By Kevin Gilbert
Growing up, for me, the Easter period meant family time interspersed with Mum’s visits to church, playing ‘‘conkers’’ with Dad, and learning how to make hot cross buns as well as how to dye eggs. And then there was feeling ill after eating what should have been several weeks worth of chocolate in an afternoon.
It never occurred to me that not everyone had the same traditions. That there were kids in Ecuador learning which 12 beans and grains to use for fanesca, or Greek kids cleverly combining coloured eggs with the game of conkers. Genius.
I’m not suggesting that we do away with foods like hot cross buns and Easter eggs but, with such a variety of foods from around the world, I’m going to try a little something different this Easter. Here are some ideas.
Torta Pasqualina — Argentina
While this savoury tart originated in Italy, it was brought to South America in the late 1800s by immigrants and has found a beloved home, especially in Argentina and Peru.
It’s pretty much a layered pie made with spinach or artichokes, ricotta and eggs.
Traditionally, the dough used to wrap it up is similar to filo, but modern versions have seen a move to puff pastry.
Soups seem to be a popular option at Easter, with some being eaten straight after a midnight church service, others taking days to make and a daunting array of ingredients, and still others being a decidedly simple affair.
Mageiritsa — Greece
It turns out that, in Greece, the main meal on Easter Sunday is a roast lamb.
Mageiritsa is a soup made from, well, the bits normally removed before roasting.
Not wanting to waste anything, the lamb’s head, neck, intestines, liver and heart are cooked into a robust soup that is eaten straight after midnight liturgy on Easter Saturday.
Fanesca — Ecuador
Quite a challenge to make in New Zealand, as some of the required ingredients might prove problematic to find, fanesca is a soup enjoyed the week leading up to Easter.
It is made from fig-leaf gourd (good luck finding that around here), 12 types of beans and grains including chocho (a bean grown high in the Andes), and then garnished with fried plantains (a specific type of banana). I heart that the best fanesca comes from Cuenca, in Ecuador’s southern Andes.
Kerbelsuppe — Germany
A simple soup made from stock, onions, potatoes for thickening, and flavoured with chervil. It is traditionally eaten on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday of Easter weekend), which is known in Germany as Grundonnerstag (green Thursday).
Rosquillas — Spain
If it is something sweet you’re looking for, you could always try rosquillas. Somewhere between a doughnut and a cake, these deep-fried treats apparently date back to when the Romans were trudging around Europe.
The Spaniards don’t do this sweet treat by halves and, while it is enjoyed at other times of the year, Easter is a traditional time for it. There are several versions available
from the original and simple rosquillas tonta which is a plain dough flavoured with anise through to rosquillas de Santa Clara which are larger and coated in meringue.
Mammi — Finland
I realise that as soon as the word ‘‘molasses’’ is mentioned, a lot of people are instantly put off, but this is one that will definitely be getting tried in our house this year.
A chilled dessert made with rye flour, molasses, malt and orange zest, served with milk or cream, this is right up my alley.
Tsoureki — Greece
Tsoureki is a plaited sweet bread traditionally served at Easter, when it is often decorated with eggs that have had their shells dyed red. I need to say sygnomi (sorry) to the Greek community in Dunedin. I have taken the liberty of substituting the traditional spices with vanilla (in place of mastic) and ground fennel (instead of mahleb).
You can go several ways to get red-coloured eggs, by boiling them with onion skins or beetroot, or by soaking the boiled eggs in water with some food colouring added. In either case, add in a wee dash of vinegar as this helps the colour to set.
- 12g active yeast
- 55g warm water
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp ground fennel
- 70g butter
- 115g sugar
- 8g salt
- 75g milk
- 100g (approx. 2) eggs
- 435g flour
- Zest of 1 orange
- 3 red-coloured eggs in shells
1. Get the yeast going by adding it to the warm water along with a good pinch of the sugar. After about 10 minutes, this should be bubbly and starting to froth.
2. In a saucepan, gently melt the butter in the milk along with the remaining sugar.
3. Once the mixture is lukewarm, whisk in the eggs, vanilla, orange zest and the yeast mixture.
4. Mix together the flour, salt and ground fennel.
5. Bring together the wet and dry ingredients and knead until a smooth dough is formed.
6. Rest the dough for about 3 hours or until it’s approximately doubled in size.
7. Divide into three equal pieces and roll them into long sausages around 50cm in length.
8. Braid them into a tight plait, placing your red eggs among the strands. Tuck the ends under the loaf to keep it looking tidy.
9. Loosely cover with plastic (I use a repurposed old-style shopping bag) and allow to prove for about 1 hour. When you press the side of the loaf, the indentation should spring back a little but still leave a dent.
10. Optional: Glaze the loaf with either egg wash or milk, making sure to avoid the coloured eggs, and sprinkle with sliced almonds.
11. Bake for 20 minutes at 175degC and remove either when you tap the bottom of the loaf and it sounds hollow, or when the internal temperature reaches 92degC.
Credit: Otago Daily Times