Ingredients (makes 25-30):
For the syrup:
500g (1lb) sugar
570ml (1 pint) water
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
½ cup honey
A few drops of lemon juice
For the biscuit:
150ml (1/4pint) olive oil
150ml (1/4pint) vegetable oil
147g (6oz) caster sugar
Juice of 2 large oranges and grated zest of 1 orange
1 liqueur glass of brandy
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
225g (8 oz) fine semolina
650g (1lb 4oz) plain flour (approx), sifted
A pinch of salt
Ground or finely chopped walnuts
Place all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan, apart from the honey, slowly bring to the boil until the sugar dissolves, add the honey and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a medium sized bowl, mix and whisk the orange juice, bicarbonate of soda, oils, grated zest, sugar, brandy and spices.
In another larger bowl, add the sifted flour, baking powder, salt and semolina.
Gradually add the wet ingredients to the flour and mix lightly, first with a wooden spoon, then using your hand until the mixture comes together and you have a light pliable, but firm dough – do not overwork the dough or it will become too oily and cracked up. If the dough is too soft to handle, add more flour and if too stiff, add more orange juice. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180c / 350f / gas mark 4.
Break off egg sized pieces of the dough, squeeze and roll them in the palm of your hands so that they hold together to make them malleable. Shape into ovals and with the back of a fork, gently make ridges on top of each biscuit as patterns – do not flatten them.
Place on baking tray lined with parchment paper, not too close together, and bake in a pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. They can be stored in airtight containers.
When required, warm syrup or make the syrup on the day. Dip cold biscuits in warm syrup a few at a time for 3 seconds only, otherwise they will break, and place on a rack to drain.
Arrange on a platter, drizzle with honey and sprinkle them with ground cinnamon and walnuts.
To dip in chocolate:
For best results, the chocolate should be tempered before coating. Melt two thirds of a 500g 50% dark chocolate bar over a pan of simmering hot water, over a low heat. Once it has melted, remove from the heat and add the remaining third, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Dip the melomakarona into the melted chocolate one by one and remove with a fork. Let the chocolate drain for a few seconds and transfer them onto a piece of parchment paper. Allow to rest until the chocolate has hardened. If the chocolate begins to thicken, heat it briefly.
Store in an airtight container.
NB: You can also stuff the biscuits with half a walnut or date; just press it into the biscuits before you bake them.