Some days we wish we could serve our families cold cereal for supper…maybe with a banana and spoonfuls of peanut butter on the side, to have the whole thing feel more balanced. Ugh…who are we kidding! Frankly, some days, this is exactly what we do, and we refuse to be ashamed! We will not deny it! Unless our mother calls, in which case we will tell her that we are having roasted chicken and potatoes, or makaronia with kima .
Although we almost fully stand by the cereal for dinner idea, other days, even when time is short and energy is depleted, we feel compelled to at least turn on the stove. Doing so helps us feel as though we are providing our families with a nourishing, filling and satisfying meal; and that feels good. It also feels good to know that this simple and quick soup, made of trahana and feta, is so delicious that your family won’t mind that their meal may have been an afterthought.
Trahana is an ancient food, whose origins are somewhat disputed; some argue that it originated in Greece, while others claim that Turkey or Persia introduced trahana to the world. Regardless of who ate it first, today trahana is eaten in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. In fact, many consider trahana to be the traditional soup of Cyprus. Versions of this meal are also very popular in Crete (where it is called xinohondros). Our parents are neither Cypriot nor Cretan, and still we were
subjected to served this soup often growing up.
Trahana is essentially a hard pasta made of cracked wheat, bulgur or flour that is shaped a little like couscous when you purchase it. When buttermilk or yogourt are added, you get the sour trahana featured in our parent’s recipe for sour trahana soup with tomato. When whole milk is added instead, you end up with a sweet trahana, and that is the one used in this recipe. There are cooks who make their own trahana by making dense masses of the simple ingredients, allowing them to dry thoroughly (often in the sun) and then breaking them up into small pieces. Often times, these small pieces are further passed through a fine metal sieve, to create the pebble like texture you often find in Greek grocers. Making trahana was, and in some places probably still is, a great way to preserve milk and other dairy when it is plentiful for times when it is more scarcely available.
Our parents are awesome, but they do not make their own trahana, opting instead to purchase it from our local Greek grocery store. If you are going to purchase your trahana to make this recipe, be sure to select the sweet trahana. Also, read the ingredient list carefully. Although traditionally, trahana does not include eggs, we found several varieties which do. Important to know if you happen to have an egg allergy.
Trahana likes to stick to the bottom of your pot when cooking. For this reason, it is important to stand by your stove and stir frequently. Luckily, the total cooking time is not too long! Consider this your quiet time 🙂 The oil that you will add to the bottom of your pot may help prevent some of the sticking, but it is not going to be enough.
The ingredients for this soup are so simple that you really need to ensure you get the highest quality ingredients you can find. Of course, that means the trahana, but also the feta. We always use only Greek feta in our recipes, and for snacking on. It will make all the difference in your dishes. The recipe which follows has a recommended amount of feta to be included, but feel free to add more if you like (or less, although…why would you do that?)
Mia Kouppa: Trahana and feta
- 6 cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup sweet trahana
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, or to taste
- Coat the bottom of a medium sized saucepan with the olive oil. Add the water.
- Bring the water to a boil. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the trahana.
- Lower heat to medium and cook the trahana for approximately 10 – 15 minutes, stirring very regularly to prevent sticking.
- When the trahana is done, divide it into serving bowls and add crumbled feta to each bowl. Either leave it on top of the soup, or stir the feta into the soup. Enjoy.