For the Greeks, Easter is regarded as the greatest celebration of the year. The festive pascal menu includes a wide variety of traditional foods such as magiritsa ( Easter Midnight Soup), ovelias (seasoned lamb or goat on the skew), kokoretsi (seasoned lamb offal wrapped in chopped indestines), tsoureki (a kind of brioche-fluffy easter bread) and flaounes in Cyprus (easter cheese pies) and, of course, the easter eggs. They are mostly painted red on Holy Thursday and symbolise Christ's blood. However, other colours can be used such as green, blue and yellow to symbolise springtime and the fertility of nature. During the Midnight Easter Supper and the Easter Lunch each person chooses an egg and taps the egg of another person with one's own egg intending to break the other's,. The one whose egg survives and remains uncracked is considered to be lucky.
A. GREEK EASTER EGGS
You will need
1 package of easter eggs dye
1/2 cup white vinegar
12 eggs, at room temperature
olive oil for glazing
1.Wash eggs carefully to remove any dirt.
2.Place the eggs in a large stainless steel pot, preferably in a single layer, cover with water, add some white vinegar and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. Turn off heat.
3. Dilute the dye powder in a cup of warm water and add it to the eggs stirring lightly.
4. Check for colour after 10-15 minutes, remove eggs that have reached the desired colour and cool slightly on a rack.
5. .Rub each egg with an oiled cloth to glaze the surface and polish with kitchen paper.
6. .Keep dyed eggs in the fridge until ready to use.
1. The eggs must be left at room temperature for about an hour before boiling them.
2. A natural red dye can be made from yellow onion skins. Just simmer the skins of 15 yellow onions with 2 Tbs white vinegar and 4 ½ cups water for 30 minutes. Strain and let cool until it reaches room temperature. The result will be an orange colored liquid. Simmer eggs, covered, in this liquid, and they will turn a lovely red color. Turn heat off after 20 minutes and leave to cool with the eggs that have not attained the desired depth of colour yet.
B. MAGIRITSA - Easter Midnight Soup
a lamb's liver
heart lights and intestines
juice of 3 lemons
6 spring onions, trimmed, rinsed and finely sliced
25 gr. butter (about 1/2 cup)
2. 2 lettuces, trimmed, shredded and rinsed carefully (use only their young leaves and hearts)
a cup of fresh dill or fennel, rinsed and finely chopped
a cup of finely chopped parsley
1.2 lt hot water
salt and black pepper
60 gr. rice (about 1 cup)
avgolemono sauce (egg and lemon sauce)
juice of 2 lemons
Rinse all the meat. Turn the intestines inside out with the help of a thin stick and rinse them thoroughly. Rub them with salt and lemon juice and rinse them again. Cube them into small portions. In a large saucepan, sautee the onions in the butter, until they start to change colour. Add the chopped intestines, liver, lights and heart, fry together for a few minutes, stirring. Add the shredded lettuces and all the fresh herbs and sautee for a few more minutes. Add the hot water, and seasoning, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Then add the rice and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes, before proceeding with the avgolemono sauce. Add the Avgolemono Sauce* to the soup, stirring. Return to a very gentle heat for 2 minutes, stirring at the same time. It should be by now a relatively thick soup.
Lightly beat 2 eggs. Add the lemon juice and beat again. Add 3-4 spoonfuls from the soup and stir to mix. Then add the avgolemono to the soup stirring well.
C. FLAOUNES - Easter Cheese Pies
Makes about 12.
1 ½ lbs (750gr) strong plain flour,
1 sachet easy bake yeast,
1 teaspoon salt,
2 teaspoons sugar,
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, water to mix.
8oz (250gr) cheddar cheese ot 12oz flaouna cheese if available,
4oz (100gr) halloumi,
1 tablespoon flour,
1 teaspoon baking powder,
1 tablespoon crushed dried Mint,
4 eggs, lightly beaten.
1 egg, beaten,
Sift flour into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast, salt and sugar. Add the oil and enough water to make a firm dough. Knead for at least 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a plastic bag and leave in a warm place for an hour to rise.
For the filling, coarsely grate the cheeses, add the flour and baking powder then gradually stir in the beaten egg and seasonings until you have a stiffish paste ( keep some of the beaten egg back if the mixture becomes too runny).
