Friday, February 14, 2014

Tarhana aka Trahana

If Britain and America are two countries separated by a common language as George Bernard Shaw so memorably put it, then Greece and Turkey are two countries separated by a common cuisine.

Oh the horrors and the wars! And Cyprus. Let's not even go there.

The difference in most of their common food names is "nationalistic branding". Something that you see in many adjacent "warring" countries which share a common cuisine. The choices are both boring and endless — India and Pakistan; Israel and Palestine; Eritrea and Ethiopia.

It gets depressing after a while.

The CC definitely belongs to the distinct minority of "Make food not war!" but it's a hard, not to mention, impossible sell to fanatics with no education and millennia of hatred.

But we will always have linguistic adjacency to remind us that you can theoretically separate ideas but, in practice, the same ol', same ol' geography dominates as it logically should.

Which brings us to tarhana or trahana. Pick your favorite one. The former being Turkish and the latter being Greek.

Tarhana, Trahana, let's call the whole thing off!

What is it?

It's an ancient mechanism of preserving both wheat and milk for the long winters. In an age of refrigeration and air-transported food, this is a fairly quaint notion so we appeal instead to its deliciousness.

The idea is simple. Take wheat flour, mix it with sour yogurt, pass the dough through a fine screen so it breaks up into tiny pieces and let it dry in the abundant Mediterranean sun.

The chemistry is complex. By introducing sour yogurt, you are lowering the pH to acidic levels. By drying it, you are reducing the moisture levels. This makes the environment inhospitable to most pathogens and you still preserving the wheat and milk proteins.

You cook it by just introducing it to some broth. The wheat thickens the broth and acidity introduced gives it a tangy umami flavor.

There is a separate product called "sweet trahana" which is the same idea except with milk rather than yogurt. It lacks the lactic tang and is much harder because of the need to remove moisture even further and so needs to cook a little longer.

The presence of both wheat flour and yogurt means it acts as a thickener typically in soups and stews.

You can pretty much thicken any soup which could use a sour lactic tang. Tomato soup is a classic. Less commonly is a mushroom soup referenced by Diane Kochilas presented below for your delectation.

The CC was informed that this was a "superior" mushroom-barley soup.

"Fair enough, it's the same concept just with superior food technology."

The mushrooms came from a Japanese market with some others brought by a Russian friend from the Russian markets all to make a Greek soup. Not exactly world peace and arguably closer to whirled peas but it's a step.

All raise your hands and shout out, Trahanosoupa me Manitaria!


4 cups mixed wild mushrooms (coarsely chopped)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
2 medium onions (sliced thin)
olive oil

1 cup trahana
6 cups water

black pepper
lemon juice

1/3 cup grated kefalo-graviera cheese (substitute by feta)


Heat the olive oil and sautée the garlic for a minute. Make sure it doesn't burn. Add  the onions and cook over medium heat until wilted for about 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook leisurely till for at least 10 minutes.

Add the trahana and stir for several minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot with lemon juice and the cheese as topping.

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