I don’t know if you have ever tasted carob syrup but it’s amazing. They say that it’s a good substitute for chocolate. I bring some from Cyprus every time I visit and use it often in many recipe. If you can find it please try it or otherwise substitute it with “epsima” called petimezi in Greek or other molasses.
Carob does have a number of advantages over chocolate. Because it contains fewer allergenic properties, it can be used by people sensitive to chocolate. It also is low in sodium and high in potassium making it desirable for diets used to treat congestive heart failure and hypertension. Carob also contains no caffeine and is lower in fat and calories than chocolate.
In my cookbook, I have given a short explanation of what it is and some substitutes but there are some interesting things in this article which may interest some of my readers. In Cyprus it is called teratsomelo and in Greece Haroupomelo. This is not a sponsored or paid post but my mere love for Cyprus and its products. Greek and Cypriot producers are wide asleep as to marketing their products. This wonderful product may be used in some traditional recipes but you won’t see it in any new recipes either in the Greek or Cypriot cuisine.
The following article is by Mr. Michael Mark, and permission to reproduce it was given to me by Ms. Photini Ashri, of Villa-Mosaica.com, where it was published.
Carob trees (Ceratonia siliqua) have been grown in Cyprus and countries bordering the Mediterranean since biblical times. It is said that they were the main source of food for St. John the Baptist during his forty days in the wilderness, and to this day they are sometimes called St. John’s Bread. It was under a carob tree near Salamis in Cyprus, that the body of St. Barnabas, Patron Saint of the Church in Cyprus was found in AD 477.
This has always been very important to the people of Cyprus, and many Cypriots who were sick would visit the site to drink the holy water from the nearby well. Sadly, this is no longer possible, as Salamis is in the part of the island which has been illegally occupied by Turkish troops since 1974.
In early times the carob was a popular food both for man and beast. The small even-sized seeds found inside the dark brown pods are identical in weight and were used by merchants in olden times to weigh gold. The word “carat” is actually derived from the Greek word “Keration = horn” (Kεράτιον), which was used to refer to the carob pod.
There are several million carob trees in Cyprus owned by locals in different areas of Cyprus. The carob grows at altitudes of up to 800 metres and is commonly found growing alongside ancient olive trees. The carob tree has a thick, dark coloured trunk and large fleshy leaves. The tree blossoms in early summer with its leaves developing into carob pods later on. The pods can vary in length from 10 to 25 cm and are initially bright green but gradually darken to a rich brown colour. Inside the pod there are usually between six and twelve hard seeds.
Until the early 1940s, the carob, known as “the black gold of Cyprus” was the most important crop on the island, but the development of the citrus plantations marked the decline in its importance. The main region for carob cultivation stretched from Kouklia, in the Palea Paphos area in the west, to Larnaca in the east, and across to Famagusta, also now in the area occupied illegally by Turkish troops.
Carobs also grow wild in most parts of the island. The trees thrive on rocky soil where not much else can grow, and provide valuable shade for animals, but not for humans according to a well known local saying which warns those who sleep under a carob tree will have bad dreams.
For rural families in particular, the revenue from the carob crop was especially important.
On the first day of the carob harvest (usually at the end of August /beginning of September) everyone would head to their trees to gather the crop. The sacks of carobs would then be sold to the village representative of the Cooperative or a private dealer, who would take them to the carob warehouses. Carobs are usually measured in sacks known as Kandari, each weighing about 180 kg. The principal use of the carob pod has always been for animal fodder, which is particularly good for cattle. The pods are usually ground into a coarse flour at the carob mill before export, but some is kept by local farmers to add extra nutrition to their animal feed for the winter months. The best of the carob pods were taken to be eaten raw, and would be sucked like a chocolate flavoured lollipop for a while and then gently bitten to release the sweet syrup inside.
The seeds inside the carob pod are very precious and are currently worth € 5125.00 EURO a ton. The seeds are used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, and for making gum. Carob has also become popular in the European health food industry as an excellent chocolate substitute, something local children in Cyprus have known for generations.
