Lydia's guide to Greek Easter food
Hello again everyone! Since I am spending Easter in Athens, Greece I decided to write another blog about which traditional foods Greeks enjoy on this holiday.
Every Easter Sunday, the whole family comes together. From parents and grandparents to second or third degree cousins everyone gathers around the table to celebrate the special day. They all cook delicious traditional dishes like succulent lamb with potatoes, refreshing Greek salad with feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, onions and kalamata olives, other types of meat like oven baked baby goat and a Greek traditional soup called “Magiritsa” which contains green vegetables and lamb liver. Everyone helps in the preparations of the Easter lamb, drinks lots of wine and most probably talks about politics! Here are some of the most traditional Easter foods you will find in Greece.
Lamb on the spit
Easter Sunday celebrations start early in the morning. The main food is lamb on the spit, which takes around 4 hours to cook. However, its preparation is a much longer process and requires lots of skill. First the lamb needs to be washed inside out and left to dry. Then lemon and salt need to be poured inside and outside the lamb together with pepper and thyme or oregano. After lighting the charcoals, the cook needs to start rotating the lamb fast and once all of the fat melts, rotations should be slower. Once the meat is cooked it is ready for serving, however it is enjoyed best while it is on the spit when everyone pulls out small bites of it. If the weather is nice (which usually is during Easter) everything happens outside, in gardens or courtyards with lots of wine, tsipouro and of course traditional bouzouki music!
Coloured Easter eggs is a must follow tradition in Greece. People paint the eggs on Thursday before Easter in many colours but primarily in red, because it represents Jesus’ blood. There are two ways to paint the eggs, either naturally or by using artificial colours. Both processes are really simple: First you boil the eggs (preferably white ones for a more vibrant colour) and then you add the colouring. If you are following the natural painting process, together with the eggs you can boil beetroot, which provides the eggs with the red colour. According to Greek tradition all family members need to “bang” each other’s eggs. Loser of the “game” is the one whose egg gets crushed on both sides first.
If you visit Greece during Easter time you will always find traditional Easter biscuits in every bakery or coffee shop. These are simple vanilla biscuits in the shape of a braid. What makes them special (apart from their shape) is their orange flavour and aroma, which creates the perfect balance together with the hints of vanilla.
Sweet Easter bread
It might sound cheesy or an over-statement but this could be the best bread you will ever have. Similar to hot cross buns, Greek Easter bread is sweet, also in the shape of a braid. It is soft and best enjoyed with a cup of hot tea or coffee. It makes a great breakfast option and the anise flavour gives it a unique taste. The best part is that you can find it in many different flavours like chocolate, chestnut and white chocolate or even with mastiha crème (made of a traditional Greek mastiha a fruit which comes from a tree that only grows in the island of Chios and has a truly unique taste).
This is not a very popular Easter food but for those who come from or have visited the island of Crete, it is one of the tastiest treats you can find during Easter time. It is a star shaped shell made of soft dough and filled with a mixture of sweet cheese, sugar, eggs and cinnamon. It is the perfect balance between a sweet and savoury treat and, if you ask me, I could really eat hundreds of them! They are really difficult to make, so if you ever visit Greece, make sure to ask around who makes the best.
After this delicious feast, as you can most probably imagine, everyone is stuffed and just needs to relax. Going home and lying on the bed or sofa is the best option to relax and recover from the large quantity of food consumed. And if there are any left-overs the family might get together again the next day to eat the rest!