

Decoration

1 tbs desiccated coconut

Method

Turn the oven to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3

Grease and flour a 22 cm cake tin.

Beat the egg yolks with 100gms (not all) of the caster sugar until thick, creamy and very pale.  In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining 40g of caster sugar until stiff.

In a bowl mix together the flour, semolina and desiccated coconut.

Add one third of the egg whites to the egg yolks and fold in gently.  Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the egg mixture and combine.  Fold in the rest of the egg whites.

Turn mixture into a 22cm cake tin.

Place in the oven and leave for 20-25 minutes.  Test with a knife after 20 minutes to see if it is cooked (knife will come out clean if cooked).  If not, leave for a further 5 mins and test again.

When cooked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

To make the syrup.

Add to a saucepan 300ml water and 300g caster sugar. Add the whole lemon, cut in two.  Bring to a boil.  The syrup should then be allowed to boil for exactly 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

The cake should be cool when the hot syrup is added.  Pour over the cake which is still in its tin.  Cover with cling film well, and turn the tin upside allowing the syrup to distribute.  After a few minutes flip the tin over – this helps to stop the syrup from collecting at the sides and bottom of the tin.  This can be repeated a couple of times until the syrup has cooled.  Unwrap and sprinkle a tablespoon of desiccated coconut over the top.  Serve.

N.B  The ravani in the picture was baked in a 8″ cake tin as I couldn’t find my original 22 cm cake (now found in another cupboard).  The ravani took longer to cook around 35 mins and proved difficult when pouring the syrup.

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IMG_5110This is such a versatile recipe. Eaten hot or cold with vegetables or just sliced on its own – it’s delicious.  What’s even better is that it comes with a couple of short cuts.  The puff pastry can be home made or bought, and the sausage meat can be made either entirely from scratch or from the contents of six sausages.  The caramelized onions can be missed out, as can the mustard or even both.

I don’t know why I have come to making sausage plait so late in life. Maybe it is because my mother refused to buy sausages as she didn’t care for what they were made of.  Perhaps that’s why I have a huge weak spot for anything containing sausage meat. So what else could satisfy the brief of forbidden food from an extremely large sausage roll in the form of a large piece of sausage meat encased in golden layers of puff pasty.

I might have come late to actually baking my very own sausage plait but I was no stranger to eating them or a smaller version in the shape of the sausage roll.  Every Saturday my mother would park in the Catholic church car park – why we were blessed with one of their precious parking spaces I will never know, but we were and this is where my mother and I parted company.  She would go to the fish mongers and her favourite market stall where only they had the best and freshest vegetables and I would go to collect the baked goods. Not from any old bakery, no, ours were from La Boulangerie!  It was the bakery.  Situated at the top of a steep cobbled street. It comprised of a small tight little shop with low dark beams.  There was hardly room for the army of assistants behind the counter who spent their day going back and forth to the bake house in the back, let alone the hordes of customers that flocked to buy their bread and baked fancies.  I would stand at the end of a long queue that would wind itself not just around the shop but out of the door and down the high street.  The moment I arrived in the queue I would start to feel anxious about whether there would be enough baked goods to go around.  I knew my mother’s order was safe but it was the extra item which I desired that had me in a froth.

As soon as I had made it into the dim interior of the shop my eyes fixed upon the ever depleting pile of my heart’s desire. As I edged forward the stock became dangerously low, another batch would be brought in from the back but every now and then my ears would prick up to ‘sorry, we have sold out’.  Finally, it would be my turn.  I would request my mother’s order with a faint squeak of a voice and then add ‘and one sausage roll please’ – ‘large or small’ would chime back.  In those days large was out of my price range so small it was.  As I squeezed my way out of the shop and into the fresh air I would head straight round the corner to a wooden bench where I would enjoy the pleasures of my toil.  I developed a way of eating the sausage roll discreetly in the bag, as eating in the street was frowned upon. This technique would allow golden flakes to drop to the bottom and when I had devoured the roll I could then have the pleasure of shaking all the flakes to one corner of the bag and then tipping the whole lot into my open mouth.  Once that was done I headed back to the car to meet up with my unsuspecting mother.

Sausage Plait with Caramelized Onions and Mustard

Ingredients

450g approx of sausage meat or 6 sausages

1 x 375g packet of all butter puff pastry

4 medium onions

knob of butter

1 tbs oil

balsamic vinegar

1 tsp sugar

2 tbs mustard

1 beaten egg to glaze

Method

Turn the oven on to Gas Mark 6/200C

N.B. The sausage meat when in the oven does tend to release fat so it is best to use a baking tray with a shallow lip.

Peel and cut onions in half and then slice thinly into half rings.  Heat the oil and butter in a pan and add onion slices.  Allow to cook slowly for twenty minutes. Stir from time to time making sure the onions do not stick. If they do start to stick add a tablespoon of water.  When the onions have turned a lovely golden colour, add a few drops of balsamic vinegar and 1 tsp of sugar – continue to cook on a low heat for a further 5-10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.

If using sausages – split them open with a sharp knife. Remove from the skins. Knead a couple of times to combine and then on a lightly floured board gently roll into a large sausage.

Roll out the pastry into an oblong.  Place the sausage meat in the centre. Spread a layer of mustard along the top. Then a layer of the caramelized onions. DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO PLACE WARM caramelized onions on, as this will melt the pastry and make it impossible to work with.

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Make cuts into the pastry on both sides of the meat and no further. Taking one strip fold over the filling then from the other side take a strip and fold over. Carry on down the pastry, this will form the plait.  Tuck the ends under the strips at the top and bottom. Trim any extra pastry. Transfer to a baking tray and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

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Brush the pastry plait with the beaten egg.

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Place in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Serve. Delicious hot or cold.

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