Greek Easter v.2010

Here we are, the day after Easter Sunday and another feast under our belts…literally! Easter for Greeks is the most significant religious holiday. With Easter, you get the death and resurrection of Christ…we don’t take death and rebirth lightly. Easter’ parallel with Spring, a new cycle of birth and regeneration all fall together perfectly for this Spring celebration – Easter.

Attending church services outdoors, spending the first full day outdoors with family and friends, breaking bread and toasting to the “new year” with Spring bringing new life. Easter lamb is quite often roasted on an outdoor rotisserie, mezedes (appetizers) are served in waves, drinks (alcohol) are paired with the hosts creations and song and dance ingnite a new round of food and drink.

Last year my family  enjoyed a whole (bone in) leg of lamb on the rotisserie. The previous year we roasted a whole lamb on the spit. This year we opted for the leg of lamb roasted in the oven. We chose the leg of lamb this year for three reasons: concerned about cool weather with Easter appearing so early on the calendar, a request from my dad for the oven-roasted lamb and the simple fact that we didn’t have a large enough crowd to justifying a whole lamb on the spit.

Let me be clear here…nothing beats the whole lamb on the spit but it does not mean that a family can’t celebrate Easter without this centerpiece. There are many ways to cook a lamb and in Greece, there are many regional preferences…all traditional and every bit as delicious as the other.

My point is that there are options for you to do a traditional Greek Easter feast. This year’s feast centered on the leg of lamb in the oven plus many of my family’s favourites at the Easter table. Allow me to share the dishes of yesterday’s Easter celebration.

The Easter menu begins as soon as the family arrives back from a midnight mass at church. The traditional soup of Magheritsa is made earlier in the day. The aromas of Easter permeate through the home and the soup simmers all day. Magheritsa falls in line with Greek cuisines’ frugal and humble ways…nothing gets wasted and everything is turned into a delicious dish.

Magheritsa  contains lamb offal and Spring greens and finished off with a hand-beaten Avgolemono mixture. Beyond Magheritsa’s tradition, it also serves as a functional use during Easter. That is to say that Magheritsa serves as a bridge between fast and feast. This soup allows your digestive system to ease into the next day’s onslaught of food.

The next morning, the Tsoureki (Greek Easter bread) is sliced with delight. Fluffy on the inside, aromatic with lots of citrus zest, mastiha and mahlepi and with all the punching and rising this dough takes…it’s no wonder this traditional Easter bread is so light and fluffy to the touch and taste. Smear some butter on a slice of Tsoureki (or without) and enjoy with the morning’s coffee.

After breakfast, prepping for the day’s feast continues. Our family’s afternoon is filled with bits and bites, appetizers and mezedes to keep us at bay until the dinner our arrives, along with the lamb. The first offering for noshing are some Tyropitakia. These phyllo triangles are filled with Feta and ricotta and binded with beaten egg. Light, tasty and easy to make, they satiate my yen for cheese.

After sampling the Tyropitakia, we’re on to some dips, the first one being a “Htipiti” or Tyrokafteri. This dip contains a roasted and mashed mildly hot banana pepper, some crumble Feta and ricotta cheeses. I first had this dip at a taverna in Thessaloniki and it’s been a family fave ever since!

With a leg of lamb in the oven, my gas grill was free to use. I charred some eggplants and then scooped out the smoky flesh and pounded and mixed it with garlic, coarse sea salt and added a gradual stream of extra-virgin olive oil until I reached the creamy consistency that I like. Some chopped fresh parsley is thrown in to balance the garlic and you have one of my favourtite Greek dips, Melitzanosalata.

At this point in the day, it’s time to commence the meat portion of the day. Much like lamb’s presence at the Greek Easter table, Kokkoretsi is another must. Kokkoretsi is an Easter meze that’s made with lamb offal. It’s made as such: lamb organ meat (heart, lung, liver) are cubed and seasoned. They are then skewered and wrapped with caul fat and then wound with the lamb’s intestines. I’m not the biggest fan of liver but when all these components are combined, something magical happens and the Kokkoretsi is crispy on the outside, tender and flavourful meat on the inside. A perfect excuse to open a bottle of Greek wine.

Continuing with the meat theme, I then served a teaser of lamb chops to everyone. Marinated overnight and cooked over mediu heat on the grill, these lamb chops are crisp yet succulent and finger lickin’ good…please….eat with your hands!

Sweetbreads, yum! These morsels are the Thymus glands of a calf. I gently poach them, remove their thin membranes, season them and grill them. As a little twist, I also marinated them in some minced garlic, olive oil and smoked paprika. These simple flavours complemented this rich delicacy. Gawd I love Easter!

Sausages always make an appearance at our Easter table. These Macedonian sausages are homemade and flavours of Boukovo (chilli flakes) and leeks leave a “pop” in your mouth.

The rest of the afternoon is spent digesting, chatting, sipping on some more wine and waiting for the main event…the leg of lamb and all the fixins’. A tradition Spring salad of Romaine lettuce, scallions and chopped fresh dill is a delightful way to help welcome Spring.

I also grilled some in season asparagus. Tossed in olive oil and minced garlic, a light seasoning and on the grill they go. A drizzle of olive oil and some lemon zest are all that’s needed for one of my favourite vegetables.

A family favourite (a Greek favourite) are roasted potatoes. We usually go with this recipe but on the occasion of Easter, we tossed the potatoes in the marinade that was leftover from the lamb. These spuds were fantastic and a perfect complement to the day’s showstopper, the roasted leg of lamb.

