“It’s clearly more important to treat one’s fellow man well than to be always praying and fasting and touching one’s head to a prayer mat.” - Naguib Mahfouz
While we are now well approaching Easter, it is still Lent. People of Greek Orthodox faith have been fasting for the past five weeks or so, with no meat, dairy products or eggs being consumed. The fasting gets even stricter next week, which is the final week before Easter. Some people will not even consume fish, or any kind of fat, as well as the usual restricted diet without meat, dairy products or eggs. So what will be eaten you may ask… Fresh fruits and vegetables, pulses, nuts, olives (yes, the ones from which olive oil comes – go figure!), pickles of various kinds, tahini (pulverised sesame seed paste, which is quite oily actually, so that is cheating a bit, but nevertheless allowed), bread, rice, sugar-preserved or glacé fruits, lollies, jams, marmalades. Some people also eat octopus and squid, but they are rather boring when prepared without oil.
Fasting is good for health, especially so the first kind, not the highly restrictive type mentioned in the latter case. During fasting the body is rid of toxins, lighter meals are consumed, seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables are eaten in greater quantities and there is a decreased fat intake, especially the saturated fats associated with eggs, meat and dairy products. There are several such fasting periods throughout the year, not only the Great Lent before Easter, but also the Lesser Lent before Christmas and then various other smaller fasting periods (for example the first two weeks of August before the Dormition of the Virgin), as well as Wednesday and Friday fast days. Here is a Greek Lenten recipe conforming with the dietary fasting rules of the less strict type (i.e. cake contains oil, but no dairy products or eggs).
ORANGE SULTANA CAKE
500 g white self-raising flour
500 g fine semolina
250 g olive oil (light)
500 g sugar
1.5 glassfuls of freshly squeezed orange juice
1 shot glassful of lemon juice
zest of one orange
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 shot glassful of brandy
1.5 tsps baking soda
1 glassful sultanas
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
- Sift the flour and add the semolina, mixing well. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, mixing very well until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Mix the sugar and orange juice, stirring to dissolve well. Add the lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, cloves.
- Dissolve the baking soda in the brandy and add it to the sugar mixture. Add to the flour/oil mixture and mix well. Add the sultanas and mix well.
- Pour into a Bundt cake mould and bake in the pre-warmed fan-forced oven for about an hour, until it is well cooked.
- Once cooled, cut in half horizontally and remove the top carefully. Spread orange marmalade on the lower half and reassemble the cake.