Today is Easter Sunday for the Greek Orthodox church and it’s one of the best time to be in Greece. Spring has sprang, the weather is ideal for long walks in the country and for site seeing. Though Greece is a popular summer destination, visiting during spring might be the best choice.
While Mediterranean nature is at it’s best, Greek Easter festivities are a unique experience that one should have at least once in a lifetime.
Easter Sunday is the day of the big feast. Friends and family gather to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and despite being up throughout the evening for the jubilant Resurrection feast, everyone is up early the next morning to prepare for the Easter Sunday dinner. The most celebrated of the Holy Week, Easter Sunday is a feast of lamb served in honor of the lamb of God. The lamb is usually roasted on a spit outside, and the entire day is celebrated with food, wine, music, friends, and lots of dancing.
The table is set outdoors from 10 o’clock in the morning serving sweet bread and cookies to accompany your coffee only to be replaced around noon by egg salad and other meze dishes to accompany your ouzo, the unbeatable aperitif, the anise-flavored liqueur that is a specialty of Greece. Appetizers keep coming and coming until the main dinner is served early in the afternoon. No Greek will deny you a place at his table. In fact it is a holy tradition to invite strangers to dine with you during Easter Sunday. If you happen to pass by a Greek house that day and see a festive group of people gathered around a table, don’t hesitate to stop and greet them by saying “Christos Anesti”, meaning Christ is Risen. I bet you’ll end up dinning with them 😉
What’s on the menu?
1. The lamb
Whole, spit-roasted lamb or goat may be the most popular way to prepare the main course but in some cases local cooks prefer to stuff them and roast them whole, often in the village bread-baker’s oven or in traditional stone-made ovens (if they happen to have one at home).
I guess you won’t be cooking a spit-roast lamb at home but don’t worry, I have the perfect roast lamb recipe for you to try the by Peter at the Souvlaki for the Soul which is the next best thing.
2. The absolute Easter meze – Kokoretsi
Nothing is wasted on the Easter table, and so Greeks have long savored plenty of offal as part of the traditional feast. The best known offal dish is the Kokoretsi, a kind of large sausage usually roasted on a spit but sometimes oven-roasted. I won’t give you a recipe for that because it’s too difficult to make at home, but if you happen to be in Greece don’t hesitate to give it a try…Greeks know how to cook offal!
3. The necessary sauce – Tzatziki
You can’t have Easter feast without tzatziki. It is the absolute dip – sauce to accompany roast lamb or any other meat. Made with Greek yogurt, garlic and fresh herbs, tzatziki brings freshness in a rather heavy meal. Need a recipe to try it? I’ll give you my personal version of the best tzatziki
- 300 g Greek yogurt (strained yogurt)
- 1 cucumber
- 2 carrots
- 1-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt – pepper
- Peel the cucumber and grate with a cheese grater, using the large blades.
- Repeat the same with carrots.
- Put cucumber in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt, toss and set aside to release its liquid.
- In the meantime, combine the yogurt, the garlic clove(s) (minced), shredded carrots,3 tablespoons white wine vinegar and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix until combined and creamy.
- Squeeze the cucumber with your hands to release any remaining liquid. Discard the liquid and add the cucumber to the yogurt mixture.
- Stir into mixture. Add pepper and adjust salt according to taste.
- Add some finely chopped dill and your sauce is ready.
- Refrigerate until needed.
4. The Salad
You’ve got to have salad with every meal and this particular meal calls for a fresh salad with a light dressing. This salad is a combination of fresh green leaves (lettuce, valerian, baby rocket) herbs (dill, wild mint) and finely chopped spring onions, with some fresh feta cheese chunks and a light lemony vinaigrette. You can add a couple of your hard boiled red eggs cut in quarters. You will be amazed with how this salad works with tzatziki and roast lamb!
Bon Apettit Everyone!
…and happy Greek Easter 😉