Let’s face it, there are many recipes for kourabiédes, after all they ARE the quintessential Greek Christmas sweet goodies. Flicking through the index of most Greek cookbooks, you will find a version, and there may well be a totally desirable proportion of sugar, almonds and butter… But it’s not always just about the specifics of the recipe.
Family recipes get handed down from generation to generation – most of the details are gained almost by osmosis. Our food memories are hardwired by the smell of the kitchen on, say, Christmas Eve, or even with the use of certain pots and pans. We remember the ‘taste’ of the whole event, not just the actual food. The remembered pleasure of sharing times with our families and friends is part of the whole ‘flavour’. Food and memory are so intrinsically entwined, that it is almost impossible to disentangle them – and who would want to!
When the 20 year old Miquette Papageorge wrote down the recipe for kourabiédes in her ‘Cahier de Cuisine’, it was most probably the one she had seen her own mother make many, many times in their Alexandrian kitchen. She probably didn’t expect that, eventually, she would be making them in England.
In Miketta’s ‘Cahier’ recipe, the method isn’t included. Obviously, it was something she had seen so many times, she didn’t need to write that down. Some years later her daughter, Daphne did.
Fortunately for us, Daphne converted the measurements from the Ottoman oka and dram to pounds and ounces. But one of the most charming parts of Daphne’s version is her sketch of the shape for the kourabiédes. It is such an immediate, personal image, so much better than a photograph
An unusual ingredient in Miketta’s version is the use of lard – probably an influence from the British colonial shops in Egypt. I used vegetarian lard in my version, and I think it does improve the ‘shortness’ of the biscuits, compared to other recipes I have tried. It seems to make them beautifully crumbly.
Miketta and Daphne’s recipe is now in my own ‘cahier de cuisine’ – a repurposed diary that my sister-in-law gave me some years ago. I am looking forward to sharing it with my family time and time again. They have certainly loved the ‘practice runs’ that I’ve done in the last few weeks.
Would Miketta have been surprised to see her recipe shared more widely 90 years later ? Probably. Would she have been pleased ? I am pretty sure she would.
Kourabiédes - from Miketta Casdagli's 'Cahier de Cuisine'
- 150 gm butter
- 150 gm vegetarian lard I used vegetarian lard but that's personal choice.
- 85 gm finely chopped almonds I would avoid using commercially ground almonds - it's a bit too fine.
- 170 gm plain flour, sieved
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp brandy
- 1 pinch salt
- Icing sugar
- Rose water
- Warm the butter and lard in a small pan, until it has just melted. Do not allow it to boil.
- Put it into a large mixing bowl along with the sugar. Beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes.
- Add the brandy and then gradually add the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
- Work the mixture with your hands, until you have a flexible dough.
- Prepare 2 baking trays with baking paper.
- Shape the dough, preferably into small crescent shapes. They should be about 5cm x 2cm, and place on the prepared baking trays - don't overcrowd them.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 180° until cooked but still 'creamy' in colour.
- Place all the biscuits on a cooling rack and, while they are still warm, sprinkle them with rosewater. Dust liberally with icing sugar.