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 (the 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 raps it against another's egg. The one whose egg survives and remains uncracked is considered 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.