Pasteli is a sesame seed sweet bar made from sesame seeds , honey and sometimes nuts.
Pasteli is popular in Greece and Cyprus and is generally a tasty nutritious flat, oblong bar.
Both sesame seeds and honey are natural with nutritional value. The roots of the recipe are lost in antiquity confection.
Honey and sesame were components of the ancient Greeks diet, who had developed various dishes to improve their health and nutrition. The common name of pasteli in ancient times was “sisamis”.
Though the modern name παστέλι pasteli is of Italian origin, very similar foods are documented in Ancient Greek cuisine: the Cretan koptoplakous (κοπτοπλακοῦς) or gastris (γάστρις) was a layer of ground nuts sandwiched between two layers of sesame crushed with honey.
Herodotus also mentions “sweet cakes of sesame and honey”, but with no detail.
The pasteli (sisami) was a symbol of fertility and offered to weddings as a welcome to the guests, and to the bride after the ceremony, as she was crossing the threshold of her new house. The sisamis name prevailed until the middle of the Byzantine period.
The pasteli has a history of at least 2500 years and since then it has been established as nutritious food.
Traditional preparation of pasteli
The basic preparation of pasteli is: The honey is boiled in a special shallow pan with a large surface and is skimmed when it starts to boil. When the honey thickens, sesame is added under continuous stirring to prevent the mixture from sticking.
When finished cooking, the mixture is spread over a marble surface or a special canvas smeared with sweet wine or almond flavoured oil. Once the mixture has cooled down open it to about 1/3 of an inch thick and cut into pieces. Of course the recipe varies by region (eg in Sifnos they do not skim the honey).
Because the pasteli was prepared with only two raw ingredients, the process is simple. The secret of success lies in the quality of honey and sesame, the mixing ratio of the two ingredients and the good bonding between them.
The pasteli is chewy if you add more honey and crispy if you add more sesame.
A common method to determine whether the components are bound together is to pour a little mixture on a plate. If the mixture is ready it will not stick on the plate.
The pasteli ingredients
Honey is produced by bees from nectar or the honeydew from various plants. Thus making it one of the most natural nutritional foods. Read more about honey
Greece ranks second in the worldwide consumption of honey, 2lb per capita consumption per year. First is Germany with 3lb annual consumption per capita. The total honey production in our country is around 20,000 tons, of which about 60% is sold as pure honey and the remaining 40% processed. A significant percentage of honey is supplied to large industries which produce other products that contain honey, such as pasteli, nougat, Halva with honey, and yogurt.
Sesame was one of the first oleaginous plants (sesame oil) cultivated by man. It comes from eastern Africa and cultivated in most tropical, subtropical and southern zones of the world and in Greece. Today unfortunately it is not cultivated in our country but instead it is imported.
Reference to Ancient Greece:
Many ancient texts show that the sesame was cultivated in ancient Greece. Ancient texts states that sesame was used for production of pasteli or pastries.
Beneficial effects of pasteli
Research has proved that the pasteli has many beneficial properties. The same applies to sesame oil, tahini and chalva.
According to one study which was completed and published by experts at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, sesame and its products, have anti-ageing, anti-cancer, antihypertensive, and other benefits.
Here are some of the other health benefits of pasteli
- Shown to lower blood cholesterol levels.
- Enhances the proper functioning of the immune system.
- Can prevent the development of cataracts
- May help in the treatment of diabetes.
- Protects against atherosclerosis and hypertension.
- Can prevent or slow chronic diseases.
- Contributes to the proper functioning of the liver.
- Has anti-ageing and anti-hypertensive properties.
Source: study by ETAT SA
Magazine Food & Beverage
EPET II research and technology program