Fried dough strips (xerotigana)
Xerotigana, literally, ‘dry fries’, are a traditional sweet of Amorgos – that are found throughout the Cyclades as well as on Crete. Consisting of ineffably light pastry ribbons fried in oil and drizzled with sugar syrup or honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds and chopped almonds, they are served to guests at Christmas, Easter, and other holidays, as well as at weddings and baptisms, often along with pastelli (sesame bars).
Recipe for xerotigana
The dough is made simply with flour, olive oil and salt; the syrup is a mixture of sugar, water, honey and lemon juice; the oil used for frying can be either olive or seed oil.
After kneading, the dough is left to rise for 2 hours. It is then rolled into very thin sheets with a pasta machine or rolling pin and cut into strips about 8-10 cm wide and 20 cm long, which can be folded into shapes or left as they are. (They are also called ‘diples’ in Greek, which means folded.) The pastry is deep fried in very hot oil until golden brown, removed to drain on absorbent paper towels and left to cool.
The syrup is made by boiling sugar, water and lemon juice for 10 minutes, then adding the honey and stirring until it dissolves. (Some cooks prefer to use only honey instead of syrup.) The cold fried pastry strips are dipped into the warm, barely simmering syrup with great care as they are light as air and very fragile. They are piled on a platter, sprinkled with lightly toasted sesame seeds and almonds, and a pinch of cinnamon.
Wishing to share this special confection with visitors to their island, the people of Amorgos host a Xerotigano Festival every summer. There you can watch them being made, eat your fill of them while sipping island raki, and join in the dancing by local groups to the beat set by musicians playing traditional instruments.