Friday, 7 September 2007

trahanas, τραχανάς

Whenever Jonas and I find a new grocery store I scour the shelves for ingredients I’ve never seen before. I manage sneak them into the shopping trolley but at the register I’m caught out and barraged with exclamations of “what’s that! what are you going to do with that? will you even use it?”

Unfortunately, or fortunately, Jonas knows I will use it.

Such was the start of my recent affair with trahanas: tiny Greek pasta which came in two mysterious versions, sweet or sour. I opted for sour.

Trahanas is a mixture of cracked wheat that is fermented with yoghurt and then dried and sieved into tiny pellets. Sounds charming, doesn’t it. But trust me it tastes wonderful!

Apparently the fermentation process generates lactic acid which creates its particular sour flavour while low pH levels during drying mean milk proteins aren’t destroyed.

Apart from Greece, it is eaten in Turkey (tarhana), Egypt (kishk) and Iraq (kushuk), while in Cyprus it’s almost a national dish, but in all locations it is usually eaten as a thick soup or as a stuffing.

Traditional Greek and Cypriot recipes seem to call for a rustic, no fuss combination of olive oil, water and feta while a few adventurous folk added parsley or tomatoes.

I wanted to enrich the dish more so I added garlic, tomatoes, white wine and swapped the water for vegetable stock.

It’s perfect comfort food, hearty in body yet light in flavour, and would make a wonderful substitute for noodle soup.

Anna’s very own recipe. 4 as entrée, 2-3 as main course.

1 cup trahanas (sour)
4 cups water (or very good vegetable stock)
¼ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
½ cup crumbled feta
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat olive oil in pot then sauté garlic until softened.
2. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until tomatoes begin to break down.
3. Add wine and cook off alcohol (1 min).
4. Add water/stock and bring mixture to the boil.
5. Add trahanas and cook, as per packet instructions, until tender.
6. When cooked, remove from heat and stir in parsley.
7. Ladle into serving bowls and top with crumbled feta.
Note: if you want a runnier soup consistency, add 1-2 cups water/stock.
You could use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock.
Some people peel the tomatoes before cooking.
You may want to add more feta. We did, of course!

This is my contribution to Presto Pasta Night #28, a blogging event I wish I could join more often but work/life somehow get in the way! Well today is a public holiday thanks to the invasion of Sydney by multitudes of world leaders for the APEC summit (ie, George W, Vladimir and Hu Jintao) so I had no excuse!



  1. What a stunning dish. Now I'll be hunting for the trahanas myself! Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights. Glad you found some time. We missed you.

  2. I want those! I love sour...and they must be perfect in soup.
    I'd add some white beans to that soup and make it a meal - it looks yummy!

  3. Oh, you have completely piqued my curiosity with trahanas. I'll have to scout it out now. Your dish looks so warm and hearty, just right for the fall.

  4. I made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious. And so fast. It's going to be a staple for the winter in our house. (I did use chicken stock... didn't have any vegetable)

  5. Trahanas sounds really interesting and the recipe sounds tasty. I will have to see if I can find some trahanas.

  6. How interesting! Your creation sounds lovely.

  7. My daughter-in-law Lana inspired me to hunt for this at the Adelaide Central Market which is where I found a packet. I'm looking forward to trying it.

  8. Being Greek, I'm impressed that you dived into Trahana...bravo!

  9. i'm so pleased to see my discovery has encouraged other people to try it too.
    here's a link to lana's post about her trahanas experience and i can see from the comment section that she's encouraged margaret to give it a go too.
    this is what is so good about food blogging!

  10. Thanks for the great trahanas post! A friend of mine from Cyprus brought a bag of trahanas over a few months ago, and made a similar soup, but first cooked up a little chicken -- a couple of legs and thighs -- and used that stock plus a lot of water for the soup. Instead of feta cheese he used Halloum cheese, in cubes, which went right into the soup while it was cooking. It has a very high melting point so kind of stays slightly solid in the soup but gets soft, and it's quite delicious in it. (Also a great cheese for grilling and kebabs because it doesn't melt.) I fell in love with the taste of the trahanas and it's quite addictive, isn't it? Great recipe! Thanks again!

  11. there seems to be a trahanas shortage in sydney and i can't find it ANYWHERE! asking some of the grocers they said there is a massive shortage and everyone is fighting over the limited amounts being imported.
    on friday jonas and i got desperate so we used risoni instead. it wasn't as good, because it didn't have that slight sour edge, but it was close enough for us to do it again.
    for those who never tasted real trahanas, it won't be a problem at all.

  12. I found your recipe quite interesting, as I have a soft spot for cypriot trahanas. Here's my own recipe. Find a cup of cypriot trahanas and soak it for at least an hour in four cups of water. Then heat it stiring frequently so that it doesn't stick to the pot. While heating, add a cup of halloumi cubes and two tablespoons of fresh grated tomatoes. Now, if you prefer a more soury taste, add a cup of fresh natural yogurt (not flavoured), or, if you prefer it less sour, add a cup of fresh milk and keep heating and stiring until the mixture becomes a nice uniformly thick mixture. Add pepper to taste, or, if you dare, add a hot red chilly pepper! You can be addicted to the taste..

  13. Hi Anna, Recently I exchanged parcels with a blogger friend of mine in England and in my parcel I sent her some trahanas. I was looking for a few links to send her apart from mine and I came across your recipe, which sounds delicious. I am from Cyprus and make mine just like Lisa's Cypriot friend does. However the one I sent my friend is the Greek sour one and maybe she will choose to make yours.

  14. george - i like the idea of adding a little yoghurt.
    ivy - i do love the sour one. thanks for sharing my recipe and i hope your friends likes her trahanas. it has been my favourite food discovery in the last year or so.

  15. Wow, I'm Greek (born and raised in Greece) and I have to admit, your version is better than any that I've tried in Greece. I made it today and loved it and so did my American wife and German friend. I made a small change though. I'm out of olive oil, so I used goat butter; trust me, it's a little pricey, but it's gooood.

  16. anthony - that is a huge compliment! ευχαριστίες


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