Before I share my Greek traditional Christmas cookies recipe, I thought I would update you on the situation here in Greece. Things are not good, as you all know, and honestly, it will be a gloomy Christmas. Most schools on my island of Rhodes have been organising bazaars to raise money for the poor and Red Cross is helping. They informed us that 400 families on the island are suffering. I donated as well and my daughter’s school is gathering food so I will donate there too. It isn’t much but I’ll do my bit. You see stores with no lights till late hours, hardly any shoppers around and small baskets for shopping at the supermarkets. People are on very very tight budgets and economise on every single aspect. Restaurants are empty and only the 1 euro souvlaki fast food stores work nowadays, and not in a crazy mode!
On the mainland things are much tougher. At least islanders have a small piece of land to cultivate, olives, veggies and fruit. I have heard stories of people being robbed of their olives (visited their land and the olives had already vanished into thin air) and wood for their fireplace.
However, despite all this Greeks seem resilient. They have it in their DNA. They have gone through a lot and they know how to live on food that more priviledged nations would probably die if they had such diet. Greens (horta), bread with a little oil, lots of pulses. They know how to make food out of nothing, as we say. They also try so hard to keep their spirits high. Radio stations are encouraging people to decorate their homes to bring in a little happiness and joy, to go out for walks in the woods, to have a picnic, to do anything to get their minds off the bills and taxes and all those worries.
I want to be optimistic. I want my people to stop thinking that they don’t have a job but think of ways of creating jobs, of being more productive, to take things in their hands and make this beautiful country to sparkle and rise from its ashes. My wish is: All I want for Christmas is for my country to rise and shine and become a real example. That’s what I want!
Here’s a sweet little something to lift our spirits. These Greek Christmas cookies, called skaltsounia, have no butter or eggs – nice and light for those on a restricted diet or fasting before Christmas, or on a tight budget. Which many of us are.
For the dough
1 kilo of all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sunflower oil
Fresh orange juice from 2 oranges (grate them first and keep the zest)
1 tblsp. sugar
½ tsp. cooking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup of lukewarm water
For the filling
1 kilo of ground walnuts
½ cup of honey
Fresh orange juice from 2 oranges
Zest from 2 oranges
4 tblsp. of sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. of ground cloves
½ cup of roasted sesame seeds
Icing sugar for the dusting (in the end)
Add (sifted) flour, sugar, salt, sunflower oil in a bowl and mix well. Add the cooking soda in the orange juice, stir well (in a tall glass) and pour it into the flour mixture. Then add the water until you form a soft pliable ball. Leave to rest until you make the filling.
In a small pot add honey, orange juice and sugar. Turn on low heat and stir until the mixture thickens. This will take only some minutes. Then add the rest ingredients and let it cool. Make small balls of dough and roll out to 1 cm. Cut out circles 10 cm in diameter and add a teaspoon of filling in the center. Fold into half-moons and press the open sides firmly. Use parchment paper for baking. Bake for 30 min till they turn light brown. Dust with icing sugar while they are hot.