Before meeting Anna Charalambidou at the AHRC Care for the Future workshop where we developed the ideas for this research project, I had never heard of flaounes before. These are celebration Easter pies from Cyprus that Anna is investigating from the point of view of Greek Cypriot women who make them. I wanted to take advantage of the Easter weekend to try them out and introduce a practical element to our research project!
As a complete novice in the world of flaounes, I quickly realised that I had left it a bit late to think about what I would need to make them. While recipes vary quite considerably, there are two or three flavouring constants that I had to improvise without: specialist Greek or Cypriot cheeses (such as kefalotyri or kaskavalli), machlepi or mahlab powder (ground cherry stones), and masticha (an aromatic tree resin). I’m an East Midlands resident more accustomed to picking up various Asian spices in my food shopping hotspots, so unfortunately a couple of ingredient-finding odysseys in the days immediately before Easter proved unsuccessful and my online order is still in transit. Without these ingredients, which appear key to the fundamental flavours of flaounes, it’s probably fair to say I didn’t make flaounes at all.
But the idea of a special cheese-filled pastry to supplement our Easter treat weekend sounded too appealing to postpone, so I found myself grating, kneading and folding for several hours and improvising with some key flavours from Mexican cuisine (where else?), with various cheeses, oregano and all-spice berries. I also left out the sultanas recommended by many recipes as I’m not a fan. This left me thinking about the flavour profiles traditionally associated with different global cuisines and the tension between preserving tradition and adapting to a different culinary landscape that inevitably arises when recipes travel.
The results were — even if I say do so myself — very tasty indeed and the experience of making these pastries was illuminating in terms of the place that cooking them could have in maintaining particular types of family and cultural traditions. Many of the online recipes I found talked about gathering different generations of the family or friends together to make the flaounes and the special sense of occasion that this created. I only made a small batch but many hands, and good company, would certainly be a good idea if you were making any more than that.
Part of what makes a celebration food is the labour of love that goes into making it: on this level, at least, I think I did justice to the loveliness of flaounes. Though on a more technical level, both the filling and dough probably didn’t rise enough, so I expect the best flaounes are more light and airy than the ones I made. And, although it will no longer be Easter, I anticipate delivery of the proper flavourings in the next few days and look forward to another day of grating, kneading and folding very soon!