Fried dough, sometimes called Greek-style pancakes, topped with honey
How fitting that we are posting this recipe for tiganites, sometimes referred to as Greek pancakes, in early November. Fitting, because November is when much of the olive harvesting in Greece is occurring. Our mother remembers that when the men of the village set out to begin their long and hard days of manually picking olives from the trees, they were sent off with their satchels loaded with tiganites. These disks of fried dough helped to sustain them and nourish them for the day. Tiganites, she explained, were a great option when options were limited as they are made from ingredients that even the poorest family likely had on hand.
Summer is coming, and with it, wedding season. We love everything about weddings; the blissful couple, the beautiful dress, the personal touches which permeate the entire event. There is so much to appreciate! What we love most however are the traditions. Whether they are cultural or religious or simply familial, these traditions situate the nuptials within something larger than the day itself. How lovely!
Within our family, and Greek culture, we have our own set of traditions. Some of these, of course, revolve around food. In the Messinia region of the Peloponnese, which is where our parents and grandparents (and great-grand parents) are from, one of these sweet traditions is diples.Offering diples at weddings represents a wish that as two individuals become one couple and one family, their joys and blessings double.
For many families, Christmas brings special traditions and special recipes. Whether it is pannetone, fruitcake, plum pudding, or tourtières, what makes these limited edition foods extra meaningful is that they are often only made during the holidays; a time of gatherings, joy and celebration. In our family, the traditional Christmas Eve treat is lalagia; savory, oval shaped rings of fried dough. I know, I know….we had you at fried dough. For our parents, making lalagia brings them back to their own childhoods. On the day before Christmas, the women in the villages where they grew up would gather to prepare this special, highly anticipated treat.
We realize that many of you (even Greeks) will have never heard of lalagia. Or maybe you have had something similar, which goes by a different name. Our parents are both from the Messinia region of the Peloponnese where lalagia are extremely popular and considered a local specialty. Yet, even within this region of Greece, they are not found everywhere. Traditions, customs, and of course recipes, vary from village to village and from family to family.
Although especially common during Christmas, when folklore claims that they ward off evil elves and evil spirits, across Messinia lalagia are available in bakeries year-round. In fact, during the summer in Kalamata there are vendors who sell their freshly made lalagia right on the beach. Sigh. So, if you are unfamiliar with lalagia, this is the year to make their acquaintance. Trust us. You’ll be happy you did.