"In Crete, these syrup-soaked pastries are traditionally given to guests after a wedding," says John Rerakis.
- 125 ml vegetable oil (½ cup)
- 80 ml raki (see note) (1/3 cup)
- 80 ml lemon juice (1/3 cup)
- 450 gm plain flour (3 cups)
- For deep-frying: sunflower oil
- 120 gm sesame seeds, coarsely crushed
- 120 gm walnuts, coarsely crushed
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
Spiced honey syrup
- 440 gm white sugar (2 cups)
- 2 cinnamon quills
- 6 whole cloves
- 160 gm honey, preferably thyme honey
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1Combine vegetable oil, raki, lemon juice and 375ml lukewarm water in a large bowl, add flour and mix well until a sticky dough forms. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, knead well until dough no longer sticks to your hands (4-5 minutes), transfer to a plastic bag and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- 2Divide dough into 8. Working with one piece at a time, lightly flour dough, then feed through a pasta machine, starting at the widest setting and reducing settings notch by notch down to the fourth setting, flouring and folding as you go, to form a 60cm x 12cm sheet. Cut each sheet lengthways into 4cm-wide strips with a serrated pastry wheel and set aside in a single layer on a lightly floured tray.
- 3Working with one pastry strip at a time, loosely loop around your index and middle fingers, then loop again around three fingers then once again around four fingers to form a loose spiral. Press end to seal and set aside.
- 4Preheat sunflower oil in a deep saucepan to 180C. Place a pastry spiral on the handle of a wooden spoon, then carefully lower into oil (be careful as hot oil will spit). Cook, turning occasionally, until golden and crisp (1-2 minutes), drain on absorbent paper, repeat with remaining spirals and set aside to cool.
- 5For spiced honey syrup, stir sugar, spices and 250ml water in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to the simmer and cook until infused (6-8 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in honey and lemon juice and keep warm.
- 6Dry-roast sesame seeds in a frying pan until golden and combine with walnuts and cinnamon in a bowl. Dip pastry spirals one by one into hot syrup, remove with a slotted spoon to drain excess syrup, then dip in walnut mixture. Shake off excess, transfer to a tray and serve. Xerotigana will keep stored in an airtight container for a week.
Note Raki, sometimes called tsikoudia is a strong spirit distilled from grape pomace, it's available from select bottle shops.