Trachanas (Τραχανάς)

 

I had the pleasure of taking part in the family tradition of making trachanas.  I know of no translation of the name trachanas, nor any other produce which resembles it.  Simple in it` s ingredients, lengthy in it` s production time and nigh on timeless in it `s storage capacity.  A produce born from hard times, and the ability to utilize whatever materials where on hand.  We used around 15 kilos of flour, which is an extraordinary quantity, so I have reduced the ingredients to 1/4.

This particular recipe is inherited to the Mytiliniou family, namely Kristos.  But I give warm thanks and many kisses to the whole family for their kindness and hospitality.

Ingredients

Starter dough (plain flour, yeast)

5 k goat or sheep milk

2 k ripe tomatoes

1 k onions

2/3 red hot chillies

trachanoxortari – see here

150 g semolina

1/4 glass olive oil

Salt

Flour, as much as needed to make stiff dough, around 4 k

Procedure

This begins several days beforehand, creating the soured milk and the starter dough.

Soured Milk

Sour the milk by adding either citrus or vinegar.  Leave covered, not in the fridge, for several days until it creates a curd like substance on the surface. Check periodically that the milk is curdling.

Starter Dough

This should be reactivated if you have it stored.  You can also buy starter dough from bakers.  Activate the dough by adding a little flour and water, stir and leave in a warm place to work. It could take a couple of days, but usually is ready by the next day.

When these two starter products are ready, you can begin the recipe.

Trachanas

Blend the tomatoes with their skins and cook on a high heat for 20 minutes or so. Add the chunked onions, chillies, salt and the trachanoxortari.

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Cook for a couple of hours on a medium heat, till all the ingredients have softened and most of the moisture has evaporated.

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Leaving the trachanoxortari in the mixture, allow to cool to tepid and transfer to a large mixing utencil/bowl.  Separate the curd from the soured milk*,  and add this to the tomato mixture along with a good splash of the whey.

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Add the starter dough, olive oil, a little more salt.  Mix roughly and begin adding the flour and semolina.  Mixing as you add the flour, eventually you`ll need to get your hands in up to your elbows.

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This part of the procedure was particularly strenuous (due to the large quantity we made) and the men of the family rolled up their sleeves and pumelled and worked the mixture with their fists, until all of the flour was absorbed.  If by chance too much flour is added, a splash of the whey from the soured milk can be added.

The finished product has the consistency of bread dough, (but pinked by the tomato).  This is capped and put somewhere warm to rise.

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After a couple of hours waiting for the risen dough to be brought back to the table, the whole family was employed to break the dough into chunks and lay out on the specially lined table for drying. Leaving in, the bushy trachanoxortari. The breeze and warm temperatures helped the procedure along nicely.

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Once the chunks were dry enough, they were pushed/grated through a special, large holed seive,  which created a crumb about the size of a grape pip, discarding the stalks of the trachanoxortari as it was rubbed.

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This is left again to dry out.  If necessary it can be popped into the oven to help it along.

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Once fully dried it can be stored in plastic containers.

A wonderful Winter belly filler, can be added to soups, meat stews, stuffed vegetables, pies (absorbing excess liquid in the filling), and importing it`s unique flavouring.  Or it can be boiled like pasta, on its own, to make a lovely Winter warming soup.

* Any left over whey, soured, can go to make another traditional recipe ksinohondro, which roughly translated is frumenty ……… another day though!

Note

This recipe originated in Asia Minor.  Brought here to Crete with the thousands of refugees, uprooted from their then home of Turkey and forced to return to Greece in the early 1920`s. Forced Populace Exchange.