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Sunday, 20 April 2008

Palm Sunday and the Holy Week (Κυριακή των Βαϊων και Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα)

In the run-up to Easter, to mark the beginning of Holy Week, my already-lenten cooking is simply going to become more traditional rather than more lenten. In a household that eats mainly vegetarian meals, with meat being served no more than two days a week, it isn't too difficult to get everyone to eat lenten meals during the week. For the uninitiated, here is a typical Holy Week menu for the main meal of the day. As far as breakfast and lunch are concerned, keeping things lenten is a little more difficult if you're used to eating luncheon meat or cheese in your sandwiches and milk in your tea or coffee. And just like an Easter menu has to be planned, so does a whole week of lenten meals. You can't just eat whatever is in the fridge, unless you are a practicing vegetarian.


Palm Sunday: Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy Week. On this day, the fast is broken with fish, salt cod being the traditional fish of choice for the day, as for 25 March. This is accompanied by beetroot salad and skordalia, although we also eat taramosalata or guacamole instead. Bread is a must on this day for dipping into the (bread) roe dip, although it could also be made with potato. Prepare a large quantity of dip, as that can be eaten on most of the holy days in this week.
Holy Monday: This is a good day to prepare a large pot of bean or lentil soup and eat the taramosalata with it. Bring on the sourdough bread, and have some fried calamari ready for the hungrier or more carnivorous members of the family.
Holy Tuesday: A good meal for today is something like an octopus or calamari stew, using lots of fresh greens in season. Bread is a must for mopping up the sauce. You could also try a spag bog made with soy mince instead of meat (no one even suspected that I had made it with soy). If there's any taramosalata left, you need to finish it off because...
Holy Wednesday: ... today, no oil is allowed (for the devout). An oil-free watery tomato soup, some bread, boiled potatoes and olives, along with some boiled shrimps, should see you through to the next day, although margarine can be used if it doesn't contain oil.
Holy Thursday: How about some yemista or spanakorizo today? Rice, herbs, vegetables, all cooked in an oil-based liquid are a perfect way to fill up an empty stomach after yesterday's oil-free meal. Make a day of it, because...
Holy Friday: ... you can't have any oil today either. Today is a very dry day in terms of food. Oil-free fava and boiled seafood is again the rule of the day. Your taste buds will have started to get nervous, and you will be counting down the minutes to real food once again.
Holy Saturday: Today is NOT an oil-free day. Instead of another bean or rice dish (keep it simple - don't make large quantities, because you won't want your fridge clogged up with dairy-free food on Easter Sunday), you could make a salad and some fried chips to go with it. Tomato sauce is permissible, and if you're dreaming of big fat red juicy steaks, you could add some grilled octopus to the meal.

Bread is another must-have for the whole week. Sandwich fillings are not too difficult on oil-permitted days; you could easily spread olive pate to your rolls. Lenten hortopites need a lot of preparation; that's why deep-freezes come in handy. On oil-free days, try using non-oil based margarine instead. My biggest problem is going milkless in my coffee. Children and the ill or the travelling (as they once used to travel, on donkeys, for days, under the hot Middle Eastern sun in the desert...) do not have to follow the fasting period so strictly. Dakos rusk salad is a good snack, even without the cheese, as is a vegetarian pizza (ladenia) made with an oily yeast crust

Feel like a dessert? You should have a full supply of seasonal fruit in the house at this time. Delicious lenten desserts like apple crumble, apple pie and halva are easy to make and will keep everyone happy until Easter Sunday. Afghans and gingernuts can be made with margarine and are great with plain tea or coffee.

If your kitchen is well organised, you won't feel hungry, and you won't even notice that you haven't eaten any meat at all. Thank goodness for shellfish...

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MORE EASTER TRADITIONS:
Tsoureki
Koulourakia
Red eggs
Seafood
Lent pies
Bakaliaros
Clean Monday
Greek Easter in New Zealand