• Henry Hopwood-Phillips

Eat Like a Byzantine

Proverbial wisdom has it that the fastest way to a man’s heart is via his stomach. Though bumptious sorts like to add it’s really through the fifth left intercostal space, along the midclavicular. What neither tells you, however, is that the shortcut also works for Byz babes too. To make sure your Byzantine culinary credentials don’t stumble at the first hurdle, Byz Ambo provides you with this powerful Byzantine menu below and a short video. _____________

Starter: Stragalia Take 400-800g chickpeas and braise them in olive oil, half a teaspoon of salt, pepper and equal quantities of powdered cumin and coriander. Cook until the outside is crisp but allowed the chickpea to retain its moisture. Squeeze the juice of a lemon after serving.

Main: Sweet & Sour Pork Take 300g pork, cut them into cubes, 2 medium onions, 6 cloves of garlic, a thumb of ginger (though Byzantines often preferred to mash ginger into pureed vegetables like parsnip), 80ml of red wine, 40 ml wine vinegar, 5 tablespoons of honey, four of five teaspoons of garon (fish sauce/nam pla) – keep going if you want to add more flavour. Chop the onion finely and soften in olive oil. Then add finely cut garlic and ginger. Add the pork to brown, season, then combine the wine, vinegar, honey and garon. Simmer until liquid has reduced to a syrup. Serve with thinly-sliced crudités such as pickled carrots and radishes

Dessert: Honey & Orange Cakes For sponge: 5 large eggs, 1 cup of Greek yoghurt, 5 tbsp ground or thinly sliced almonds, zest of a lemon and 2 oranges (reduce these measures if bitterness is not your friend), 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup of coarse semolina (AKA farina), 2 tsp baking powder, 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil. For syrup: 1 1/3 cup shelled and salted pistachios, 1 ½ cups of honey, juice of 2 oranges and a lemon.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, grease a baking tin with butter and dust with flour. Place all the sponge ingredients into a mixing bowl. Combine with wooden spoon. Pour batter into the baking tin. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Let it cool. Toast the pistachios in a non-stick pan over a low heat. Once they start to give off a strong aroma then pour in the honey. Then add the juice of the oranges and the lemon. Turn heat up until it starts to boil off and reduces to a syrup. Pour over the sponge then sprinkle shaved almonds and spare pistachios. Cut into 12 squares and serve.

Warning: Add 200-250g of caster sugar if you would like the cakes to be sweet. If you’d like to keep your Byzantine dignity, however, then repeatedly douse the cakes in honey while hot so they are drowning in the honey/syrup a little like baklava.

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