Sesame sweets

Sesame sweets

By
From
The Islands of Greece
Makes
15–20 pieces
Photographer
Steven Joyce

I spent a lovely morning at a women’s co-operative in Apollonia, a hill town in Rhodes, learning make pasteli sesame sweets, or melekouni as those from Rhodes are called, by boiling honey, mixing it with sesame and spices and then hammering it flat with my hands. Pasteli are eaten at celebratory occasions, especially weddings, and the small kitchen produces almond-studded sweets that are brought by natives of Rhodes getting married all over the world. The women, who are all from Apollonia, told me about the traditions that accompany weddings: if you are single you should place your melekouni under your pillow and you’ll dream of the man you will marry. The bride might also write the names of her single friends on the soles of her shoes; those that are rubbed off by her dancing will be married next.

This recipe is much easier to make if you have a sugar thermometer; they are reasonably cheap and easy to come by.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
200g raw sesame seeds
15-20 blanched almonds
200g clear honey
50g caster sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vegetable or other flavourless cooking oil, or more if needed

Method

  1. Preheat the the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Pour the sesame seeds into a baking tray and place the tray in the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden all over. Place the almonds in a separate tray and roast for 10 minutes, until golden all over.
  3. Place the honey into a high-sided pan and add the sugar. Bring to the boil and boil until you reach 127ºC. This is known as hard ball temperature; without reaching it, the sesame sweets won’t set. Watch like a hawk to ensure it doesn’t boil over, and stir it carefully to help ensure it doesn’t.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the spices. Next, stir in the sesame seeds. The mix should be firm and fairly hard to stir. Grease a baking tray with the oil.
  5. Pour the hot honey and sesame mix onto the tray. Using a wooden spoon to start with, push the mixture out so that it begins to flatten over the tray. When cool enough, it is far easier to do this with your hands (but don’t burn yourself). Once evenly distributed over the bottom of the tray, you need to make it denser, so that it is quite strong when set. Start in one corner, and working methodically tap firmly the surface with the palm of one hand. You will see the mix become firmer as the seeds are pressed together and the surface will become smoother. Then press with your fingers to make it even smoother. The mixture should be about 3 mm thick. Use a knife to mark diamonds on the surface, pressing almost all the way through. Stud the top of each sweet with an almond.
  6. Leave overnight to set, then break into diamond-shaped pieces. The sweets will keep for months in a sealed container.
Tags:
The Islands of Greece
Rebecca
Seal
Greek
Greece
Europe
European
Mediterranean
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