I consider myself lucky because my dad’s brother married a girl from a village in Crete outside Herakleion, named Hersonissos. Those days it was a beautiful, picturesque little fishing village. There was one ‘main road’ following the coastline and the houses were lined along the road, facing the sea. The fishing boats were nestled in the small harbor. There was only one small, traditional coffee shop and in front of it there was a jetty. It had a straw canopy and under it were lined the tables and chairs of the coffee shop. On the other side of the village there was a hill and the small white church sitting on top of it overlooked the neat houses and the vastness of the sea.
My aunt and uncle took me and my sister along to celebrate Easter in Crete. I fell instantly in love with that little village, the hospitable inhabitants and after so many years the memory has always stayed with me.
Today, this little fishing village is gone. In its place they have built huge hotels, and the little houses have been torn down. Now you see apartment buildings, modern cafés, and shops that are filled with tourists.
However, the other things that I fell in love with, are still around. They are the famous Cretan ‘kalitsounia’ or ‘lyhnarakia’ which means ‘little oil lamps’. They are fantastic little cookies, or tarts or whatever you wish to call them. The women in Crete used to make them at Easter time only. But they are so good that nowadays you can find them all year round at confectionery shops. Enough said. Let’s make those fantastic little cookies. I would like to mention that the cheese used is the local soft myzithra cheese. However, as you won’t be able to find it, you can use Italian mascarpone, or any cream cheese you like
Ingredients for the dough 1 kilo all purpose flour (about) 2 eggs 1 cup evaporated milk A good pinch of salt 1/2 cup sugar 4 teaspoons baking powder ½ cup olive oil (or margarine softened) Water
Ingredients for the filling 700 gr. cream cheese (about) 2 – 3 cups sugar (it depends on how sweet you like the filling) 2 eggs Vanilla (3 pods powdered vanilla, ½ teaspoon liquid or whatever vanilla you like) 1 tablespoon butter or margarine 1 tablespoon cinnamon Zest of 1 lemon
Put the eggs, milk, sugar and olive oil or margarine in a large bowl, and beat well. In another bowl mix gently the flour with the baking powder and the salt. Add the flour to the egg mixture. Knead either by hand or in your mixer. You should have a rather soft dough. If needed, you can add a little water or more milk or even a few tablespoonfuls of yogurt. Cover the dough with cling film and put it aside while you prepare the filling.
Place all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl. Use 1 whole egg and the white of the second egg. Keep the yolk in a small bowl. Mix the ingredients with a fork until they are well blended.
Divide the dough into 12 smaller balls. Roll out each ball in a rough circle. The dough should be thick enough so that it can hold its shape when you pinch it around. Cut out a circle using a saucer or a bowl. Each circle should be 10 – 12cm. Place a tablespoonful of the filling in the centre of the circle. Now lift the edges of the dough and pinch it at regular intervals so that each cookie holds its shape. Line a baking pan with greaseproof paper and place the cookies in neat rows. Beat the yolk with a little water and brush the tops of the cookies. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake them in a preheated oven at 170oC for about half an hour, until they are lightly browned. Take them out of the oven and let them cool.