Divide the dough into egg sized pieces and roll these into 4'' (10cm) discs.
Place a generous tablespoon of filling in the centre of each pastry disc, spreading it slightly. Pull dough up at 3 points to make a triangle, or 4 points to make a square. You should stilll be able to see the filling in the middle.
Press corners together to seal and leave to rise. Just before baking, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle some sesame seeds over the finished flaounes.
Bake in a hot oven gas 8, 450'C, 230'C for 12-15 minutes until cheese filling is puffed and flaounes are golden.
Serve warm or cold.
D. TSOUREKI - Greek Easter Loaf
Tsoureki, the Greek Easter Loaf, is something very similar to the french brioche and yet unique. It's our very special Easter treat. If you are ...patient, it's easy to make.
- 1 kilo (2lbs 4 oz) flour plus 1 extra cup of flour
- 1 cup of lukewarm milk
- 2 sachets instant dry yeast
- 1.5 cups sugar
- cherry mahaleb and mastic or grated lemon rind
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 6 eggs
- 1 egg to glaze
- 1-2 tbs sugar to glaze
- Pour the milk into a deep bowl and add in 1-2 tbs of sugar and the yeast.
- Dissolve the yeast well with your fingers and gradually add 1/2 cup from the 1 kg flour through a sieve mixing with your fingers till it becomes a watery batter. Cover the bowl with foil and wrap it with a warm towel. Leave for 15-20 minutes to rise.
- In the meantime, melt the shortening without browning. Beat the eggs well. Pound the cherry mahaleb and mastic with two tbs sugar.
- In another large bowl, mix the remaining of the 1kg flour with the remaining sugar, cherry mahaleb and mastic. Pour in the melted shortening and knead gently.
- Add the eggs and continue to knead gently. Make a well in the centre, pour in the batter and knead to combine.
- Continue kneading gradually adding about 1 cup flour to make a fluffy dough.
- Wrap it with a woolen blanket and leave in a warm place for 5-8 hours or till it doubles in size.
- Knead again. The size of the dough will get smaller.
- Divide into three portions and each portion into another three.
- Roll out into strips of 2cm thick. Plait these strips together loosely. This makes 3 tsourekia.
- Place the tsourekia on a large baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper leaving some space in-between.
- Cover again with a warm towel and leave in a warm place for about 2-3 hours or till the dough doubles in size.
- Beat lightly 1 egg with 1-2 tbs sugar and glaze the tsourekia.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven (150*C / 302*F) for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Note: The milk must be lukewarm - not hot! Otherwise, the strength of the yeast will be reduced and the tsoureki will not rise.
Recipe by: Sandra Lysandrou
E. KOKORETSI (seasoned lamb offal wrapped in chopped indestines )
- Guts of lamb. You might need guts from more than one lamb. Ask for 2 hearts, 2 spleen, liver and 1 lungs, 2 testicles
- Bowels (intestines) of lamb. At least 4 are required for a medium size kokoretsi
- Some olive oil
Wash the guts very thoroughly and cut them in small pieces. Be careful not to cut them in too small pieces because you will no be able to skewer them. Wash the bowels very carefully and try to clean them from inside. Leave them in a washbowl and keep the ends of each bowel in one side in order to be able to seperate them. Prepare the souvla (iron stick). Start skewering the guts in the iron stick until all are passed to the iron stick. Pin one end of the first bowel in the one side of the souvla and wind the intestine around the skewer. If the bowel reaches its end tie it with the end of the next bowel and continue to wind until all bowels are wrapped and no guts are visible (you should only see the bowels along the souvla). Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Prepare the fire and roast on all sides until guts are brown and crispy. Check that "kokoretsi" is ready and remove from fire. Cut the kokoretsi in cylinders of 5 cm wide in order to remove it from the souvla in pieces. Put in platter, oil the kokoretsi pieces, season with extra salt, pepper and oregano and serve.
Kokoretsi is a meal that is traditionally made and served at Easter, along with Lamb on the Spit. It is made from the internal organs of the lamb, arranged on a skewer and cooked over the hot coals along with the lamb on Easter Sunday.