Mission accomplished. Everyone enjoyed this whole, bone-in leg of lamb. Selected from Kostas Meat Market, who proudly only serves local, fresh Ontario lamb. The night before, I studded the leg of lamb with slivers of fresh garlic and then rubbed it in a marinade that complemented and brought out lamb’s delicious flavour. The Greek way to cook lamb is well-done yet with a fall-off the bone ending with juicy, flavourful meat that flakes with a poke of the fork.

The evening ended with a fruit platter, some more Tsoureki and a new dessert, Anna Olson’s Banana Caramel Cheesecake.

In my next post, I will include the recipe for the leg of lamb plus any other dishes that I might have missed today. Who’s joining me for Easter next year? Mark your calendars…April 24th, 2011 arrives quickly!

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis

© 2010,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

37 Comments for “Greek Easter v.2010”

says:

Please, reserve some settings at the table for my family and I… We will get to your house even if by wagon train! Everything, Peter, is just breathtakingly delicious looking!!

says:

Gorgeous as usual, Peter. And you’ve always got me beat with the photos… I always get so caught up in the holiday spirit that I never manage to get any good pictures of our feasts! That lamb is calling my name… nothing like a bone in roast, is there?

says:

You’ve lost me at a bout the third course. geez Peter, what a feast it was. Is it possible to eat even just a little of each dish? Well done for preparing everything so tasty and flavorful!

says:

Well I hope you didn’t make that offer idly. You could possibly have a houseful next year. Your holidays are the best! I saw your prep photos of the offal dish and I cannot say that my mouth was watering…however, the after photo looks so delicious that I have no doubt that it tastes wonderful.

says:

Count me in for next year. I wouldn’t miss it for anything. That is an amazing feast to be sure. You must have gained five pounds. We did a leg of lamb on the grill too and I am looking forward to leftovers tonight.

says:

What an amazing Easter feast! I can’t even pick a favorite since everything looks so delicious. Sounds like you enjoyed a perfect holiday.

says:

There was never any doubt that your celebrations would be filled with family and delicious food. I had Easter dinner with Italians and we feasted too!!!!

says:

what a spread peter! well, i would expect a spread like this from you. i mean this is just fabulous. you know i’m loving the banana cheesecake a little more though and the dip!!
you have to have 2 fridges in your place right? one for food, one for leftovers? LOL

ELENA

says:

Χρόνια Πολλά, Χριστός Ανέστη!
Ελπίζω να πέρασες πολύ όμορφα τις μέρες του Πάσχα Peter!!
Ki αν κρίνω από τα καλούδια που βλέπω, τέλεια πέρασες!!!!!

says:

I was just fine, drooling over each dish, beginning to get a bit full when you got to the lamb chops, then came sweetbreads, sausage, salad, asparagus, potatoes(!), leg of lamb……….
and THEN dessert? How did you walk the next day? Small bites, of course. :)

GreenTears

says:

Thank you, Peter, for taking me through Lent and Easter this year – I have learned so much from you! I love how you write your recipes and the photographs are excellent. I was often pleased to find that my results closely resembled yours – what a confidence boost!

Themis

says:

Christos Anesti, Peter! It’s great to read the emphasis you have put on fasting during Easter, as well as the fact that fasting does not mean that food has to be bland, boring or unpalatable; in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Kai tou Chronou!

Ξανθή

says:

Χριστός Ανέστη και Χρόνια Πολλά!!
Υπέροχο τραπέζι με εξαιρετικά εδέσματα!!
Και του χρόνου!!!

says:

bravo peter, this looks good
with easter coming early this year, i was a bit worried about the weather too – but we were very lucky with the warm sunny weather

says:

Xronia polla Peter! What a great array of dishes you cooked up! Also your photos look great and well lit./ Did you get a new camera? We had fantastic weather this year, almost summer, exactly the type you need for a good “arni sti souvla”.

says:

Peter what a feast! that leg of lamb looks so juicy and succulent. hope you had a great time with family and friends – by the looks of the food you definitely did!

says:

Just reward for fasting through Lent! We went with a Greek theme for our Easter dinner too – kleftiko (got a shoulder of mutton), dolmades, tzatziki and some stuffed peppers. Delicious!

says:

There are some bloggers whose Easter posts I have been anxiously awaiting. Yours was one of them. So happy to see this. Gorgeous photos and just delicious looking food. I could devour that entire leg of lamb. Your meze were beautiful. The veggies look tasty. If you have a slice of that cheesecake left over, please feel free to send it my way.

says:

Sounds like Easter is more important than Christmas for Greek folks! I have never seen such a spread! so many mouthwatering dishes (I will leave the offals to offal fans). Amazing!

says:

Did that look yummy! Always love to see what others serve on their Easter or any dinner table! So this was pure delight, wish we’d been there to sample all the dishes. Funnily enough I have been looking for sausages with leeks in them lately! Small sausage world isn’t it?

says:

Wow, Peter, I was wondering how you’d prepare the offal. The Sweetbreads look/sound delicious (tho’ I enjoyed sweetbreads as a kid so not too far outside of my comfort zone). As for lungs, they’re edible? Anyways, that dish (I can’t seem to copy & paste to get the spelling right) has some potential in getting me to try something new. Happy Easter.

says:

Χριστός Ανέστη, χρόνια πολλά και του χρόνου με υγεία!

says:

τι τέλεια η αναρτησή σου Πήτερ μου !!!! υπέροχα τα καλούδια σου !!!
και του χρόνου να είμαστε καλά . Χρόνια πολλά με υγεία και αγάπη!!!!!!!

πολλά φιλιά και απο τον Φώτη, τον Αριστοτέλη και την Ελενα !!!

says:

OMG! That looks so tasty and juicy. I know it is really delicious because Lamb meat with herbs and spices will always be a perfect meal. Sweet meat, juicy meat and most of all, Tasty meat. yummy!

Also, I’ve notice, you have good photography and food presentation skills.