In 1922, the Exchange of Populations between Greece and Turkey forcibly repatriated approximately 1,000,000 Christian, Turkish- speaking Greeks from Asia Minor, their ancestors’ homelands for many generations, to Greece.
Greece was understandably unable to cope with such an increase in population and many of the refugees eventually left Greece for the New World. A great many made their permanent home in America and brought with them their language and proverbs, their myths and legends, their songs and music, and of course their foods, like this recipe for hosafi, offered as hospitality to guests.
Hosafi is a fruit compote still made in many parts of Greece and the Greek diaspora with significant numbers of descendants of refugees originating from the population exchange.
The food customs of the Greek Pontian migrants were different from those of Greek people living in Greece. Apart from the use of what were then regarded as exotic spices in cooking, like cinnamon, cumin and nutmeg, the Asia Minor Greeks also brought urban culinary traditions to Greece, at a time when Greece was still very rural- based, and in these ways the population exchange instantly expanded and enriched Greek cuisine.
Many of the recipes of the Asia Minor Greeks are of course based on the availability of ingredients in their former homelands. Hosafi, also known as housafi, cleverly embodies all these territorial and climatic limitations.
It is made with fruits that are gathered in warm weather, dried during cool weather, and eaten in cold weather. Drying fresh products is one of the oldest methods of preserving known to man.
Reconstituted with a little moisture, these products retain all their flavor and make nutritious meals.
The simplicity of the dish – boiling together various dried fruits, sweetening them with sugar or honey and adding spices and/ or wine for flavour – allowed it to be made any time of the year.
The recipe’s ingredients are both meat and dairy free; hence hosafi was and still is made during lenten periods in the Greek Orthodox calendar, such as before Easter. But the different colors of the various fruit added to hosafi give it a rich appearance; it is this aspect that gives hosafi a place at the Christmas table, as a dessert served after the main meal.
The leftover syrup from the making of hosafi is also very tasty as a between-meals palate cleanser; Greek Orthodox priests would imbibe it as a ‘power drink’, particularly useful when fasting rigorously for long periods. This is presumably where hosafi gets its name from: in Turkish, ‘hoşaf’, means ‘stewed fruit’, which comes from the Old Persian ‘hoşab’, meaning ‘pleasant water’.
This is offered in remembrance of the Pontian Genocide, commemorated on May 19th with the hope that in writing and sharing this recipe we help to keep alive a piece of this very special part of the Hellenic world.
20-25 dried apricots
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup toasted, cracked almonds
3 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick of cinnamon
8 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods
(open and use the seeds whole)
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
Soak dried apricots in just enough water or orange juice to cover the fruit, for at least an hour until plump. Set aside.
Toast almonds in a hot pan and keep them moving, careful not to burn, for 3 minutes. Set aside.
Drain dried fruit and (IMPORTANT) save the soaking water. Chop plumped up apricots into quarters and add to pan with 3 cups water and soaking liquid, keeping golden raisins in reserve. Cook on low heat for 30 minutes.
Add spices and sugar and cook on med-low (good simmer) for 35 minutes stirring every 10 minutes or so. Add nuts and raisins and cook for another 5 minutes. Extract cinnamon stick and cloves, stir well and remove from heat. Add pomegranate seeds and serve warm, room temperature or chilled.
Kiki Vagianos is The Greek Vegan! Kiki lives and cooks in Boston. She spends her free time collecting, testing and posting favorite traditional Greek recipes at The Greek Vegan website. She loves sharing these simple and delicious authentic dishes and helping to bring them back into kitchens throughout the Greek diaspora. Kali Orexi!