Today was the first Memorial Saturday of lent. Memory eternal!
It is no secret to those who know me, I am a Grecophile. How could I not be? Greek culture is the greatest culture I have ever encountered. I love all things Romanian, but I wish I was Greek. If I were Greek I could claim some part of the history,the people, the food, the ouzo… Oh, the ouzo. Forget the Ouzo for now. Focus on the koliva.
Wait, before I go on. Do you wish you were Greek? Are you single? You still have a chance. eligiblegreeks.com Check it out.
Okay, now the koliva.
This recipe yields about 3 1/2 quarts. It will fit nicely in a 9″x13″ pan or a bowl. This will not fit in a pie plate.
What you add to your koliva is a matter of personal preference. I like to have golden raisins, pomegranate, and parsley. Unfortunately, I could not find a pomegranate, and my staff did not alert me to our golden raisin shortage. I recommend the zest of two whole oranges, though I may be the only one who does this.
You can soak your wheat overnight to shorten the cook time.
Greek Style Koliva
1 1/2 pounds wheat berries
1/2 c sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins (golden or purple)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c sesame seeds
1/4 c parsley, chopped
1/2 c almond slivers (optional)
1 pomegranate (optional)
zest of 2 oranges
1-2 cups of Nilla wafer or graham cracker crumbs (bread crumbs are more traditional, these taste better)
powdered sugar to decorate
silver nonpareils, Jordan almonds, chocolate chips, et-cetera, to decorate
Step 1. Lord, bless my work.
Step 2. Thoroughly rinse wheat berries 2-3 times. Place in a bowl with enough water to cover overnight, to shorten cooking time. Place wheat berries in a large pot, cover with water, about 2-3 inches over the top. Gently boil wheat berries until desired softness 1-3 hours. Check your berries occasionally for tenderness and water level. Do not let the water boil off or you will have the mother of all burned messes in your pot. You may never recover the pot if this happens. Be vigilant, like the apostles should have been in the garden.
Step 3. When berries have reached desired tenderness remove from heat and drain. Rinse the berries very thoroughly, usually twice. Unlike the Romanian coliva your Greek koliva should not be starchy or sticky. At this point you can do one of two things.
- For drier koliva texture- place berries on a towel and use another towel to press out as much water as possible. Let the berries rest on the towel for about 3 hours.
- For a less dry koliva- drain and rinse berries then spread on a cookie sheet. Let the berries rest on the sheet for about 3 hours.
The point of drying or resting the berries is the make sure your coliva isn’t sticky. You want the berries be loose and easy to stir. Unlike the Romanian coliva which has a pudding-like texture, Greek style is free flowing.
Step 4. Place all ingredients in a large bowl, except the sesame seeds and powdered sugar, stir to combine.
Step 5. Carefully, pour mixture into your pan or bowl and compress with your hands. You want to pack the berries in tightly and make a smooth surface for decorating.
Step 6. Pour sesame seeds over the top. Smooth the seeds to prepare for powdered sugar. Now sprinkle the top with Nilla wafer crumbs to serve as the base for the powdered sugar.
Step 7. Dust the top of koliva with powdered sugar making it as even and beautiful as possible. Decorate with a cross and the initials of the departed (if desired).
Step 8. Take it to church on time with a bottle of wine.