Beyond colourful hard-boiled eggs and chocolate, there are many delicacies that factor into the traditional Easter meals enjoyed around the world
The foods vary by country and region and include sweet breads and pastries, meat and egg dishes, and plenty of cakes and cookies. The recipes are often quite indulgent, featuring the foods that we’re forbidden during Lent.
Lamb is the one food that is common in the Easter celebrations of many cultures. The roasted lamb dinner that many eat on Easter Sunday actually predates Easter it is derived from the first Passover Seder of the Jewish people. You will find recipes featuring different flavourings and spices depending on the dishes’ origin, but a simple version uses somewhat universal ingredients, like garlic, lemon, and herbs, which are rubbed on the lamb before roasting. Plan accordingly as the lamb needs to marinate for at least six hours, preferably overnight.
Roasted potatoes just seem like a natural accompaniment to roasted lamb and a popular side dish to lamb in Greece is patates sto fourno. Potatoes are tossed with a mixture of olive oil, oregano, garlic, lemon juice, and chicken broth, and then roasted until nice and crispy. Throw a bit of rosemary in the potatoes when serving with lamb.
Potatoes are a big part of the Lithuanian diet and make another appearance in kugelis. This is a savoury potato pudding that is a very traditional side dish and popular on the Easter dinner table. Grated potatoes are mixed with sautéed bacon and onion, eggs, milk, and farina and baked until golden brown. You’ll also find several salads and many dishes that include mushrooms alongside a kugelis. Typically served with applesauce, sour cream, and bacon bits.
Possibly the most iconic dish from Greece is spanakopita, which can be found on nearly every dinner table across the country, especially at Easter. It can be in the form of a pie or individual triangles. Chopped spinach is mixed with feta cheese and layered between flaky sheets of phyllo dough. This dish can be served as an appetiser, light lunch, or add a Greek salad and make it a meal on its own.
Desserts abound at an Easter European Easter celebration. You will likely see paska, a moulded cheese delicacy, it’s no ordinary cheese, either. The dry curd is sweetened, includes heavy cream and almonds, and is adorned with fruits and candies. This dessert has a taste that is similar to a cheesecake without the crust and is often spread on slices of kulich. The word paska literally means ‘Easter’ so you will hear it often in Eastern Europe. A number of treats take on the name as well, and in Ukraine, it refers to a lovely sweet bread.
Italian pizzelle cookies are delicately adorned and crisp. Made with a special waffle iron, the batter for this recipe is flavoured with anise, while variations include vanilla, almond, citrus zest, or chocolate. You can even shape them into bowls or rolls while warm, then fill them with custard, fruit, or ice cream for an extra special treat.
The lamb cake is a part of the Polish Easter table. You will need a lamb-shaped mould but can use a simple pound cake mix for to make it quick and easy. Decorate with a cream cheese frosting and use raisins for the eyes and nose. Coconut flakes died green work well as the ‘grass’.
Babka Wielkanocna is a true representation of the celebration of rich foods after the Lenten fast. Similar to the Italian panettone, this is a yeasty cake recipe that uses only three eggs (rather than the typical whopping 15!) and requires only one 90-minute rise instead of two hours. The cake takes a little under three hours to make from start to finish.
Koulourakia are butter cookies with sesame seeds that are quite fun to make. You can either twist, braid, or shape them into an ‘S’, or make a combination of all three. You will often find them served with other desserts and strong Greek coffee as well as one of the famous Greek wines such as raki. These traditional Greek Easter cookies are great dunked in coffee or milk, too.
With dinner, Lithuanians also serve a semi-sweet yeast bread with white raisins called velykos pyragas. This may be one of the best fruit cakes you’ll ever try: it includes a variety of glazed fruit, walnuts, and a delicious cinnamon-sugar filling. The bread is baked for 50 minutes and dusted with confectioners’ sugar or a glaze.
It seems that almost every country celebrating Easter has its own special Easter bread or cake, and yet, hot cross buns are a favourite in many area. Taking a little over two hours to make between the mixing, rising and baking time, these individual spiced yeast buns are filled with dried fruit and drizzled with lemon icing in the form of a cross along the top. The tradition supposedly derived from ancient Anglo-Saxons who baked small wheat cakes in honour of the springtime goddess, Eostre. After converting to Christianity, the church substituted those with sweetbreads blessed by the church.