Desserts

Desserts

By
Pam Talimanidis
Contains
15 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742704869
Photographer
Mark Roper

Although we often think of Greek desserts as being sweet, syrupy things such as baklava, ravani and patzavoura, these sweets are generally not eaten after a meal. Instead they are eaten in the late afternoon when friends drop in, or when we go out for a volta – an evening stroll with friends to a coffee shop.

In Greece, the evening meal is eaten late – sometimes as late as midnight – and is generally finished with a plate of seasonal fresh fruit. In summer, this will probably be a slice of peponi (a green melon similar to honeydew) or a thick slice of watermelon, straight from the fridge, or perhaps a bowl of plump, black cherries. Autumn brings some of my favourite fruits, figs and grapes, and even in winter there are apples and pears.

Back in Australia at A La Grecque, I love incorporating fruit into our desserts. In the summer, some of the most popular desserts are slow-roasted stone fruits, such as nectarines, peaches or plums. The slow cooking evaporates some of the juices and intensifies the flavour beautifully. We serve them simply, with yoghurt, cream and brown sugar.

Many fruits make wonderful tarts and are especially good when served with custard. One of my favourite combinations is fig, prune and mascarpone. This tart is very elegant, the custard stays soft and melting and the fruit steeped in port has a wonderful flavour. Another simple yet effective way of transforming fresh or poached fruit into a special dessert is to serve it with custard, mascarpone or ice cream and a sweet, buttery sablé biscuit.

Grapes can be wonderful cooked into a tarte tatin, especially when combined with ripe figs. And nothing can beat them when served fresh with a slice of creamy feta cheese. When figs are abundant I like to poach them in amaretto syrup to serve with almond cake. They are also a taste sensation eaten straight from the tree. As soon as they begin to droop, soft and heavy on the branches, they should be picked and eaten immediately. Once the skin is peeled back the flesh inside is like jam – purple, moist and sweet.

One of my favourite autumn fruits is the quince. At home in Lorne, when the nights start to get cold, we light our wood-burning stove and put a dish of quinces in the oven to bake with some honey and butter. They can be eaten warm with lots of custard and pure cream, baked into a tart or even added to a casserole of braised pork.

Almonds, walnuts, lemon and semolina feature in many Greek desserts. The nuts add texture and a delicious toasted flavour to many cakes or sweets that are made with semolina and soaked in lemony syrup. Halva semolina was Yiayia’s speciality and was greatly loved by the children.

Another of Yiayia’s favourite recipes was pashka. I believe that she was given the recipe by her koumbara (maid-of-honour), who brought it to Greece when she migrated there from Russia many decades ago. Pashka is the perfect celebration dessert. It is a delicious ricotta custard, flavoured with fruit, nuts and rosewater, and it can be dressed up with violets and served in a stemmed glass for a special occasion.

At A La Grecque, we make all of our own ice creams. There are endless possibilities when one has a good ice cream machine. Most fruits make wonderful sorbets and ice creams, while chocolate is a perennial favourite. I like to add a little brandy to my chocolate ice cream, which makes it smooth, creamy and rich. It is delicious served just on its own, but can be teamed with fruit, nuts, biscuits or a tart to make a stunning dessert.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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