Preveza

Kousmeri (semolina cake)

A syrupy dessert of the Romaniote Jews of Epirus.
Ηπειρώτικο Πρωινό-Kousmeri (semolina cake)
Before cooking...

The Greek-speaking Romaniote Jews lived scattered in East Mediterranean regions for over 2000 years. In Preveza, Ioannina, and Arta, their presence was strong, and their communities bustling until the dark days of the Holocaust. Few Romaniotes remain in Epirus today, but their cultural imprint is evident in many ways, and their kousmeri is part of the traditional Epirotic gastronomy.

Kousmeri (semolina cake)

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 kg unsalted myzithra
  • 250 g fine semolina
  • Yolks from 8 eggs
  • Egg whites from 8 eggs
  • 220 g sugar
  • 220 g milk
  • 210 g butter

For the syrup:

  • ½ l water
  • 1 kg sugar

Execution

  1. Place a saucepan on medium heat, add the ingredients for the syrup (water, sugar), and mix until the sugar melts. Bring to a boil and cook for 7-8 minutes. Leave the syrup aside to cool.
  2. Place another saucepan on low heat, add the butter, and let it melt.
  3. Split the yolks from the whites. In a bowl, whisk the yolks with the melted butter, the sugar, and the milk. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until you have a meringue.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the myzithra with the semolina. Add the meringue and the yolk mixture and mix again.
  5. Set the oven to “upper and lower heat” and preheat to 180 °C.
  6. Brush a baking pan with butter and spread the batter evenly.
  7. Place the pan on the lower rack and bake for 45 minutes (approximately) until the top is golden brown.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven, and pour the cold syrup over the top. Put it back in the still-hot oven until the syrup is absorbed.
  9. Let the kousmeri cool for a bit and serve.

This delightful Jewish pastry kousmeri is a wholesome sweet dish akin to a syrupy cheesecake. It’s also the Romaniotes’ contribution to the many cheese-based desserts the worldwide Jewish communities enjoy during the celebration of Shavuot.

After cooking...

As the legend goes, during Ottoman rule, the people of Preveza decided to get back at the local Turkish commander for his cruel ways. So, one night, they spread soap on one of the alleyways in the central market. When the tyrant rode through, his horse slipped and dropped him on the ground. “SEITAN PAZAR!” (devil’s market), he cried in anger, and his curse became the name of the most famous alley in the old city of Preveza.

Ηπειρώτικο Πρωινό-After cooking...