One of my favourite times of year is just around the corner. As the temperature starts to cool making the outdoors quite enjoyable, I look forward to celebrating Easter with friends and loved ones with the help of my trusty barbie. It just so happens that from time to time Easter and Orthodox Easter coincide giving us the opportunity for a two-fold celebration around the barbecue. Having grown up in a community where there were a lot of Greeks and an Orthodox church right around the corner, it quickly became tradition in my family to celebrate Greek Easter every year, wether it landed on the same day as our Easter or not. For us, this tradition never really had anything to do with the religious aspects of the holiday as we aren’t Greek or Orthodox but instead revolved around the amazing food, like the whole lamb on the spit we were served when invited over to their homes to celebrate; not to mention the lively bouzouki music and wild dancing that went on.
Since then I’ve moved far away from my childhood home and fortunately for me my interest in cooking started when I was quite young and was able to watch as amazing Greek food was being made right before my eyes. Years and years of greek recipes and cooking techniques were imparted in me and even after having long left my childhood home I continue to make these recipes and to celebrate Greek Easter, another great reason to have friends come around and to indulge in excellent food.
Greek cuisine has over 4000 years of history and is a beautiful mix of the different peoples’ cuisines that the Greeks have interacted with over thousands of years. In fact, it was Archestratos who wrote the first cookbook around 320 B.C.. As a Mediterranean cuisine, Greek cookery changes as the seasons change and geography plays a large role in its diversity as well. Fish and seafood abound in the south, including the islands, whereas lamb, poultry, rabbit and pork play a larger role inland and to the north.
No matter where in Greece however, Greek food is always very intense in flavour with garlic, lemon, oregano, mint, dill and onion all leading the pack. It’s also a very refreshing cuisine with the classic Greek salad at the foreground; rarely absent on any dinner table! Forming the basis of a healthy diet, olive oil is an integral part of Greek cuisine and is present in almost every dish. Vegetables rank highly in the Greek diet as well with tomatoes, aubergine (eggplant), zucchini, green beans, capsicums, and okra being some of the most popular however, many other greens and beans are readily available as well.
My childhood memory of every Greek Easter started off with my neighbour George (Yorgo) outside in the back yard filling up the steel half-barrel with coal that he had engineered into a spit-roaster. In preparation, the women would be inside cooking up a storm and preparing the whole lamb with herbs and spices for the moment that George would come inside, pour himself a glass of ouzo and with a grin from ear to ear proclaim: “The coals are ready, bring out the lamb!”
As children, we were in charge of the manual rotisserie roaster George had so lovingly made and we would all take 15 minute shifts turning the lamb until it was done, about 5 hours or so if I can remember correctly. This therefore gave me plenty of time to sneak into the kitchen and watch as the women made the salad, the tzatziki, the potatoes and about ten other dishes with vegetables, beans, cheeses and fish, all of which were simply spectacular.
These days, technological advancements have been made in the field of rotisseries, grills and barbecues and my lamb turns all by itself, once I plug it in and turn it on of course. Though this is traditionally Greek fare, feel free to start a new Easter tradition wether the two Easters coincide or not. Καλό Πάσχα “Kalo Pascha”……Happy Easter!
Enjoy and Happy Grilling!
Καλή σας όρεξη “Kali sas orexi”……Bon Appétit!