"It's traditional to use the wood ash from a fire to tenderise the pastry in these sweets. We've substituted bicarbonate of soda for a similar effect," says John Rerakis. "If you want to be true to tradition and use ash, you'll need to dissolve 2 tablespoons of ash in 30ml of boiling water, then strain the liquid through a muslin-lined sieve. Omit the bicarbonate of soda if you're doing this. The dates would have introduced by neighbouring countries such as Egypt, and they sweeten the mixture considerably. You can make the patouda with or without dates and you can change the walnuts and almonds to pistachios or hazelnuts for a slightly different flavour."
- 80 gm honey
- 55 gm white sugar (¼ cup)
- 60 gm sesame seeds (½ cup)
- 125 gm each walnuts and almonds, coarsely crushed
- 125 gm pitted fresh dates, thinly sliced
- ½ tsp each ground cinnamon and ground cloves
- Pinch of finely grated nutmeg
- To serve: pure icing sugar, sieved
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 150 ml olive oil
- 60 ml milk (¼ cup)
- 55 gm caster sugar (¼ cup)
- 40 ml raki (see note)
- ½ lightly beaten egg
- 450 gm plain flour (3 cups)
- 1For patouda pastry, combine bicarbonate of soda and 30ml lukewarm water in a large bowl, stir to dissolve, then add oil, milk, sugar, raki and egg and mix to combine. Gradually add flour, mix to form a smooth and soft but not sticky dough, cover and rest for 1 hour.
- 2Meanwhile, preheat oven to 170C. Stir honey, sugar and 125ml water in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and cook until a syrup forms (6-8 minutes). Dry-roast sesame seeds in a frying pan until golden (1-2 minutes), coarsely grind in a mortar and pestle, transfer to a bowl, add nuts, dates and spices, pour hot syrup over, stir to combine and set aside to cool.
- 3Roll walnut-sized balls of pastry on a lightly floured surface to 3mm-thick rounds. Place 1 tbsp of nut mixture on one side of each round, fold over pastry to enclose and form a crescent shape, then press edges with a fork to seal. Trim edges with a 7.5cm-diameter cutter, place on oven trays lined with baking paper and bake until golden (20-25 minutes). Cool, then dust with icing sugar and serve. Patouda will keep stored in an airtight container for 3 weeks.
Note Raki, sometimes called tsikoudia is a strong spirit distilled from grape pomace, it's available from select bottle shops.