During the old days Zygi, the little fishing port east of Limassol, was used to export carob. But then Limassol itself became the main exporting port and next to the castle were the warehouses, where today they have been renovated into taverns/restaurants, which handled all of the carob export from the Larnaca region. The word “Zygi” means ‘carob weighing scales’, and the cape close by, which is called Cape Dolos, was often referred to by local residents as Cap Carobiere.
Further west, there were a number of smaller carob ports known as Paraskalas, including Pissouri and Avdhimou. The old carob stores close to the shore can still be seen in both places. Donkeys would slowly wind their way down to the coast from the hill villages carrying large woven panniers of carobs. Until a few years ago, the old wooden jetty at Avdhimou where the carobs were loaded onto the waiting ships still stretched out into the sea. A strong winter storm in 1990, swept the jetty away, and now only the wooden piles remain, just visible above the waves. Paphos harbour was also used for exports using the large carob warehouses situated in Ayios Pavlos.
The beautiful rose coloured carob wood is often used by local carpenters to make attractive furniture, and is much sought after by marquetry craftsmen. It is an extremely hard wood and was traditionally used to make farm tools and the sturdy hubs for wooden cartwheels. Carob wood burns very slowly with a distinctive aroma, much favoured by villagers to burn on their open fires in the winter months. Just before Christmas many families would prepare a good, steady fire using large carob logs, so that the traditional Hiromeri (pork soaked in red wine and coriander) can be hung at the side of the fireplace and gently smoked, ready for the family’s Christmas celebrations.
About eight miles inland from Avdhimou, lies the pretty village of Anoyira which has always been an important carob growing area. Every September the annual Pastelli festival is held in the village, when villagers and visitors alike join in the celebrations as another successful harvest is completed. Anoyira is well known for its Teratsomelo and Pastelli. During the festival, the heavy, sweet smell of carob fills the village air and everyone is given a piece of treacle-coloured Pastelli (carob toffee) to chew. Bottles of Teratsomelo can be bought at the festival or throughout the year from local supermarkets.
It has a delicious taste poured over creamy Greek yoghurt or spread thickly on a slice of crusty bread. The syrup can also be added to milk to make a delicious drink.
Pastelli is produced by boiling the carob pods in water in a “hartzi” (a large copper pot) for many hours over an open fire.
When the syrup has thickened, the pods are removed and the syrup is poured into large wooden trays and left to cool. Once it is cold, the hard pastelli is then broken into more manageable pieces with a stout iron bar.
The large pieces of Pastelli, molten toffee, are then spun and stretched like wool being spun. Then after the toffee will turn into a skein of burnished copper ready to be used.
Koulourouthkia me Teratsomelo
Koulourouthkia me Teratsomelo is a simple traditional Cypriot dessert the Cypriot housewives would make. Koulourouthkia, means little cookies but actually these are not like the usual cookies. These are made with dough, which is shaped it into small coils. They are then boiled like pasta and are sweeten with this wonderful local product and it was served as a dessert.
These “cookies” are still eaten by Cypriots today, especially during the Lenten Fasting period.
Koulourouthkia me Teratsomelo (Cypriot traditional recipe)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: about 5 (makes about 50)
- 2 cups “00” or all purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup of water
- For the syrup:
- 1 cup of teratsomelo or substitute with epsima (petimezi, or grape molasses)
- 1/2 cup of boiled pasta water
- Mix the dough ingredients until all the flour is absorbed. The dough will look as if more water is needed but keep kneading until it is absorbed. Wrap in cling film and leave it to rest for half an hour.
- Take small pieces of dough about the size of a walnut and on your working surface form them into cords which should be quite thin, about 1/2 cm diameter. Shape the cord into small coils by making a circle of two or three rounds at the most and cut it.
- Place them on parchment paper and leave them covered until you are ready to cook them.
- Bring water to boil (with no salt) and cook them for 15 minutes. Strain them, reserving half cup of pasta water.
- Put the carob syrup with the reserved water in the saucepan, add the koulourouthkia and bring to a boil again. Turn off the heat and leave them in the syrup until they have absorbed most of the syrup.
- Serve hot or cold in a bowl, together with some of the syrup.
