‘In these all-white courtyards where the south wind blows whistling through vaulted arcades, tell me, is it the mad pomegranate tree that leaps in the light scattering its fruitful laughter with windy wilfulness and whispering? Tell me, is it the mad pomegranate tree that quivers with foliage newly born at dawn raising high its colours in a shiver of triumph?’ – Odysseus Elytis. I first read this poem sitting under a pomegranate tree in a deserted shady square on the verdant island of Corfu and it described perfectly what I could see and how I felt that day. Free and triumphant. But then the heavens opened and delivered a storm of Biblical proportions causing the winding streets of Old Town to turn into raging torrents and transforming us into soaking reflections of who we were just an hour before. Eventually the dark clouds passed and we were restored by steaming bowls of this very special soup made with trachanas, an ancient ingredient from the Eastern Mediterranean which combines wheat flour with yoghurt to deliver a distinctively sour taste. It’s made by drying patties of the yoghurt-enriched dough in the hot Mediterranean sun and then rubbing them between the hands to create tiny grains which are then left to dry the sun for a few more days until they become hard. This is a perfect supper for these uncommonly cooler days of an English spring when one yearns for the sun.
3 tbsp Raphael’s Gold Label extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
300g sour trachanas
1 litre good quality vegetable stock
1 can chopped tomatoes
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Fresh dill, parsley or mint, finely chopped
100g really good quality feta, to serve
Boukovo (Greek crushed red chilli) or pul biber, to serve
How I make it
Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic, turn down the heat and fry for 15 minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the trachanas and coat the grains in the oil.
Add the stock and the tomatoes and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the soup has thickened and the grains are cooked through, around 10 minutes. You’re looking for a porridgy consistency here so do add a little more water if you need to and remain vigilant through out this process as the grains have a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pan. Just stir gently and dream of that shady square.
Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and season to your taste.
To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Add a crumble of feta, the herbs, the lemon zest and a sprinkle of boukovo or pul biber – I used smoked chilli here which I bought in a beautiful spice shop in the heart of Corfu Old Town.
Store any leftovers in the fridge and gently warm through with a little water to return it to your preferred consistency.
For more interesting facts about the history of yoghurt and how it is revered by different cultures, I recommend that you read ‘Yoghurt, A Global History’ by June Hersh which we are delighted to offer you at a 20% discount. Follow the links below and enter the code YOGHURT21: