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Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Staka dip with eggs (Στάκα με αυγά μάτια)

Here's a special meal that will be difficult to make in any place in the world except of course Crete. Not even my fellow Greek food bloggers can make this in Athens - they still have to substitute the ingredients for more generic products, which of course don't retain the original taste. Some regional produce (like cheese) doesn't travel well; it's also highly sought-after, with demand being greater than the available supplies. This dish is also one of those acquired tastes - not many people these days would be terribly interested in eating cholesterol-filled fried food. In fact, the only time we allow ourselves a dish like this is when we buy spring-fresh produce before Easter.

*** *** ***
read the poem
*** *** ***

Staka is a kind of buttery cream. It looks like curd cheese, but melts upon touch. You cannot pick it up and lead it to your mouth without it melting in your hands. Once it melts, it looks very much like butter. Once it has melted over medium heat, it is thickened with a little milk and flour (seasoned with salt), and the result is a thick non-congealing dip. The longer it cooks, the thicker the dip, and the more separated the oil becomes from the dip. It can be eaten as it is, the way it's normally done in restaurants, served as a side dish for a main meal.

As we were enjoying this dip at home (I had bought some staka to make a lovely traditional Cretan Easter meat pie), we were more indulgent. We added one more ingredient to it: two eggs, cooked in the oil which collected on one side of the saucepan, after I had spooned away the dip. The oil slid towards one edge of the saucepan, into which I broke the eggs. The result was that instead of eating gigandes, oops sorry, elephantes makedonias, as they are now called (since gaining protected-origin status) with leftover Easter lamb as our main meal, we ended up eating them as a side dish...

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

CRETAN PRODUCE:
Xinohondro (hondro)
Stamnagathi
Marathopites
Avronies (wild asparagus)
Wedding pilafi
Orange juice
Lagos stifado
Sorrel
Silverbeet
Bougatsa Iordanis
Black mustard greens
Malotira
Cheese
Sfakianes pites
Olives tsakistes - pastes
Olive oil

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Christ has risen! - Greek Easter 2008 (Χριστός Ανέστη!)

The best part about cooking for Easter is that most of the food, apart from the roast meat (sorry, but that's a man's job), is cooked from the day before, leaving the hostess free in the evening to go attend the midnight church service of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I also managed to see most of Ben Hur, one of my favorite films (it's always shown on Greek TV during the Holy Week). I took my son to the midnight church service in the nieighbouring village of Galatas, a village which has special significance for me, and we bought the Holy Light back home with us. The evening air was crisp but pleasant; a dry windless spring evening (it gave no clues to the damp weather that was awaiting us the next day). The atmosphere was warmed up by the congregation that had turned out for the liturgy, as well as the candles that everyone was carrying, not to mention the bonfire at the burning of the effigy of Judas.

video
We were standing next to an old couple. They were really quite odd for Greeks. The elderly man was wearing a top hat and he came out of the church holding his candles like everyone else, chanting: "Straight from the altar!" I received the Holy Light from him and proceeded to light our candles. His wife was standing next to him; at least I can assume that she was his wife because she kept asking him for a kiss.

"Kopse tis malakies (= cut the crap)," he replied to her.

"Hey, don't we kiss each other when the Holy Light comes out?" she retorted, puckering her lips.

"Wait till you hear the priest say 'Hristos Anesti', he reminded her. So she waited, and when the priest finally started chanting Hristos Anesti, the old man kissed her.

In the meantime, the bell ringer was having problems; the rope hanging from one of the bells had gotten tangled up in a flowerbed. The bell from the other side of the church would ring, but when it was the other bell ringer's turn, nothing happened.

"Vale dinami! (= put some strength into it!)" the old woman said to him.

Firecrackers were going off left, right and centre. Judas was being burnt on the stake and the whole square resembled an inferno. A public phone bos caught fire, but no one attempted to put it out. People were wishing each other Hristos Anesti (= 'Christ has risen'), to which they got the reply 'Alithos Anesti' (= 'Indeed He has risen'), and most people started moving away from the square towards their cars, getting ready to warm up the gardoumia stew awaiting them at home.

After enjoying the fun and revelry, we went home and were greeted by the remaining family.

"Χριστός Ανέστη!" my son greeted his father and sister (she still can't tolerate fireworks).

"Αληθός Ανέστη!" they replied, exchanging kisses.

Ben Hur was still playing. "Can we have our Easter eggs now?" The children weren't so much interested in the chocolate as the presents the eggs contained. We all munched on the chocolate and stayed up till late. Being a small family, we decided not to gorge on a midnight feast on our own - the time will come when we start this tradition up again, maybe by inviting guests or visiting others. We nibbled on the best kalitsounia I've ever made (I say that every year). The best part about this evening was that we were all happy and healthy. God bless everyone!

Easter menu 2008:
kokoretsi (sheep's innards tied with intestines, charcoal roasted on a spit), BBQ spring lamb chops and pork steaks, Cretan meat pie, lettuce salad, egg-and-lemon goat, sourdough bread, Easter kalitsounia, koulourakia, tsoureki, red eggs

And just for the record, there was no sun, but it was warm enough to sit outside (Hania has a mildly humid climate - I'm the one in the green top, the blue-jacketed male is hubby, but my children aren't in the photo).

UPDATE: I visited the same church a year later (2009), and the delightful couple who I saw at the church was also there, up to their usual tricks.


©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE EASTER TRADITIONS:
Tsoureki
Koulourakia
Red eggs
Clean Monday
Palm Sunday
Greek Easter in New Zealand
Kalitsounia
Cretan meat pie

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Cretan Easter meat pie revisited (Κρητική κρεατότουρτα)

There are very few people I like having around when I'm cooking. Most people in these here parts are the "I know how to do this better than you type" when it comes to passing on advice. The tsourekia had just cooled down, and a baking tin of kalitsounia were cooking in the oven. In the middle of getting goat avgolemono and a Cretan meat pie prepared, I heard the doorbell ring. I wondered who it might be popping round at 5pm, what is normally considered siesta time in Greece.

I'm glad to say it was the Nicest Woman in the World. I'm always happy to see my cousin's wife, Maria (we have the same name). She's one of those rarities who will endeavour to help you in any way she can, without ever criticizing what you do. She will even help you to do something the way you want to do it, and make sure you do it successfully. She's also a very good cook, having been brought up in a family of four girls (she was the eldest). She's a busy woman - apart from housework and children, she also helps her beekeeper husband and looks after his aged parents who are in and out of hospital frequently.

We have children the same age, but despite always promising each other that we will get together some time, we never seem to. We get on so well together, even though she left school well before I finished my master's degree, despite being a good ten years younger than me. She doesn't drive, so I feel guilty that I don't go to see her more often, since she lives close to my husband's family village, Fournes, in the province of Chania.

"Sorry, Maria, I hope you weren't sleeping."

"No", of course not,"I replied; few Greek women get a rest on Easter Saturday. "I'm in the middle of preparing the usual stuff, you know. Aren't you going to sit down?"

"We've just come back from the supermarket, he's waiting for me." The head of the family is always the 'he'-man. "Here's your honey." It couldn't have come at a better time - I had just noticed we were down to the last jar. We buy honey only from Dimitri (our husbands have the same name). Apart from the price, we know he sells us a good product. We've been recycling the same honey jars for at least five years. We sweeten milk with it, spread it over toast and yoghurt, and occasionally use it to make syrup for Greek sweets. We go through a kilo per month.

"Where are you spending Easter?" I pointed my finger to the floor. She realised immediately that I was referring to my "upstairs downstairs" problem.

"Don't worry, we're doing pretty much the same thing," she said. "The olds can't go anywhere, so we'll be spending the day with them." Sometimes, I think Maria and I live the same kind of life, with the same kind of traditional Cretan men (we're very fortunate to have good-looking husbands).

Suddenly, I remember the pie I was in the middle of making. "Come and have a look at my pie, Maria." There are few people I would ask to come into my kitchen. Not even my husband gets this kind of invitation. I lead Maria to my kitchen. Dimitri is honking the car horn.

She breaks out in a big smile when she sees the pastry ready in the tin with the boned lamb covering it. "Ahhhh, that's it!" she exclaims. "All it needs now is some mizithra, malaka and staka." Just what I was intending to cover it with. I feel perfect.

"You made tsourekia , Maria? You've been busy!" As she is admiring them, I take one and give it to her. "Oh, thank you, dear!" She kisses me in the Greek way of greeting someone: first on the right cheek, then on the left cheek.

"And that egg in the tsoureki is SO red. What dye did you use?" I tell her my secret: yellow onion skins. She is absolutely astounded. "Who told you about that?"

The Nicest Woman in the World left school at fourteen to help her mother raise her three younger sisters, besides helping her parents in the Messara greenhouses and grapevine fields. It's very demeaning to talk about the wonders of the internet to a person whose childhood was stolen from them, denying them the chance to acquire basic vocational skills, so I just said: "Oh, a friend of mine - and she told me NOT to use red onions." Everyone makes that mistake, so I thought it best to advise her right from the start.

She couldn't believe it. "What kind of onions did you use?" I took her out to the balcony where I kept the onions, and showed her their pale yellow skins. The honking sounds were now getting violent.

"I'd best be off, otherwise he just might leave without me," she said chuckling. "Impossible," I replied, "where would he find another woman like you?" I said goodbye to the Nicest Woman in the World™ and we kissed again.

"Kalo Paska!"

"Kali Anastasi!"


To make the Nicest Woman in the World™'s Cretan Easter meat pie, you need:
1.5 kilos of spring lamb (try to use mainly soft pieces with as few bones as possible)
pizza dough, substituting the water with the meat stock in which the lamb was boiled
200g of malaka cheese (highly specialised Easter cheese form Hania), cut in small slices
50g of staka cream (this stuff melts in your fingers on touch)
250g of mizithra cheese
a sprig of fresh mint, finely chopped
salt, pepper, oregano to season the meat
1 beaten egg to brush the pie
sesame seeds to sprinkle over the egg
Boil the meat till it is very tender. You will need to add more water to the pot as it boils away. Remove it from the stock, which you must strain and reserve. Make the pizza dough according to the instructions given for ladenia, replacing the water with a cup of reserved stock. Divide the dough into two balls (60/40 rather than 50/50). Roll out the larger piece to fit into the base of a 36cm baking tin, the deep kind that Greeks call 'tapsi'. Take out all (or as many as possible) of the bones from the meat. Place the meat chunks on it, seasoning them according to taste. Spread the malaka slices over the meat, fill in the spaces with dabs of staka cream, and top everything with the mizithra cheese. Sprinkle the mint on top of the mizithra.

Roll out the second piece of dough and cut a circle to fit on top of the pie (you will be left with pastry scraps - reserve them), pressing down all the filling to even out the pie. Seal the edges of the pie. Roll out the pastry scraps into long thin 'snakes' and place them on top of the sealed part of the pastry. Make sure you leave two little snakes to shape into a cross. This is placed in the middle of the pie. Poke the edges of the cross into the pastry (representing the nails in Christ's limbs) with a fork or toothpick. Using a knife, cut four slits symmetrically into the pastry to allow steam to escape (so that the pastry doesn't burst). Brush the pie with egg and sprinkle with sesame. The pie needs to be cooked in a moderate oven as long as it takes for the pastry to turn a dark golden brown colour. The meat is already cooked, so all that is needed is for the cheeses to melt and combine with the meat. When serving the pie, warn your guests that there may be bits of bone shards in the meat.

easter meat pie from crete
Cretan Easter meat pie 2009

This is one of the most meaningful Easter traditions for me, because it reminds me of what my mother did every year for my father when we celebrated Greek Easter in New Zealand.

This post is dedicated to the Nicest Woman in the World™.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE EASTER TRADITIONS:
Tsoureki
Koulourakia
Red eggs
Seafood
Lent pies
Bakaliaros for Palm Sunday
Clean Monday
Fasting
Greek Easter

Friday, 25 April 2008

Easter kalitsounia from Crete (Καλιτσούνια Κρητικά για το Πάσχα)

All good wives will cater for a food specialty of their husband's on a special festive day, say Christmas or Easter. As I cook very generically due to family commitments and time constraints, Easter (as well as Christmas) is a time when I do try to make an effort to please everyone as individually as possible. In the same way that my mama made the Cretan Easter meat pie for my father, even though it was not within her own regional culinary specialties, I'm making my husband's favorite kalitsounia, which his mama always made for him.

Today, as I was making dozens of red eggs, hundreds of kalitsounia and thousands of koulourakia (all that food stuff we make for Greek Easter), because I was making them all by myself, with no one to encourage me or to take pride in watching me do it (husbands don't usually see their wives at work - when they come home, they see a clean house, freshly cooked food and a web-surfing wife), I thought of my mother - as I often do these days (she died in 1994) - and had a conversation with her. She was helping me make koulourakia (while I was checking my email) and giving my children - the grandchildren she never met - some dough to make their own shapes.

Easter kalitsounia in Crete contain malaka, a local product. Ask for malaka by name only in a Haniotiko cheese shop, otherwise, you may not have much success in getting the product you thought you were going to get. Another variety of malaka is more widespread in Greece, but you don't put it into pies and pastries. (It's the kind that doesn't stop at red traffic lights or the kind that beeps at the car in front of it which has just stopped to let a pedestrian cross the road.) In Hania, as both types are available (and plenty of it), it's only natural that we find a way to use up the cheesy variety, otherwise we'd be inundated with malaka (some say we are anyway). I'll be using malaka in my Easter kalitsounia and the Easter meat pie, but it is also used instead of cheese in other pies and pastries throughout the springtime. Malaka is found fresh during this season, although, again, most Greeks - whether Cretan or not - will tell you that you can find plenty of malaka right throughout the year all over Greece.

Easter kalitsounia not only have different ingredients from the less festive ones; they also have a different shape. The shape is partly dictated by the cheese mixture. Malaka is a soft damp cheese, which needs to be strained if you want to use it in conjunction with pastry. Damp cheese will break the pastry open and the liquids will run out of the pastry, so the kalitsounia will lose their shape. Malaka can be bought a week before you need it, so it can be prepared for use. Grading the quality of malaka is not so difficult; my girlfriends and I often discuss this over coffee. For those of you who have never been to Greece, you will probably hear the word being used a lot on the road. You'll easily find a way to grade malaka yourself.

This recipe is not easily reproduced outside of Crete; the ingredients are local to an extreme basis, so there is little point in providing a recipe. Malaka in the rest of Greece is not the same type as Cretan malaka (if you know what I mean...). I usually cut malaka into small cubes, sprinkle some salt over it, and place it in a colander with a cheesecloth covering it. Every day, I turn out the pieces, pat them dry and put them back in the colander, repeating this process until I'm ready to use it. Then I grate it into a large bowl (my mother-in-law grates right from the start). Malaka is usually combined with mizithra when making kalitsounia. Just make sure that the mizithra is also strained well. The cheeses are salted according to taste, and fresh finely chopped mint is optionally added. I know that the cheeses are well strained because, when combined, the cheese comes out as stiff as dough, and can be shaped into a ball without sticking to my hands. If it doesn't come out so dry, a little flour or semolina is added to soak up the excess moisture.

There are two popular kalitsounia shapes for Easter: the 'box' square and the 'little lantern' (λυχναράκι), so-called because it resembles the shape of old-fashioned oil lamps once used in Greek villages, and now hunted down as highly-sought after souvenirs. The box kalitsounia contain mint, whereas the little lamps don't. That's tradition for you. They freeze wonderfully, and can also be brushed with egg and sprinkled with sesame to save you doing it on the day you will be serving them. In this way, I can enjoy as much of the day as my role of hostess will allow me to.

The box shape is created with square-cut filo (phyllo) pastry by folding the pastry sides over the cheese mixture, but leaving the centre of the kalitsouni open. The little lamp uses round-cut pastry; the rim of the pastry is pinched upwards to create the lantern shape. This type if kalitsouni is also open. It allows excess moisture to evaporate while cooking, so that the pastry doesn't break open. The pasties are cooked in the same way: on a greased baking tin. I use a metal scraper to prise off the tin when they are done. The box shapes (the ones with the mint) are placed on a plate with a fresh twig from the bitter-orange tree, so that they take the aroma of the spring blossom. The lamps are served as they are.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

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

Monday, 21 April 2008

Carbon footprint-less orange juice (Φρέσκος χυμός από πορτοκάλι)

How much do you pay for a fresh orange juice these days at a posh cafe? We have 500 orange trees in Fournes, Chania, a village on the way to Omalos Plain and the famous Samaria Gorge, about 5 kilometers from our house. The last time they were sprayed with insecticide was about 15 years ago, which is about the time my husband finally put some sense into his head (even though he knew that the rashes and itches that he developed after the spraying were due to that). We used to pick them ourselves and send them off to the packing plant, but prices for oranges were dropping and the work was underpaid for the goods we were offering. There was a time when the wholesalers were offering prices as low as 10 eurocents per kilo of goods picked straight off the tree. We were being humiliated, even though our orange gold was highly sought after. So we stopped selling them. We let them fall off the trees and fertilise the field. (The peacock in the photo does not belong to us; find out what he was doing there.)

Prices finally picked up again after an orange-growers' crisis in South America and Spain. We are now usually paid approximately 50 cents per kilo of fresh produce picked from the field, minus 6% "non-marketable" product (what we call 'skarta'), which is 'passed on' (by the greedy wholesale-exporter) to the orange juice factory in Hania - BIOXYM. My husband used to live in the area when he was young and he remembers queues and queues of trucks waiting to enter the factory to unload oranges. This was in the days when agriculture was in its heyday in Hania - and producers, whether farming was their main job or a secondary hobby, were subsidised. Those days are over. The skarta oranges are squeezed whole and turned into concentrated orange juice - no preservatives added. A liter of this concentrated juice (it requires refrigeration once the bottle is opened) sells for 2 euro a bottle, which can be recycled at collection points. BIOXYM orange juice is sold all over the country.

Non- marketable produce is usually oranges that look a little scraggly on the outside, like the ones in the photo. But look at them from the inside: nothing wrong with them. In face, they're full of sweet juice. To make four glasses of orange juice for all of us in the family, I need a large fruit bowl full of oranges.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

CRETAN PRODUCE:
Xinohondro (hondro)
Cheese from Crete
Stamnagathi
Marathopites
Avronies (wild asparagus)
Wedding pilafi
Lagos stifado
Sorrel
Silverbeet
Bougatsa Iordanis
Black mustard greens
Malotira
Sfakianes pites
Olives tsakistes - pastes
Olive oil

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...

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

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

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Cheese from Crete (Κρητικά τυριά)

Easter is a time of indulgence, and who wouldn't want to indulge after a 50-day fast; those who say that the Greek Easter fast is 40 days old, are simply wrong; they have misinterpreted the meaning of the word "σαρακοστή" - sarakosti - which means '40 days'. Fasting actually starts with a one-week fast, abstaining from meat and fish only, what is traditionally known as Cheesefare Week. At the end of that week, Clean Monday signifies the beginning of the longer fast where abstinence from meat, fish and dairy products is observed (although shellfish are permissible). If you count Cheesefare Week, that's 58 fasting days before Easter Sunday. Cheesefare Week is not included in these days - that's an extra week of fun and festivities, including Rio-style carnival tomfoolery. There are 48 days from Clean Monday to Easter Sunday - a total of 7 weeks - so why do Greeks talk about fasting during sarakosti, and not penticosti (which means 50 days)?

Here's the answer: the Holy Week - starting from Palm Sunday to Easter Saturday - is not included in what is termed as the fasting period for Easter. After Clean Monday, there are 40 days (sarakosti) until Larazus Saturday (the day before Palm Sunday). The Holy Week is of course also a fasting week, but it is treated as a special case. Have you ever heard of Mrs Sarakosti who has 7 legs? All school children in Greece know about her. I found out about her from my own children, who've been drawing Mrs Sarakosti for the last three years. Despite the web link's inaccuracies - yet again - of the number of fasting days in Great Lent, the drawing of Mrs Sarakosti - the mouthless face and the praying hands - is correct. Each Saturday after Clean Monday, one of her legs was chopped off, and when the final leg remained, then the uneducated Greek villager knew that the Holy Week was starting the next day - Palm Sunday. Ans as an aisde, if you're still wondering what penticosti (πεντηκοστή) is, that's the 50 days AFTER Easter, before the Holy Spirit descended and enlightened the people who spread the word about Jesus Christ. It is a educational holiday in Greece (school and educational institutes, eg the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs are closed, but shops are open).

So it's only natural that on Easter Sunday, people let rip when it comes to food. Traditions tend not to die out in insular areas, even in these globalised times (Starbucks is coming to our town only just this week). The people of Crete love their food. They'll mention the names of local produce and dishes as if they are common knowledge. They'll turn up their noses to anything that sounds distinctly foreign. It may sound narrow-minded of them, but at least one can give them credit for knowing what they are eating.

In the days when people actually observed the 50-day fast (people rarely fast for the whole 50 days now), Cretans devised ways to preserve their dairy products. Easter is the right time to get to know Haniotiko cheese. Great Lent starts at a time when lambs and goats are being born, so there were always many milk-fed animals before Easter - hence the lamb becoming the food associated with Greek Easter. Whatever milk was collected was turned into graviera (γραβιέρα) - the Cretan variety of the Swiss gruyere. There are ripened forms of graviera, as well as the more milky (fresher) variety. The holes are not usually as big as what is typically associated in the West as gruyere. Graviera is never missing from our house. We eat about half a kilo every month. I did buy some mature English cheddar once, a very good variety called Cornish Cruncher. Despite being an excellent mature piquant cheese - the kind of cheese we look for in our preferred variety of graviera - it never caught on in my family. It's graviera all the way for them.


Great Lent inspired other ways of creating cheese and preserving milk. As the fast wore on, too much maturing graviera started to accumulate in the cellars, since people weren't eating it. A variety of specially made soft cheeses were produced during this time, the most famous being tiromalama (τυρομάλαμα) - even though we hardly ever ask for it by this name. This is made from the first shaping of graviera, creating a very milky, soft, damp cheese, resembling mozzarella in taste and texture. It also creates those long stringy threads when cooked - and it's always cooked, never eaten fresh. It has a sweet taste, and is mainly used in pies (used as is) and kalitsounia (it needs to be salted and strained). Its soft texture gives it its local Haniotiko name - malaka (μαλάκα), with the stress on the second 'a'. I know what you're thinking: how do you ask for some malaka without offending the shop owner? Here's the conversation I had with my cheese-maker:
  • Kalimera, I want some of that fresh soft cheese which you make before Easter.
  • Look, lady, it's called maLAka, and there's nothing to be ashamed of.
This is why we call the Easter kalitsounia 'malakismena'. Don't get it? Ask a Greek to explain it to you - beware of the bewildered look they will give you. It reminds me of going into a toy shop at Christmastime and asking the shop owner for 'kerata' - reindeer horns - for my son's role in the Christmas pageant. Thankfully, the shop assistant was a woman. The best time to buy malaka is in the spring, when lambs start getting 'baggy' (σακκιάζουν) - filling with milk, while having fewer lambs to feed it to.

One of Crete's most famous cheeses is a soft white crumbly creamy cheese called mizithra (also known as pichtogalo - thickened milk), the same kind of cheese that is widely known as ricotta in the West. It's an extremely versatile cheese; it is ubiquitous in Cretan cuisine. It's found on the table instead of feta, used as a spread on bread or rusk, in savoury pie fillings, sweet pie fillings, mixed into baked vegetables, stuffed in rabbits - the list is endless. Although it does not have a very long shelf-life as fresh cheese, it freezes extremely well. It is never bought frozen, but those who have sheep and goats will make it in large quantities; what they don't eat or sell is frozen and used during times when sheep and goats produce less milk. It is not exported, as it is highly sought after by locals and mainland Cretans living away from the island. And that too, like graviera, is never missing from our fridge, either.


Another popular difficult-to-export highly sought after Cretan dairy product is our 100%-fat cream, called staka (στάκα). It comes in clotted form, and is often eaten warmed up as a kind of high-fat (and cholesterol-filled) dip. It is added to a variety of dishes for extra flavour, but it's not exactly healthy. It is also used in festive pies. One of the most popular recipes using staka is to place a small amount in a saucepan and cook fried eggs in it (sunny side up). It is also used to make the filling in stuffed roast lamb wrapped with vine leaves. Staka can also be heated so that the yellow oily liquid it contains is drained off and turned into butter. This is called stakovoutiro (στακοβούτηρο). Stakovoutiro is used in the same way as butter, although not many people prefer it these days because of its high fat content. In the days when the average farmer used to walk the same number of kilometers that the average farmer of today now drives, eating staka was a form of energy. Nowadays, most Haniotes still use staka in the festive season in traditional festive recipes.

Why do so many Cretan cheeses resemble other European cheeses, but are unknown by their Greek name in the West? Sadly, this has to do with our history. While France and Italy were living the Renaissance (1300-1600), Greece was being subjugated by the Ottoman Empire (1450-1850), who would have liked to annex Greece as a part of Turkey, whose yoke we managed to shake off only about 100 years ago. While the French and Italians were creating works of artistic importance, the Greeks were begging the Turks not to blow up the Parthenon (but they did it anyway), while Lord Elgin was siphoning off bits of it and shipping it to Britain. The same reasoning underlies other fallacies, like why it took so long for feta cheese to have protected-origin status (October 14, 2005).

The map in the photo comes from a larger map of Europe with an 1897 New York copyright. It was being sold as 'posh' wrapping paper in a shop on the King's Road in Chelsea, London. The assistant wouldn't have understood if I had told her that I was going to hang it up in my kitchen as a reminder of my cultural identity. What is now known as Turkey is labelled Asia Minor, the place where a lot of Greece's culinary heritage was born. Macedonia is not mentioned, but Saloniki is. No need to translate Uskup, is there? (For the uninitiated, it's Skopje.) Crete wasn't even part of Greece at the time (it was formally made a part of Greece on December 1st, 1911).

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

CRETAN PRODUCE:
Xinohondro (hondro)
Stamnagathi
Marathopites
Avronies (wild asparagus)
Wedding pilafi
Orange juice
Lagos stifado
Sorrel
Silverbeet
Bougatsa Iordanis
Black mustard greens
Malotira
Sfakianes pites
Olives tsakistes - pastes
Olive oil

Friday, 18 April 2008

Cretan meat pie for Easter (Κρητική κρεατόπιτα - κρεατότουρτα του Πάσχα)

Celebrating Greek Easter in New Zealand wasn't easy; we had to celebrate Easter in two Easter instalments. First, we'd have the calendar holiday in March or April, when school would close early on Thursday and wouldn't open again until Wednesday. This was purely a mini-break for us; we were still in the middle of our fasting period, the Great Lent. Calendar Easter meant nothing to us. We were not moved when we saw the Pope on television announcing to the world that Christ had risen. In fact, we thought he was lying. Then, sometime between mid-April and early May, we'd experience the re-enactment of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the Greek Orthodox calendar dictated.

Calendar Easter and Greek Easter concurred every now and then, but it wasn't always guaranteed. This was the best case scenario, when I felt like a 'normal' New Zealander, and I didn't have to explain to anyone why I was still fasting after 'Easter Sunday'. One year in particular, I remember that calendar Easter fell at the end of March, while Greek Easter was scheduled for early May. That was the worst case scenario; the Kiwis were celebrating Easter Monday while we were just starting on the Great Lent with Clean Monday.

It had been instilled in us that we would not go to Paradise if we broke the fast, which we sometimes did, but only 'accidentally.' We never told our mother; we were more afraid of her wrath rather than the wrath of God. Even though we fasted quite strictly in our house for the whole of the Holy Week before Easter Sunday, we never felt as though we were 'suffering' while we were fasting. I hadn't read the Bible at that point, in which it states that a person who is fasting should never let anyone know they are fasting, but to keep a happy face and be in high spirits. In any case, the Great Lent was a good excuse to eat New Zealand crayfish, scallops and oysters. The only suffering you had to endure was knowing when to stop eating seafood before you got stomach cramps.

We went to church every night during the Holy Week. After closing the shop at 7pm, we'd rush to get home, wash and change into acceptable church attire, so that we would at least manage to hear the last part of the daily vespers service. On Palm Sunday, we patiently waited to be blessed with holy water, while on Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday night, there were mainly scripture excerpts. Holy Wednesday must have been an important service, given the significance placed by the Greek Orthodox church on fasting on that day, but I could only remember something about a prostitute and a barren fig tree.

My favorite night was Holy Thursday. In the morning, my mother would dye red eggs for Greek Easter, before going to the fish shop. In the evening, we'd attend the church service with the readings of the twelve Bible excerpts, a candle being lit after each reading was finished. I liked the mathematics of the show, the symmetry of the lit candles, the Cross being brought out in the middle of the readings, the reverent procession made by the congregation to kiss it. It was all part of the culture I had been brought up in, far removed from the culture I stepped into at the end of the service as I walked out the door of the church, across the road from Todd Motors, the KFC and the late evening pub revellers from the Cambridge Hotel, the patrons of which would always be intrigued by the procession of the Epitafio on Good Friday and the dark solemn faces that followed it holding plain yellow mourning candles, late in the evening in the cold wet drizzle of a New Zealand autumn. A happy face was a definite no-no on that evening; we were reprimanded for smiling.

On Good Friday, our uncle would go out to a friend's country house in Levin and pick a couple of sheep from his farm. The dirty business was done there, and he'd drive back to Wellington with the carcasses. The meat was shared out between our families, with all the sheep's innards going to our house. Since I was more willing to help with the preparation of the meat, it was my sister's duty to cart them over from his house (down the road from ours) in a bucket. They ponged; the smell of manure would follow her from our uncle's house to our own. It was a good thing Easter always fell in a cold season; no one was out on their porches or verandahs to see her doing this. Her greatest fear was to be seen by a neighbour (all middle-class Pakehas all living in renovated Victorian bungalows) carrying an animal's intestines in a bucket in the middle of an inner-city suburb, as if she had just been milking a cow and was returning home with dung for the garden. What would they be saying? "There go those Greek girls, smelling like dagos."

The sheep's guts were transformed into the most delectable sausage-like sweetbreads imaginable (called gardoumia: γαρδούμια): sheep's stomach (tripe) cut into strips, with a little stomach fat, tied together with the intestines of the lamb, which had to be thoroughly cleaned, inside and out. These were made into an egg-and-lemon soup for the midnight feast after the church service on Holy Saturday - we broke the fast with this soup - while the next day, we ate them stewed with zucchini in a red sauce for Easter Sunday. And it is these tripe and gut 'sausages' in egg-and-lemon soup that make a traditional Cretan Easter meal, not mayeiritsa - that's a mainland dish. Ditto the lamb on the spit - again a mainland tradition imported to Crete, probably around the time that Cretan soldiers were recruited to help fight in the Albanian war. When they returned to their hometown, they bought with them new forms of cuisine that they had been treated to from mainland Greece. They are all nice once-a-year traditions, nevertheless, and unify us in the same way that a traditional English roast with Yorkshire pudding unifies Britons.

Holy Saturday signalled the grand finale of the re-enactment. We were allowed to wear our new clothes for the season to the church service which started at 11pm. The grieving period over, we held white candles, and we could laugh and smile as much as we wanted, but only after midnight, when Christ was risen. "Christos Anesti!" shouts the priest. "Alithos Anesti!" the congregation answers back. After everyone had kissed and wished each other a happy Easter, we walked back home, being one of the few remaining families who actually still lived in the earliest Greek neighbourhood of Wellington City, while most Greeks had moved out to the suburbs with the large houses, huge gardens and double-garages. My parents had remained in Mt Victoria, in the same way that they would have remained in their respective villages, had they never left the island of their birth.

The Holy Week signified the climax of the preparations preceding Easter. We'd be working in the fish shop every day of the week, but the kalitsounia, the koulourakia, the Easter meat pie, the sheep's guts (gardoumia), the red eggs, the tea breads (tsoureki) and the avgolemono stew would all be prepared, cooked and ready for the grand feast after the church service on Easter Saturday, which ended in the early hours of Sunday morning. We pigged out at the midnight feast, felt no stomach pains afterwards, and still managed to eat another round of all this on Sunday at lunch, with the addition of barbecued lamb chops.

They say that spring lamb on the spit is the traditional meat dish for Greek Easter, but just consider the size of a New Zealand lamb - you'd need to re-landscape an inner-city garden to fit it; either that, or take the spit to a park. And as for the weather, April in Wellington was guaranteed to be cold, wet and windy. Barbecued lamb chops suited us just fine. I did try eating the Easter lunch on the balcony once; first I watched all the paper towels flying from our house in Mt Victoria all the way to Newtown, then I watched all the neighbours watching me litter their gardens.

On Easter Sunday, our appetite was whetted by the sights and smells of our traditional Greek mother's Easter meal. Our table was probably more laden with delicacies than the average Greek table in my parents' village. We were living in the land of plenty, unlike the land they themselves had emigrated from. The star attraction of the Easter meal was the traditional Cretan meat pie, something that my mother's Cretan family never made in the mountain village where she was raised, but was a staple of the Easter menu in my father's coastal village. My mother would make the pastry and mizithra (the local variety of ricotta cheese) herself to create this dish - neither of these products were available in the right form in New Zealand at the time, in order to make this pie authentically.

Celebrating Easter in traditional style is not the same as cooking a Sunday lunch. It needs special ingredients, special cooking methods, special recipes. We've planned our meal for that day, so we can shop accordingly. In Greece, it's better to shop early for the ingredients you will need. If you leave the shopping till the last two days before Easter, you will find that the best quality ingredients will have taken flight.

To make a 36cm-diameter Cretan meat pie for Easter, you need:
pizza dough
chunks of boiled spring lamb (about 1.5kg of cooked boned meat), with the bone taken out
500g mizithra (the local variety of soft curd cheese, similar to ricotta; a mixture of the local mizithra, malaka and staka can be used, if you can find these products - and you'll have to be living in Crete to do that!)
a sprig of fresh mint, finely chopped
a beaten egg yolk, for brushing the pastry
salt, pepper and oregano
sesame seeds

Pick the meatiest parts of the lamb to use in this pie. If you use only the meat, then you're making a kreatopita - κρεατόπιτα (meat pie); if you leave the meat on the bone (as we used to do in New Zealand), then you're making a kreatotourta - κρεατότουρτα (meat torte). I prefer the kreatopita because it serves (and freezes) more easily. Kreatotourta is classically made in a round pie tray.

Make the dough as instructed in the recipe for ladenia. Roll out a piece to line a 36cm tin. Place it on the greased tapsi - ταψί (what the Greeks call a baking tray). Season it with salt, pepper and oregano, according to taste. Place the meat chunks on it evenly. Sprinkle the mizithra over the meat, so that it spreads evenly over the pie. Sprinkle the mint over the cheese. Roll out another piece of pastry, leaving a small ball of pastry aside (the size of a golf ball). Cover the pie with the dough and seal it around the edges. Make an small opening at the top and bottom of the top pastry sheet (to let out trapped air in the pie while cooking). Cut the remaining dough into two pieces. Roll them out in a long thin shape, and place them in the centre of the pie to make the sign of the cross. Brush the pie with the beaten egg and sprinkle sesame seed all over it. Cook the pie in a moderate oven for approximately 45 minutes - only the pastry needs to be cooked, while the meat and mizithra cheese will amalgamate inside the pie with the heat.

And if you can't eat everything in one day, this pie freezes well, both cooked, uncooked and in servings. In my opinion, the best time to make this pie is AFTER Easter, when there'll be plenty of leftover lamb from the spit, so you won't have to boil it, either.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE EASTER TRADITIONS:
Tsoureki
Koulourakia
Red eggs
Seafood
Lent pies
Bakaliaros for Palm Sunday
Clean Monday
Fasting
Cretan Easter meat pie

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Roast New Zealand leg of lamb (Ψητό μπούτι από αρνάκι Νέας Ζηλανδίας)

What does it mean to be a Kiwi? For some reason, the flightless bird, native to New Zealand, gave us the name that the rest of the world now associates with a native New Zealander. No matter where Kiwis are, their hearts will miss a beat when they hear a buzzy bee, eat pineapple lumps, see a pohutakawa tree (the New Zealand Christmas tree which flowers in the antipodean summer), smell afghans cooking in the oven or touch a paua shell.

You know you're a Kiwi when you own certain bits and pieces that resemble junk to other people. I couldn't carry everything with me when I moved away from New Zealand, but here are some things that I did manage to bring, which still stump my Greek visitors when they see them in my glassware display case. "Why do you keep these things?" they always ask me, "your parents were Greek, so you're Greek too." Forgive them, said a wise man once, for they do not know what they are saying. My collection of Kiwiana (a way of describing classic New Zealand icons) includes the following:
  • the Edmonds cook book (every New Zealander's first guide to cooking)
  • a paua shell, an oyster shell and a scallop shell
  • a buzzy bee (ever New Zealand child's first toy)
  • Crown Lynn plates (a New Zealand ceramics brand)
  • a Kiwi-shaped paua-shell clock
  • kiwi, weta and tuatara figurines
  • a pestle and mortar set made of New Zealand wood
  • a 'tree' family ornament
  • a packet playing cards which has 'Made in New Zealand' printed on the box- these days, the word 'Made' is replaced with 'Designed' (while it's made you-know-where)
  • among many other bits and pieces
We like our Kiwi food, too. Try any one (or all) of pavlova, afghans, chocolate fish, and pineapple lumps. You'll love them all. How about a refreshing lemon and paeroa?What about puha - what all Greeks know as horta. Fancy something carnivorous? Go no further than New Zealand lamb. Pure grass-fed meat, no added flavours. When I remember the green green hills of Aotearoa, I always have an image of a moving cloud of sheep covering them.

To roast a leg of New Zealand lamb (a 3kg leg of roast lamb will easily feed ten people), you need:
a whole bone-in leg of lamb (this one was close to 3kg)
a mixture of freshly ground black pepper, salt and oregano
Rub the whole leg of lamb with a mixture of the spices. (Rosemary can be used in place of oregano.) Place it on a baking tray, fat side up. Pour a cup of water into the tray (to create a runny sauce at the end of cooking time. Let the lamb cook in a moderate oven. The New Zealand lamb export company allows half an hour per 500g of meat. New Zealand lamb always comes out tender at the end of cooking time, with a brown crusty skin and crimson-beige meat.

If you don't eat the whole roast in one sitting (we didn't), it makes fantastic - and I mean the best - filling for sandwiches (as an alternative to luncheon meats) and home-made souvlaki, as well as an amazing filling for a traditional Cretan meat pie. You can also add lemon potatoes to roast together with the meat for a more substantial meal, but the cooking time must be synchronised. I added them 90 minutes after starting to cook the lamb, and they came out done, together with the meat.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE NEW ZEALAND FOOD:
Afghans
Apple cake
Banana cake
Corn fritters
Gingernuts
Potato fritters
MEDITERRANEAN KIWI

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Greek Easter bread - tsoureki (Τσουρέκι)

As if the koulourakia and red eggs are not enough, Greek Easter is not complete without tsoureki, the sweet bread-like cake shaped in twists and rounds with a red egg tucked into it for decoration. We make it (or buy it) because it's all part of our heritage, even though we know we cannot eat the quantity of food that we have prepared during the pre-Easter preparations. But we still make it, or at least buy it, to decorate our Easter table, to make it look more lavish. It's only once a year, as the saying goes.

Tsourekia are usually made in the Holy Week, when housewives (whether employed outside the home or not) prepare all the festive cuisine in readiness for Easter Sunday. As tsoureki is a kind of tea bun (albeit in XL size), I can make one of these now that the banana cake has run out, and there are still hungry people breakfasting in our house in the morning before they go to school or work.

Like vasilopita (New Year's cake), there are two types or tsoureki: the cake type and the bread type. I prefer the bread type, which is also called lambropsomo. The tsoureki that I like most is one that has a distinct smell that in Greece is associated only with tsoureki, and only at Easter. In Hania, masticha, mahlepi and bahari (all Greek names of the spices used; click on the links to see what they look like) are only used during festive times, to make festive breads and biscuits; it's only natural that we associate these spices with special periods of the year. I've previously used mahlepi in my New Year's cake (vasilopita), and I have also used masticha in making kourambiedes, a Christmas sweet.

The basic recipe is given by UKTV. It makes a small batch of tsoureki, although most Greek housewives will make a large batch to share around the neighbourhood, as they do with koulourakia. That's a good way to find out who makes the best tsoureki in the area. Given the over-abundance of food in our lives, and the excesses that are implemented when it comes to filling the festive table, I know that most tsoureki and koulourakia presents actually become expensive and carbon-footprint-laden chicken feed, especially in a suburban village like the one I live in. I prefer to keep my cooking among family members, who are just as critical as the neighbours! I have made some alterations to it so as to suit the taste preferences of my family, in addition to my attempt to use local products; for example, I use olive oil, while the original recipe stated butter. The spices in the original recipe were all ground; I use whole spices steeped in the liquid that is to be used in the tsoureki. In that way, I smell the spices in the bread, but I don't taste them. Who'd want to taste gritty masticha or crunchy mahlep, anyway?

To make a large loaf (or two small loaves), you need:
5 cups of strong white flour (the kind used in pastry making, rather than the kind used to make cakes; I am lucky to be able to buy organically produced flour)
3/4-1 cup of sugar (in yeasty bread dough, you don't want too much sugar; it makes the dough too 'heavy')
100g olive oil (the original recipe uses butter; I clearly remember my mother using a mixture of the two)
2 eggs
15g salt
25g dried yeast
150ml water
150ml milk
the juice of 2 oranges
grated zest of 2 oranges
1 teaspoon of whole mahlepi OR: 1 teaspoon of whole bahari (using both may not be a good combination of aroma; I used bahari, and not mahleb)
1 teaspoon of whole masticha crystals
1 small stick of cinnamon
another 3-5 cups of flour
beaten egg, preferably only the yolk, for the glaze
1-3 hard-boiled eggs, dyed red, for decoration


Pour the water and milk in a small saucepan and add the whole spices. Let them warm up without boiling. When the liquid cools, leave it overnight in the fridge for the spices to infuse. In a mixing bowl place the first 5 cups of flour, sugar, salt, yeast and orange zest, and pour in the strained milk and water, orange juice, beaten eggs and oil (and or melted butter, if using). The original recipe used sultanas - I've never seen any tsoureki with sultanas in it, unless it's the newfangled Athenian master chef variety. (Candied peel is used, as are slivered almonds, usually pasted on the outside over the egg for decorating purposes, but not sultanas.) Mix everything in together into a scented batter. When all the ingredients are incorporated (if they are all at room temperature, this will be easy), let the dough rise in a warm dark place - you can even leave it overnight at this point.


After the batter has risen, punch it down. You will notice how easily it comes away from the bowl. Add the extra flour cup by cup, kneading the dough into a smooth elastic ball. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. To make the classic plait design of tsoureki, divide the dough into 3 equal parts. Form the dough into three 'strands' and plait together to form a 3-strand plait-shaped loaf. You can also shape the dough into circles, or simply twist a long strand of dough into a plait with two strands rather than three. Greek bakers are deft at creating novel, more intricate tsoureki shapes every year; there's probably going to be a contest for the longest, biggest, Guinness book of world records tsoureki ever made!

Place the finished tsoureki on an oiled baking tin. Let it rise for no more than an hour - if you leave it longer, it might rise too much and the finished product will be 'holey' bread! Brush it with beaten egg. Place the boiled dyed eggs in its middle, pressing their bases into the dough. Bake the loaf in a moderate-hot oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Many housewives still carry on an old tradition of taking their Easter (and Christmas) baking to the local baker's to be cooked, in a wood-fired oven, and insist that there is no other way to cook tsoureki. (For me, this is just another way to use up more petrol - a conventional oven does a fine job!) The tsoureki is ready when you tap it on the back and you get a hollow echo. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

You'll notice that my braid had to be twisted, due to the size of the baking tin (my bigger one was full of koulourakia - again). During the last rise, one of the braids broke away. (My second tsoureki baking day was more successful - the red eggs were dyed using yellow onion skins.) Perfect tsoureki is not in the appearance; it's in the taste. It's the inside that counts, not the outside! The eggs are not dyed - I refuse to put unnatural substances into the food my family eats. In any case, when the children come home from school, they can have a go at decorating the eggs themselves. And if you do find that you can't eat the amount you've made, this bread freezes very well individually sliced; when you want to eat or serve some, let it defrost, and it's ready to eat. Alternatively, it goes really well as toasted bread.

hot cross bun tsoureki

I used the same recipe to make tsoureki in 2009, using Peter G's idea of mixing the hot cross bun shape with the traditional Greek Easter bread, and the result revived my nostalgic feelings for Wellington, where I was born.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE EASTER TRADITIONS:
Koulourakia
Cretan meat pie
Red eggs
Seafood
Lent pies
Bakaliaros for Palm Sunday
Clean Monday