"Kalo Pascha", Happy Easter
After the austerities of Lent (nistia, or fasting, is widely practised on the island, and many of the faithful happily renounce meat and dairy for the 50-day period - Orthodox calendar), Easter is a bit of a blow-out, both in terms of celebration and fare.
Thursday of Holy Week is when the wonderful aromas begin to drift out into the streets as this is traditionally the day when housewives start preparing the ‘flaounes’ – plain, raisin, or packed with anari cheese. These are shaped into triangles, sprinkled with sesame seeds then baked in the oven, ‘paskies’ (small meat pies), and ‘koulouria’ (biscuits made of milk, flour, spices and sugar), and ‘tiropites’ (small cheese pies in puff pastry) are also prepared. Eggs are hard boiled and dyed red in preparation for the traditional festive games on Sunday.
Here in Cyprus, it’s Easter that’s the most wonderful time of the year... One long whirl of tradition, celebration, and reunion.
On Saturday night, the fast is broken post-midnight service with a bowl of mageiritsa: a lightly-flavoured soup consisting of rice, chicken liver, dill, and egg. You will find also the Avgolemono version, a rice and chicken soup thickened with egg and lemon. It is aptly named from the Greek words for egg ‘avgo’ and lemon ‘lemoni’.
After 50-days of relative veganism, there’s nothing quite as sumptuous as a juicy piece of lamb cooked over hot coals! Although roasting a whole lamb is mainly a Greek custom, more and more Cypriots are facing the challenge of roasting an ovelias on Easter Sunday and instead cook Cypriot souvla. The truth is that roasting an ovelias requires a lot more time and effort than Cypriot souvla consisting of large pieces of marinated lamb or pork shoulder on the bone cooked slowly and perfectly on a spit (souvla skewer).
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