These Greek traditional superfood bowls are the perfect plant-based breakfast (or even dessert) full of antioxidants and health benefits
These vegan Greek superfood breakfast bowls are called Koliva. Koliva is a simple but amazing recipe full of superfoods which provide you enough energy and nutrients to start your day right. Wheat berries, raisins, almonds, sesame seeds, walnuts, pomegranate, cinnamon, and chickpea flour are all foods known for their many health benefits and for being rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and healthy fats. Traditionally, koliva is made with icing sugar as the sweetener but you can use maple syrup (or honey for non-vegans) for a more healthy option. Moreover, they’re so versatile, you can eat them for breakfast, snack or even dessert. And if you’re like me and think that hiding superfoods inside your desserts is a great idea, then you’ll find this olive oil babka bread with goji berries, saffron, and white chocolate filling very interesting!
It is tradition In Greece to offer koliva after memorials. In such cases, all the grains, nuts and fruits are put in large serving plates and then covered firstly with chickpea flour and then with icing sugar which is compressed in a way so that it forms a smooth white surface. This white surface is then decorated with almonds, cinnamon, and sugar coated nuts. And because according to the Greek tradition, the souls can only see the red and the green color, it is obligatory for this recipe to include ingredients of these colors. Pomegranate offers the bright red, almost ruby color while spearmint adds the green notes. From what I’ve seen till now, spearmint is mostly used in Crete, whereas in other parts of Greece people use parsley. You can choose whatever green suits your taste better, but please use spearmint! (or mint). Anyway, the fact is that there’s not one person who will hear the word koliva and will not salivate in anticipation and that’s why many people (myself included) make koliva often, just to have it for breakfast or snack.
Except for the spearmint, another difference between Crete and the rest of Greece is that in Crete we use chickpea flour from roasted chickpeas while in other regions they use plain flour. These chickpeas are called “stragalia” and are usually served with other nuts as a snack. If you have stragalia, you can process them in your food processor until they become powder (pass the flour through a sieve to catch any big chunks). Otherwise, you can use chickpea flour or all purpose flour which you will roast in the oven, inside a large pan. Roast it until it darkens in color and stir it often, every 5-10 minutes to avoid burning it.
Something you should be aware of when making koliva is the bacterium called Bacillus cereus, which can lead to food poisoning. This bacillus is a bacterium found in cereal and under certain conditions, it can multiply very quickly. There are two things you should keep in mind if you want to avoid any unpleasant situations. Add the sweetener only before serving and store in the fridge any koliva you have left. This is the reason why the typical Greek koliva is first covered with the flour and then with the sugar. That way the sugar doesn’t come in contact with the wheat berries.
- Soaking the wheat berries is not necessary but it helps them cook in less time.
- Do not mix the koliva with the sugar (or another sweetener) and then let it at room temperature for a long time because this can lead to the development of harmful bacteria. It is best to keep it refrigerated and add the sweetener before serving.
- Substitute mint or parsley for spearmint.
- Substitute roasted all-purpose flour for chickpea flour.
- If you want to eat this for breakfast, you should prepare the wheat berries from the previous day and store them in the fridge. They will keep well for up to 2 days.
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Vegan Greek superfood breakfast (or dessert) bowls - Koliva
- 1 cup (200 grams) wheat berries (preferably soaked in water for 6-8 hours)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Lemon peel from 1 lemon
- ⅓ cup (50 grams) raisins
- ½ cup (60 grams) sliced almonds
- ½ cup (60 grams) walnuts, chopped
- ¼ cup pomegranate arils
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- A pinch of ground cloves
- 5-6 spearmint leaves, finely chopped
- 1 - 1 ½ cups (100 - 150 grams) chickpea flour from roasted chickpeas
- 1 cup (150 grams) toasted whole sesame seeds
- Sweetener: 2 cups (250 grams) icing sugar [you can substitute with ¾ cups (250 grams) maple syrup (or honey for non-vegans)]
- Transfer the soaked wheat berries to a pot and fill with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes or until the berries just start to open up. Remove from heat, add the lemon peel and the salt and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Rinse well and drain in a colander. Spread some kitchen towels on a large pan, spread the wheat berries on top and let it drain well.
- Process the sesame seeds in the food processor for 20 seconds, then, add the walnuts and process for another 10 seconds until the walnuts are chopped in small pieces.
- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. The mixture will look dry at first, but wheat berries will release some moisture when mixed with the rest of the ingredients. You can eat it right away or you can let it rest for 15-20 minutes if you like them with more moisture.
You can adjust the quantities of the ingredients to your liking!
The almonds and walnuts can be raw or toasted, depending on your preference.
Traditional koliva are made with icing sugar.
If you substitute toasted all-purpose flour for the chickpea flour, reduce the quantity to ½ - ¾ cups.
If you're not going to eat the koliva right away, store the cooked wheat berries separately from the rest of the ingredients. Just before serving, mix one part wheat berries with one part of the rest of the ingredients and the sweetener of your choice.
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