So, my noble Ketonians, let’s continue the saga of Greek Keto cakes. This time, I wanted to treat you with something oriental and very Mediterranean. A Greek-Egyptian cake called Ravani or Basbousa. Interestingly, Egypt influenced the culture of ancient and modern Greeks on so many levels.
Last week, my wife and I spent a couple of days in the ancient Marathon. What an experience! It’s located only 42 kilometres out of Athens centre. When you arrive there, the feeling is totally overwhelming. As if you’ve travelled to another planet. The lush green landscapes, unbelievably beautiful beaches, the famous Marathon lake and tones of archaeological and historical treasures!
The Battle at Marathon (490 BC)
The famous battle between Athenians and a large army of the Persian Empire, during the Greco-Persian wars, took place here. After Eretria was destroyed, the Persian forces turned to the ultimate goal, the city of Athens. The Persian Navy sailed along the coast of Atika in the Marathon Bay. The Athenians were under the command of Miltiades who was the most experienced in fighting the Persians. His forces occupied two passages on the Marathon coast.
The counterattack lasted for five days
After this, Persian leader Artafern decided to take his entire cavalry and part of the infantry into a direct attack on Athens. When Athenians saw that their Polis was in danger, they decided to attack the remains of the Persian forces on the sixth day. Despite the numerical inferiority, hard-armed Athenian hoplites managed to defeat the Persian army by attacking them from their hips. The Persians then left the battlefield. The historian Herodotus mentions that the Persians lost 6,400, and Athenians 192 soldiers.
Saving the city of Athens
After the Persians left the battlefield, Athenians marched as fast as possible to Athens to protect the city from the rest of the Persian army. Along the coast, next to Piraeus, they arrived in time and thus prevented the disembarkation of Persians near Athens. After this, Persians decided to retreat to Asia Minor.
Marathon battle significance
This was a turning point in the Greek-Persian wars, as it showed that the mighty Persians were not invincible. It also strengthened the position of Athens in the ancient Greek world. It highlighted all the advantages of heavily armed Greek infantry (hoplites). The Battle at Marathon has become the inspiration for the Marathon Race Athletic Discipline, which is based on the story of a Greek soldier Pheidippides who, according to legend, ran 42 miles to convey the Athenians news of victory over the Persians. The first Olympic marathon race took place at the Athens Olympics back in 1896. Contestants ran from the authentic place of Marathon to modern Athens.
How can this inspire a Keto cake?
Well, I thought of the historical influence of Persian, and later Turkish culture on our cuisine. Greek cuisine is actually a perfect mixture of western and eastern cultures. So, then I remembered the Greek-Egyptian connection. Egyptians actually originated the Ravani or Basbousa cake as they call it today. The ancient Egyptian culture and civilisation deserve the respect of all history lovers, and I am one of them.
Egyptian sanctuary in the heart of Europe
Did you know that in Marathon, you can find an authentic sanctuary to Egyptian gods? This is a clear example of the Greek-Egyptian interconnection. Yes, an Egyptian temple in the middle of Europe! Near to the beautiful Marathon beach, you’ll be surprised to see a typical Greek-Egyptian sanctuary. This, of course, is the legacy of Herodes Atticus who had a thing for a Hellenised version of Egyptian Gods sometimes around 160 AD. You can read more about this archaeological site here.
While I am in Athens, I have to put all my efforts to find organic and quality ingredients for Keto cooking. Since this city has become industrialised and overtaken by the unhealthy supermarket offer, this is a difficult task. Luckily, I found my egg source in a small Greek-Egyptian market. The store is run by an interesting Egyptian called Ashraf (meaning The most honourable one).
Every time I go to Ashraf’s store, we end up talking about ancient Egypt, pyramids, Alexander the Great… I always buy awesome, free-range eggs from him! The golden yolks are unbelievably tasty, which could be a sign that my Egyptian friend is telling the truth about their origin. Apparently, he is bringing them from a small farm somewhere outside of Athens. Maybe even from Marathon! So, if you have some great eggs, Greek-Egyptian inspiration, and Keto determination – what can you make?
Basbousa or Ravani goes Keto
This could be the most beloved cake of people all around the eastern Mediterranean basin! The syrup infused cake is extremely popular in the Middle East, the Balkans (where my wife is from) and on the Horn of Africa. The name is different in all these regions. In southern Greece, it is called Ravani, while in the north, it is called Revani. Egyptians call it Basbousa. In Jordan and Greek-Egyptian city of Alexandria, it’s known as Hareesa. This is a particularly popular dessert among the Egyptian Coptic Christians. What a coincidence, my Egyptian friend is one of them!
The simplicity of ingredients
The ingredients are simple and typical for oriental Mediterranean cuisine. This makes the cake even more mysterious for the tourists. But, how am I going to replace the unique crunchy effect of semolina cake? As we know, this thing is made of wheat, therefore, it can not be Keto friendly. Well, just follow the recipe! Enjoy the best of Mediterranean desserts within the safety of Keto macros. What’s most important, this cake is abundant in healthy ingredients and can serve as a good, nourishing, and satisfying breakfast!
- 8 medium eggs Organic, free range
- 100 g butter Grass-fed, melted or softened
- 150 g ground almond Blanched
- 3 tbsp coconut flour
- 2 tbsp coconut flakes Organic
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract Sugar-free
- 1 tsp mastic extract* Sugar-free
- 1 tsp baking soda Aluminium free
- 2 tbsp lemon juice Organic
- 1 tbsp stevia powder
- 400 ml water filtrated
- 7 tbsp stevia powder Or according to your liking, this cake needs to be sweeter
- 1 whole orange peel Organic, cut into strips
- 50 ml lemon juice Organic
- 2 tbsp beef gelatine Grass-fed
- 3 sticks cinnamon
Decoration per piece
- 1 pinch crushed pistachio
- 1 pinch shredded coconut
- 1 stripe orange peel from the syrup
- First, prepare the syrup. The Revani rule says: Cold syrup goes on the hot cake! It would be good to prepare the syrup a night before and keep it in the room temperature.
- Place the water, stevia, orange peel strips and cinnamon sticks in a deep pot. bring it to a boil.
- Mix gelatine with 50 ml water and add it to the syrup. Let it simmer for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool down. Add lemon juice when the syrup is cold.
- Beat the eggs with butter, stevia, and baking soda. Add lemon juice, vanilla and beat for 3 more minutes.
- Combine coconut flour, ground almonds and coconut flakes and add this mixture spoon by spoon to the egg mixture. Keep mixing at high speed.
- Grease the 30 cm baking sheet or cake mould with some butter and pour in the cake batter.
- Bake at 180ºC for 25 minutes. When the cake is baked, using a ladle, pour the syrup all over the cake. Try to add it to the corners first, and very slowly in the middle in order to preserve the cakes hight. Take a sharp knife and stub the cake in several places so that it "drinks" the syrup.
- When the cake cools down place it in the refrigerator. Before serving, cut the cake in rectangular shapes, add some crushed pistachio, coconut flakes and a strip of orange peel from the syrup for decoration.