Complete List of Recipes & Reflections

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pastokydono or Komfeto: Quince Paste (Παστοκύδωνο / Κομφέτο)









The quince and the Greek honey melded into a translucent paste delight, freckled with slivered blanched almonds. Click to Enlarge Image.


This Greek dessert is a specialty of the island of Kefalonia. Long before chocolates and other modern sugar-based confections appeared on the scene in Greece, Greeks were fond of this autumn harvest sweet; one used to be able to find it everywhere from bakeries to street kiosks, wrapped in quaint little folded parchment paper packets. Alas, times have changed and it is no longer so widely available. If you do find it, it is usually made with sugar as using honey exclusively would make it prohibitively expensive to sell competitively in the agorá. But believe you me; one can taste the difference in the finished product. The sugar-based versions are far too sweet for my palate.

Greek honey is world renowned for its quality, flavours, and therapeutic benefits. Indeed, honey is a universal medicine in Greek households. As far back as I can remember, some thymarisio meli (thyme-honey) mixed with fresh lemon juice was a cure for symptoms ranging from the sniffles to full-blown bouts of congestion and coughing that accompany the common cold. My father even prescribed it as a preventative measure in the winter months. As a child, I had my daily dose before breakfast every wintry morning and liked it! My father used to tell me it would make me smart and strong, so I looked forward to each day’s spoonful, plus, it tasted good. Did it work? Well, let me just say that I did not come down with common seasonal ailments as often as most of my non-Greek friends; but when I did, I was not down for long. I say non-Greek friends because the other Greek kids (and there were many, as I grew up in a Greek ghetto here in Toronto) were likely undergoing the same regimen at home themselves.

There are exactly four ingredients and no more in the pomiferous preparation which is our original subject here: quince, a Greek honey, almonds, and a hint of cinnamon. This is a fast-friendly dessert as there are no dairy or animal products in it, and it is reputed to have a salutary effect in cases of chronic diarrhea. Which brings to mind Hippocrates’ counsel: “May food be your medicine, and may your medicine be food.” To which I reply, “It’s all Greek food to me Hippocrates!” :-)

When done properly, the dessert achieves a translucent yet dense gelatin-like consistency. It is served in slices and can be garnished with crumbled pistachio or other nuts. Of course, you can serve it simply on its own which is just how I like it, along with a cup of tsaï faskómilo (“wild sage tea”), or as it is more commonly known: Greek mountain tea.

Unfortunately, I will not be sharing the recipe for this amazing dessert today; I offer it only as a subject for reflection. After all, my blog is entitled Greek Food Recipes and Reflections. The recipe was a gift to me from a Kefalonian friend who has since passed on, yet her memory will endure in my heart forever. Who knows? Perhaps I will put it into a recipe book or something sometime in the future. Stay tuned. In the meantime, there are lots of other great traditional Greek food recipes on my blog for you to try, so have at it!

Pánta Kalá (Always Be Well),

Sam Sotiropoulos
Greek Gourmand™
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.

P.S. One thing I will say is that upon trying her first piece of this dessert, my wife, Sophia, urged me to turn the remaining fresh quince into more of this... I resisted, but half-heartedly.

10 comments:

Peter G said...

I've never heard of this Sam and I already love it because i love quinces. How true about the honey...my dad was the same. I hope we get to see this recipe in the near future.

jacoba said...

Oh noooooooooo - how unfair!!!!!!

litsa said...

Ahh, I see somebody added my humble (almost) Greek page to the his side bar :D (who knows how long this lasts)

Very yummy looking quince dessert, but I doubt that my doctor would let this go through as fasting :o) It would be too nice... Nevertheless it is lactose free, gluten free and even strict vegetarian/vegan, so I suppose a lot of people can eat it :) And I suppose as well a certain savvy Greek is advertising for his upcoming cookbook :D

So I better do not spoil the fun and post the recipe for quince dessert in my blog :)? (ahh, no throwing mushy tomatoes, just joking!)

Your wife is lucky to have a good cooking husband :) This brings me to mind, I wanted to name my daughter Sophia, if I will ever have the luck to have one despite my health issues. It is really a very beautiful name...

Ivy said...

I've made quince spoon sweet a couple of weeks ago but have never made kydonopasto (that's how we call it in Cyprus). This sounds delicious.

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

@Peter G - Peter, I wouldn't be The Greek Gourmand if I could not occasionally call something like this up into the light of day. :-)

@jacoba - Yes, I know, it's simply horrible. I share fifty or so recipes gratis and the moment I decide to hold one back, it is suddenly unfair... Ah well, who said life was fair?

@litsa - It will last as long as you don't piss me off. Is that the answer you were looking for? :-o As for your doctor, I am firmly of the opinion that if he knew about this dessert, he would be prescribing it to all his patients, including you! :p An upcoming cookbook? Hmmm... who knows what the future will bring?

Dear Litsa, you may post any recipe you like (I am not the recipe sheriff LOL), but it will certainly not be my recipe. ;) Although, at the very least, I should get some credit for inspiring you, no? After all, fair is fair...

Yes, Sophia is a beautiful name. For me it has a delicious extra meaning as my Major in University was in Philosophy, so literally and figuratively I am a Philosopher (i.e. a 'Lover of Sophia').

I don't know what your health issues are exactly, Litsa, but I wish you the best in every sense; and I certainly do hope you will be blessed with a child, girl or boy.

@Ivy - Yes the spoon sweet is quite a common confection made with quince, this one is less well known. I do know that the Cypriots also make this dessert, as do the Naxians, and it is a wonderful and healthy sweet for kids.

farida said...

What a great looking dessert! I love quince and I can almost taste the taste of this paste:) It reminds me of halva we make, but with quince. Sort of between jam and halva. I hope to see the recipe in one of your future cookbooks! Hopefully there will be one, and I think there should because you are a great cook and a great storyteller.

Jan said...

Looks really lovely!

Gabi said...

Sam!

This one brings back memories from my childhood in Romania! In my part of the country (Western, thus Hungarian, Serb and German minorities), the Quince Paste was a common desert. In fact to the point that it was served as as snack!

Thanks for the post!

Cheers!
Gabi @ Mamaliga.com

Katerina ante portas said...

Kαλημέρα Sam, ξέρεις ότι υπάρχει blogger (e-lawer) που λέγεται Σωτηρόπουλος; Δες εδώ!

(To commend δεν χρειάζεται να δημοσιεύσεις βέβαια)

sarah said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Sarah

http://www.thetreadmillguide.com