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Friday, April 4, 2014

De la Soul Food

wheat main ingredient for making koliva
Wheat is one of the first cereals that get domesticated, it happened around 10 000 years BC.
    ''In the Japanese Orthodox Church where rice is mainly eaten, koliva is commonly made from rice sweetened with sugar and decorated with raisins.'' (Thank you Wikipedia)

    Koliva is a sweet dish people prepare for religious feasts and funerals in Orthodox Christian countries. I liked it a lot when I was a kid and I still do. People don't expect much from the cooked wheat, but believe me it one of the best sweets I ever tried, plus is healthy unlike most sweet food you can buy these days.
    Custom connected with eating koliva on religious holidays and funerals comes from the ancient world. Koliva wheat in the Ancient Greek Parthenon symbolizes earth goddess Demetra. From Ancient times this custom passed to the  Byzantine world, and later people of all countries that accepted Orthodox Christianity, directly or indirectly from Byzantine started eating koliva. In Serbia today you can eat koliva on funerals or patron saint days (each family has their own patron saint), when every family organizes a feast at their home.
    Outside religion, you can try koliva at the old style confectionery shops. They usually serve old Balkan sweets like baklava, halva, koliva, šampita(creamy dessert) etc and drinks like lemonade and boza (refreshing wheat flour drink). 
    Basic recipe for koliva contains only wheat, walnuts and sugar, but I change it a bit to make it more tasty (to me, and hope to all of the people who are reading this blog). People usually put same amounts of uncooked wheat, walnuts and sugar in their koliva. I started eating it when I switched to macrobiotic diet, and I didn't put sugar in it at all. Since sugar is like cigarettes, one is too much in the beginning, but after some time you smoke 20 a day, and you want more. Actually wheat by itself is sweet, but we are all used to much higher amounts of sugar, that we take with other desserts, so to us wheat feels like tasteless. Although you can put as much sugar as you wish in your koliva, most of the Balkan housewives put the same amount of sugar and wheat, and it can't be sweeter than that. So my recipe goes like this:

-wheat, one cup, 250 g (7,7 oz),
ingredients for making koliva
Some necessary ingredients for making koliva
-water, 3-4 cups,
-raisins, 50 g (1,2 oz),
-walnuts, around 50 g (1,2 oz),
-some cinnamon, some lemon zest, 2 cloves, some lemon juice,
-you can put as much sugar as you want, or eat it without sugar like I do. If you have some money to spare you can also put malt sweetener instead of sugar.

1.  Put raisins to soak in water and leave them like that for few hours.  

2.  Put water in the pot, when it boils, add the wheat and turn down the burner to the lowest possible temperature. Cook until wheat soaks up all the water from the pot. 

3.  Take a blender, put cooked wheat in it and blend it good, after that put the wheat in a plastic bowl, add the raisins, cinnamon, some lemon zest, crush 2 cloves with a pestle and add them too, add sugar if you want and few drops of lemon juice. Put the koliva on a nice plate grind the walnuts and sprinkle them over the koliva. Save some whole nuts to decorate your koliva.
Koliva with ground and whole walnuts, raisins and cloves on top.

    As i said earlier people usually eat koliva in ritual purposes, but as it's very tasty and healthy dessert you can eat it when ever you want. You can also use all kinds of dry fruits or nuts for your koliva such as: dry plums, dry apricots, peanuts (which is not actually a nut, blah, blah, blah...), almonds, cashews etc.

    This recipe can completely can fit into macrobiotic diet. You shouldn't use sugar, but I think you shouldn't use malt sweetener either, first because it's expensive (although tasty), second because wheat and raisins are sweet by themselves and in my opinion don't need any additional sugar when you use to it, and if you fallow this kind of diet I guess you already ate a desserts that are even less sweet. Be careful with walnuts, sprinkle only a little bit on top. Enjoy! 

    Koliva will make your afternoon tea great, it's also high energy food, so it will give you enough strength to go do some workout in the afternoon, go play football, basketball or go clubbing in the evening. This is a literately Balkan soul food, and it's prepared with ingredients that almost every house has in the whole world.

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