Look don’t ask me why all this started. Because we all hate recipe blogs that make you slog through stories first, here’s the recipe:
Classical Greek Teganites, Attempt The First
1/2 cup barley flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
More olive oil than you think you need. Keep the jug handy.
Honey, fresh cheese, and/or walnuts for topping.
In a mixing bowl, combine flour and buttermilk. The ratio of flour to buttermilk is what’s important here, not the strict amounts, so if you need to expand the recipe what you want is enough buttermilk to make a batter that kinda oozes but doesn’t really flow, per se. Set the bowl aside, covered, to let the barley flour fully hydrate.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Pour in enough olive oil that your tiny pancakes can skate on a thin layer of it but not get a good float going. The secret to making these really good is to almost but not quite deep fry them. If you let the oil get too low, you get something chewy and sort of meh that makes a great dog treat but isn’t really worth your efforts. Get the oil level just right however, and you get a tiny pancake that is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside with an intriguing tang from the buttermilk.
When the batter is hydrated and the oil is hot, drop tablespoons of batter into the oil. Let cook until you see fluffy golden bubbles at the edges of the cakes and the pale tan uncooked area has reduced by about half. Flip em over then and let them cook for a while longer until done.
Pull them out of the oil then and drop em on a paper towel to drain excess oil. These suckers will soak up the olive oil like nobody’s business, so be prepared to top off the oil in your pan frequently.
Top with honey, cheese, and/or walnuts (I hate walnuts) for an authentic(ish) Classical Greek food experience.
These little pancake things have been around for at least 3000 years in Greece. Modern recipes get all fancy and involve things like egg and milk. The classical recipe calls for “curdled milk” and flour and that’s it. The problem here is that the translations were done by people who have no familiarity with the nuances of dairy products, and thus my question “what, exactly, do you mean by ‘curdled milk’?” have gone unanswered. Technically speaking curdling is what happens when you expose milk to an acid that precipitates the fat and sugar proteins into a solid curd, leaving you with curds and whey or a facsimile thereof. There are SO MANY ways to do this. Buttermilk is curdled milk. Sour cream is curdled milk. Yogurt is curdled milk. Cheese is curdled milk with the whey drained and/or pressed out. You can drop some lemon juice or especially tannic red wine into milk and it will curdle. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “CURDLED MILK”, TRANSLATORS?! Shit, if you let raw milk sit in an anaerobic environment it will clabber, which is also a way to curdle milk. We won’t even get into “what was the bacterial profile of the cultures used to make things like butter, cheese, and yogurt in Classical Greece” because that way lies madness.
That doesn’t even get into “what do you mean by flour” because the Classical Greeks didn’t have modern wheats. They didn’t actually have a lot of wheat at all, because the Mediterranean climate isn’t conducive to growing it. They had barley, though, which they grew in the winter. And fancy rich people had spelt, a more primitive wheat.
Well, fine, I have access to modern groceries, the internet, and also a cow in milk and an encyclopedic knowledge of ways to curdle milk. I am on a quest for the most delicious curdled milk and flour teganites I can produce. Attempt number one here is pretty goddamned delicious, but I’m not stopping there, oh no. I have kefir. I have yogurt. I have spelt flour and barley flour. We will find the most delicious curdled dairy and flour teganites recipe if it kills us.