A rustic Greek soup made with sour trahana in a simple tomato based broth
So here’s a recipe you will either love, or hate; we don’t think there is any in-between (although we suppose you can also love to hate it). 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 this recipe. When whole milk is added instead, you end up with a sweet trahana. 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 sour 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.
The trick when cooking with trahana is to pay careful attention; it sticks to the bottom of the pot very easily. Constant stirring is a must here, so don’t venture too far from the stove while making this soup.
The amount of water listed in the recipe below is an estimate. You may find that you need to add more water as the trahana cooks, to reach a consistency you are happy with. We prefer our trahana more soup-like (not very thick, but not too thin), but if you like yours even thinner, add more water. If you want more of a porridge like consistency, add less water.
The tomato sauce our parents use in this recipe is their own homemade sauce; you can find the recipe here. However, if you have not made their sauce, or your own, simply substitute with a good quality tomato juice.
Looking for some more soothing soups? Check these out!
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Sour trahana soup with tomato
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 ¼ cup sour trahana
- 3/4 cup tomato sauce or juice
- 6 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- In a large pot, sauté the onion in the olive oil, over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent, approximately 5 minutes.1/2 yellow onion, chopped, 1/3 cup olive oil
- Add the trahana to the pot, and mix well, coating the grains with oil.1 ¼ cup sour trahana
- Add the tomato juice and water and bring to a boil, stirring very often. Once you have reached a boil, reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook, stirring very frequently, until the trahana is tender, approximately 45 minutes. If your trahana appears too thick, add more water, 1/4 cup (60 ml) at a time.3/4 cup tomato sauce or juice, 6 cups water
- Add salt, mix well and serve.1 teaspoon salt