Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
The city of Kalamata, in Southern Peloponnese, is famous for silk scarves. There is a frequently sung Greek folk song, where the singer sings about the “scarf from Kalamata around the snow-white neck” of his beloved. A few other products that Kalamata is also famous for are olives and high quality olive oil, and figs both black “Royal” and white “Kalamata Crown”.
While I was looking through my mother’s hand written recipe notes from 1938, when she was a recently married Athenian housewife, I came across recipes for "Swiss Pastry Roulade" and “Kalamata Roulade”; they were Pain d’ Espagne i.e. a sheet sponge cake, with a filling of apricot jam or fig and orange paste rolled up, sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and almond flakes, then refrigerated until ready to eat as part of a Greek upper class afternoon tea. My mother would often have some of her close friends over for tea and gossip.
I was thinking of trying to recreate the fig/orange recipe as well as the one made with the apricot jam filling; I loved both when I was growing up.
I recently received from Divina, a Greek company that packages fig paste in different formulations, a jar of Orange Fig Spread that would make it much easier to create a Kalamata Roulade, without going through the process of making the filling from scratch.
To make the fig and orange filling, my mother would start by boiling sugar and freshly squeezed orange juice in a pot until the liquid was reduced by half, then would grind rehydrated dry fig slices in a meat grinder to create fig paste (food processors had not yet been invented) and added the paste to the sugar and orange syrup, and would continue boiling until the mixture thickened, then wait until cool and mix-in the almond slivers and spread the mixture over the sponge cake sheet before rolling it up. The Divina product will make it a snap to create this dessert.
Divina, also produces such other fig-based delights as a Fig & Cocoa Spread, a Kalamata Fig Spread with Almonds, a Chili Fig Spread; all can be used by a creative cook to create either savory appetizers or desserts like my mother’s Roulade.
But one does not have to spend time making Roulades to enjoy these wonderful fig pastes. Breakfast would be excellent, having a toasted bagel with a schmear of either the cocoa- or almond- fig spread and even some feta cheese on top.
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