One such dish that Nimo taught us is what she called “eight day bread”, a sweet, egg-enriched braided bread that is eaten across the countries of the former Ottoman empire and in Greece and Armenia has specific associations with Easter. In Armenia it’s called “choereg” and in Greece it’s called ”tsoureki” or “lampropsomo”, derived from the Greek words for “Easter” and “bread” and refers to the light Christians believe is given by Christ’s resurrection.
There are many varieties of these festive breads, but what gives it its distinctive flavour and aroma is mahleb, an aromatic spice made from the seeds of a type of cherry. When ground to a powder, mahleb produces a flavour that’s much like a combination of bitter almond and cherry. The spice has several associations with Easter, not only in Greece, but also in Cyprus where it’s a used in a special Easter cheese-filled pastry called flaouna.
I’m still trying to navigate the landscape of Nimo’s food stories. Her food crosses several cultural landscapes and her methods are not recipes, but simple truths about cooking ingrained in her brain by tradition and repetition. The worktop must be clean. The ingredients must be good. The cooking must be done with care and respect. And the food must be enjoyed slowly and mindfully.