Hardboiled eggs dyed scarlet are the most vivid symbols of Greek Orthodox Easter food and in our house, it’s an annual event. I’m not Orthodox but my daughters are, and such cultural traditions celebrate our Greek ties. Greek Easter sometimes coincides with the Catholic and Protestant Easter, but is often a week or two later. This year Greek Easter Sunday is celebrated on April 15.
Many Greeks fast beforehand, abstaining from meat, dairy products and oil for up to 40 days beforehand during Lent. Eggs can be bought already dyed. But it’s more fun to do it yourself during Easter week with a powdered dye added to the pot of water boiling the eggs. And then you just need to shine them with a cloth dipped in olive oil. Other vivid colors are also used, and they’re often decorated with patterns. They are piled into a bowl to make a festive table centre, or added to the center of the sweet Easter bread tsoureki.
Easter’s fast is broken traditionally with a soup after the Saturday midnight church service, containing the liver and other organs of the lamb, while the outer meat is spit-roasted and served to a large family gathering on Easter Sunday. The soup, called maigaritsa, is an acquired taste, I must say, and I never did acquire it. The red eggs are cracked after midnight too, with traditional greetings of ”Christos Anesti!” (Christ is risen) as one person cracks their egg top or bottom against the egg of their neighbor’s, to which their neighbor replies “Alithos Anesti”, (Truly he is risen).
There’s always a competition to see whose egg remains intact, and families are fiercely competitive! A rogue wooden egg is sometimes placed among the real ones….
Lamb is also served in pitas (or pies) . Taste for Travel’s foodie writer Georgia Gerardis, who lives on the Greek island of Rhodes, has cooked us a yummy treat combining lamb, feta cheese and filo pastry.
Lamb and feta rolls
1 and a half cup of crumbled feta, Salt-pepper to taste, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon dried oregano, 1/3 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 lemon juice, 500 gr filo pastry sheets
Cook the minced meat in a skillet with a little oil till it turns into brown, add the herbs the onions and pepper and cook for a few minutes only. Remove from heat. Add the feta and lemon juice in the end when it has cooled off. Take one sheet of filo at a time (keep the rest covered with a damp towel to prevent dryness) slightly brush half a sheet of filo and fold in half. Add a little mixture lengthwise approx. 3 cm thick and fold the sides inwards (to prevent the filling from dropping out) and roll. They will look like big spring rolls. You can either cook them in the oven for a lighter version (brush with a little oil before baking) or deep fry them after you freeze them for a day (they will keep a nice shape this way and won’t absorb as much oil). They can be kept in the freezer for a month. Makes: 12 rolls
Preparation time: 20 minutes. Oven time: 15 minutes at 180C. Kali orexi!
Read about Georgia’s restaurant Ammoyiali here.
©Recipe and pictures of the lamb rolls Georgia Gerardis 2012