According to the Greek Orthodox Christian calendar, today is the Metamorphosis (Transfiguration) of the Saviour. The Greek word for "saviour" or "deliverer" is Soter (Σωτήρ), and my Greek name is Sotiris; which makes this my Name Day. In point of fact, my name is an epithet which pre-dates Christianity among the Greeks. The term, Soter, has been used as an epithet for Olympian gods, ancient heroes and liberators, and most recently, as a title for Jesus of Nazareth.
For Greeks, Name Days are more important than birthdays. Indeed, it is on one's Name Day that a party in honour of the individual is held, usually at the celebrator's home. Name Days are a time for family and friends, and the day is filled with visits and phone calls from well-wishers. The traditional greeting for someone who is celebrating a Name Day is "Chronia Polla" (Χρόνια Πολλά), which translates as "Many Years"; similar to, though less specific, than the Italian "cent'anni" or "Hundred Years".
Among the most popular features of a Name Day celebration are the desserts which are prepared (or bought) for the occasion. Along with copious amounts of Greek food, visitors are always treated to a sweet "for the health" of the honoured individual. The treats are often family specialties which are served up with a glass of water, a coffee, or a shot of liqueur, usually Ouzo or brandy.
This year, I prepared one of my own specialties for the occasion, it is called Revani. Revani is essentially a syrup-soaked semolina cake. Traditionally, Revani is a specialty of the city of Veria in the northern Greek province of Macedonia. There are a number of regional variations of this cake throughout Greece. In some Revani, nuts like almonds or walnuts are added, in Veria they add yoghurt to the mix, and I have even run across a Revani with a chocolate centre. My Revani recipe is lighter than many of the other versions, and rather than adding them to the mix, I prefer to garnish it with some chopped blanched almonds and/or candied orange or lemon rind.
Allow me to treat you to some Revani in honour of my Name Day. Enjoy!
2 cups fine semolina
1.5 cups of flour
1 cup of sugar
0.5 cup of unsalted butter
0.5 cup of milk
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the syrup:
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
1/2 cup Greek blossom honey
juice and rind of 1/2 a lemon (or orange)
- Sift together the semolina, flour, and baking powder.
- Cream the butter in a mixer until the butter is light and fluffy; usually this takes about half an hour or so, with the mixer set to a medium-high speed.
- Add sugar to creamed butter and mix well for a few minutes.
- Add egg yolks to the butter and continue to mix well for several minutes.
- Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks.
- Add the flour to the mixing bowl in stages, alternating with either some milk or some of the whipped egg whites; continue until all three are added and mix everything well.
- Pour the mixture into a 9 x 9 inch square baking pan and bake in a preheated oven at 350 for approximately 45 minutes, until the surface is golden brown.
- Prepare the syrup by adding the 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water, the honey, lemon juice and rind in a saucepan and bring to a boil; allow it to simmer for 10 minutes or so.
- When the cake is done, remove it from the oven, place it on a trivet, and proceed to pour the syrup overtop of the entire cake using a spoon or ladle. Pour the syrup slowly in order to allow for a complete and uniform suffusion of the cake. Note: save the candied lemon rind and chop it up into small pieces for use as a garnish for slices of the cake.
- Set the cake aside to cool, preferrably overnight, cut into diamond shaped pieces and serve as is with a sprinkle of cinnamon, or with a garnish of chopped blanched almonds and some of the candied rind (which we saved from the syrup).
Pánta Kalá! (Always Be Well)
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.