Note: You can find “teratsomelo” or “haroupomelo” or “epsima” or “petimezi” as it is called in Cyprus and Greece, respectively, in Greek or Middle Eastern deli shops or substitute with other fruit molasses.
I love using teratsomelo and have been using it a lot in my recipes.
The other day, I saw this cake at my friend Soma’s blog and it is a recipe she adapted from David Lebovitz’s Fresh Ginger Cake. At the time, I was still working on my cookbook and in between breaks, to rest and clear my mind, I would read a few posts or see what friends were doing on Facebook. That day I was tired, frustrated and stressed so I decided to get up from the chair and do something which I would enjoy and relax. I remembered reading Soma’s cake earlier and as I had leftover ginger from a previous recipe I had made a few days before, I decided to take a look in the kitchen to see what other ingredients I had as I was determined to bake.
Well, I did not have vegetable or peanut oil, I did not have the molasses mentioned in the recipe, I did not have candied ginger, I did not have light or mild molasses, I had muscovado sugar, I had 2 eggs, so would that stop me from making the cake? Nothing!
First of all, as you may see and compare recipes, I reduced the amount of ginger considerably, taking into consideration that I increased the dose. As much as I love ginger, my children are only now starting to appreciate it, so each time I use it, I add a little bit more. With the amount I used, they not only did not complain but the cake disappeared in no time. It’s up to you to adjust the amount according to your taste.
I only have one silicone 9″ cake pan but it is very high, so as I said, I had to increase the dose and 2 eggs were not enough, so I added the vinegar, which is a good substitute for eggs.
Practically I changed the whole recipe but everything was weighed and taken note of. Some of you may be wondering how can I be sure about the exact amount I use when not following a recipe? First of all being experienced in cooking and baking is the most important factor. I know when to stop adding flour which is the last ingredient to add in a cake. I weigh the ingredients I use before starting and if there is leftover I weigh it again when I finish. So I started by creaming the butter with the sugar and although my recipe is bigger than the previous two I added less sugar because, first of all I don’t like very sweet cakes, secondly the carob syrup is also sweet and thirdly, look at all the sweet stuff I added on top: Two chocolate ganaches and candied lemon peels!!
That day I was cooking a recipe in which I used organic lemons so it was a pity to waste them and I made candied lemon peels and used them to decorate the cake but by the time they were ready, half of the cake disappeared The picture is not so good as it was raining and cloudy that day and by the time I had finished it was dark, so I had to take the picture inside .
Spiced Ginger Chocolate Cake with Teratsomelo (carob syrup), recipe by Ivy
110 grams (about ¾ cup) muscovado sugar
200 grams olive oil margarine
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tbsps fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup carob syrup
1 cup water
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp vinegar
500 grams (about 3 ¾ cups) all purpose flour
40 grams ½ cup dark cocoa
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
Candied lemon peels (optional)
125 dark chocolate
1 tsp butter
2 tablespoons carob syrup
2 tablespoons light cream
50 grams white chocolate
1 tsp butter
4 tbsp fresh cream
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F. Grease a bundt pan and dust with some flour.( If you use a silicon bundt pan it will come out easily, so you don’t have to grease it).
Peel the ginger and finely grate it.
In a big bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa. Mix in, salt, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper and set aside.
Beat the sugar with olive oil margarine until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time until incorporated.
Bring one cup of water to the boil add the carob syrup (or molasses), vinegar and baking soda and mix. It will overflow. Add immediately to the mixture.
Finally add all the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 50 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove to a wire rack until it cools, for about 30 minutes and invert into a platter.
In a double boiler add the dark chocolate and wait until it melts. Add the butter, carob syrup and mix. Add enough cream to make it spreadable. Pour immediately on the cake.
After fifteen minutes melt the white chocolate, add butter and cream and pour on top of the other ganache.
The recipe for Koulourouthkia me Teratsomelo is included in my cookbook “Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!”
Announcement: 18 Dec 2010 Winner of book
As you may see from the screenshot18122010 62311 am below, the winner of the Voting for the winner of the post Kifylla: cooking from Kopiaste Cookbook is Lisa Henderson.
Congratulations Lisa, please e-mail me your postal address to send you the cookbook.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi!!