by Kyriaki Apergi *
Trachanas, associated as a staple food with the growing up of many generations, then somehow forgotten, is back in fashion, even abroad (see Frumenty, frumentee, furmity, fromity, or fermenty). It rightly holds an important place on our table, since it combines its nutritional value with a minimum preparation time, thus enabling people of all ages to include it in their diet.
Trachanas is a type of pasta made from coarse wheat or flour, which is usually boiled in sour milk and then dried in the sun. Sour trachanas, is made from cow's or sheep's or goat's milk, that has been allowed to turn sour or yogurt, mixed with wheat flour or "broken" wheat, as in the Cretan sour, or with semolina, or a mixture of wheat and semolina, obtaining thus the corresponding color. Yeast and sourdough can also be used,, as in the Mytilenean hachles,. Sweet trachanas, on the other hand, is made from raw milk that has not been turned sour and that is why it is 'sweeter'.. In Arcadia, eggs are often added to the ingredients. There is even a "fasting trachanas", sour with broth or vegetable or fish paste or tomato juice, as well as yeast, while on Mount Athos, fruit pulp is also used along with cinnamon and other herbs. Throughout Greece there are various local names for trachana, (trahanoto, hahles, sour, etc.). But we should not confuse trahana with bulgur (broken wheat) or the couscous (or in Crete, the couscousi made with flour, bulgur, salt and water).
If you try to make trachana yourself, be aware that the preparation of trachana requires time and effort, as it includes the following phases:
a) preparation for the "batter" (coarsely ground wheat or flour).
b)preparation of milk and its conversion into sour milk, the so-called "trachanogalo", in a period of 15-20 days approximately.
c) boiling of trachana.
d) spreading , to dry in the sun.
e) collection and storage in large canvas bags, the sofrades.
The nutritional value of trachana is very high, since its basic ingredients, durum wheat batter and milk , make it as such by adding vegetables or a little fresh salad a complete and balanced meal. It contains milk and therefore is enriched with proteins, amino acids, lactose (more digestible than in milk due to fermentation) and minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chlorine, copper, magnesium, zinc, but also fat-soluble vitamins A and D.. It contains significant amounts of B-complex vitamins, such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, involved in the proper functioning of metabolism and the nervous system. Due to its phosphorus content it protects the body from osteoporosis, while its carotenoid lutein helps in good skin health, in addition to that of the eyes and the heart. In addition, it is rich in magnesium which is essential for growth, muscle contraction, blood pressure regulation. Trachanas is a food with high nutritional value, as it contains fiber, carbohydrates, which give energy slowly and steadily. It has a lower glycemic load than plain pasta, due to its milk content, eggs etc.. and therefore raises blood glucose more gently. Mytilenean hachles and other items made from coarsely ground durum wheat batter, like bread, are more digestible.
The 100 gr of raw trachanas, equivalent to approximately ½ cup offer: 11-15% proteins approx (average. 16,3 gr.), 70% approx. carbohydrates (average. 58,2 gr.), 4% approx. fats (average. 1,2 gr) and give 400 approx. calories. (average. 398) Fiber 1,1 gr., magnesium 87 mg, calcium 329 mg, iron 1,9 mg, carotenoids: lutein 2 μg. For a soup dish of trachana we use approx 30 gr., and are rendering just 108 calories.
All this is supported by the fact that trachanas was food for the sick, children, for pregnant women and the elderly. Although it is a very nutritious soup, we should not give trachana to babies younger than 11 months, because it contains egg, unless it is of the 'fasting' version. Some varieties of trachanas, such as the Cretan xinochondros, are not suitable for people suffering from chronic stomach disorders or ulcers and of course from celiac disease (severe gluten intolerance).
Trachanas is usually cooked in winter, plain or with meat or fish broth or game. Sometimes they place trachanas in hot water from the previous night to soak, about a handful (30gr). for each person. Depending on the recipe, there are differences in cooking time e.g.. in the Lesbos island trachanas with batter the cooking time is longer than the flour based trachanas, and takes about an hour and a half on medium heat.
Ideas for dishes with trachanas:
– trachanas stew (trachanosoupa)
– trachanas with beef or broth only
– trachanas with pork
– trachanas with game
– trachanas with chicken
– trachanas with fish broth (well strained, so as not to have scales)
– trachanas as a filling in vegetables e.g.. eggplants, tomatoes, peppers (soak the trachanas first)
– trachanas in ladera e.g.. eggplants imam, briam, green beans (soak trachanas for a few hours and add it when the food is simmering)
– hahles trachana baked on the stove
– raw hahles trachana, eaten like crackers