Trahana is a filling and nutritious staple Greek recipe found in every home, which is ready in mere minutes.
If you mention the delicious, comforting soup to Greeks, they will likely get nostalgic and recall winter evenings at their grandmother’s house. There, they would warm up with a homemade bowl of trahana.
While cooking time is relatively quick, making the actual grain product takes months. In order for the delicious soup to be served to you on a chilly winter night, the trahana, made from a mixture of semolina, cracked wheat, or flour and milk or yogurt, must be allowed to ferment and dry out during the summer months.
Once dry, the trahana is crushed into small chunks. It is ready to be stored for the coming winter in this crushed form. Although some still make their own trahana by hand, it can also be found in all Greek supermarkets.
There are two types of trahana, namely sweet and sour. Sweet trahana is made of whole milk, usually from goats, while sour trahana is made of buttermilk or yogurt, which gives it a bit more of a tangy flavor.
It is extremely filling and rich and yet low in calories and fat. Trahana is considered the perfect comfort food for those who are health conscious. A bowl of the tasty soup is extremely nourishing and chock full of protein, vitamin B, magnesium, and iron.
Trahana keeps you full long after you’ve eaten, providing a large dose of vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy lifestyle.
It can be prepared in its simplest form merely by boiling the dried, fermented grains in water, milk, or stock. Adding tomato sauce, spices, vegetables, meat, cheese, and butter to the dish makes for deeper, more complex flavors.
Each region of Greece has its own special recipe for the perfect bowl of the hearty dish.
In Cyprus, trahana is made of bulgur wheat instead of flour, and it is prepared with the country’s iconic halloumi cheese.
Trahana, an ancient food across the Mediterranean
As the unique texture of the soup allows it to absorb flavors easily, gourmet chefs in Greece have begun to include the dish, once considered a poor man’s comfort food, in their top-rated menus.
Possibly due to its simple ingredients, great nutritional value, and quick preparation, dishes similar to the Greek comfort food have been found all across the Mediterranean since ancient times.
The dish is traditionally made across not just southern Europe but North Africa and the Middle East as well.
Academics, Stephen Hill and Anthony Bryer, suggest that the term tarhana is related to Greek τρακτόν (trakton, romanized as tractum), a thickener Apicius wrote about in the 1st century CE which most other authors consider to be a sort of cracker crumb. Dalby connects it to the Greek τραγός/τραγανός (tragos/traganos), described in Galen‘s Geoponica 3.8.
Its ancient roots probably stem from ancient agrarian lifestyles, as there was always an excess of milk in the summer, when cows produce more.
So that the milk would not be wasted , ancient peoples relied on this method of preserving the precious commodity. This also meant they had a storage of food for the winter.