Greek Orthodox Easter is not far now, only three weeks away. It is a time of fasting, and the Lenten begins on Clean Monday, which is seven weeks before Easter. The purpose of fasting is to cleanse the body and spirit. During this fasting, you abstain from foods that contain red blood, meat, poultry, milk, cheese and eggs, for example.
I am looking forward to all the Easter preparations, which begin on Holy Thursday when the eggs are dyed red and all the baking begins. It is a time to bake tsourekia and koulouria, a time when the house is filled with aromas of mahlepi and warm tsoureki straight out of the oven.
My kitchen becomes a hive of conversation and laughter.
Good Friday is the holiest day of the Easter calendar, the most significant religious celebration in the Greek Orthodox faith. It is a day of mourning. Traditional foods such as lentil soup are eaten. There is a church service in the afternoon and families attend at this time and help decorate the Epitaphio (the tomb of Christ) with fresh flowers, later to return for the evening service when the priest and choir chant Byzantine hymns.
On Holy Saturday, the Mayeritsa (Easter soup) is being cooked and the house prepared for the coming feast.
Families attend church for the Resurrection service. Just before midnight the church is darkened and everyone is silent. The flickering light of the ‘Eternal Flame’ (a candle inside the altar) is the only light. At midnight, the priest lights his candle from the Eternal Flame and sings ‘Christos Anesti’ …everyone joins in and chants ‘Christos Anesti’. Families enjoy the late dinner of Mayeritsa once back home breaking the fast.
Easter Sunday is a day to be spent with family and friends and every soul feasts on lamb, usually cooked on a spit or, at times, oven roasted. Always a great day spent with loved ones.
Here is my Mayeritsa recipe… Hope you like it!
Mayeritsa (Greek Easter Soup)
3 litres of water
½ cup finely chopped dill
½ cup chopped spring onions
½ iceberg lettuce finely chopped
½ cup medium grain rice (optional)
salt and pepper
250 grams lamb intestines
500 grams (in total) lamb heart, liver and kidney
egg and lemon sauce
Wash the intestines well. It is easier cut into smaller lengths then with the help of a knitting needle or skewer turn them inside out and wash well under running cold water. Soak in a bowl with water and lemon juice for 10 minutes, drain and wash with cold water. Blanch in some salted water for 5-6 minutes, drain and cut into small pieces.
Wash the meats well and cut into bite sized pieces. Place in a saucepan with water and bring to boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes, drain and let cool.
In a large saucepan pour a little olive oil, heat and place in the dill, spring onions and lettuce a sauté a litte. Add the meats and seasonings, water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, then add rice (if you are adding rice) and cook until both the meat and rice are cooked.
Make the egg and lemon sauce and add to the soup.