Apr 20, 2009

HAPPY EASTER!

I am sure that sometime between yesterday and the coming days, there will be many food bloggers that will be sharing images and captions on the cooking involved and feasts enjoyed on Easter Day. Or you may have already noticed in the past days, some food specialties in the preparation for Orthodox Easter, such as special breads and biscuits. This year, Orthodox Easter was celebrated on April 19th. My family is Greek Orthodox, with origins stemming between Greece and the Middle East. There are points in common in the culinary habits both regions have for this festive day, but what is for sure is that there has to be a lot of lamb on the table. Because I grew up somewhat as a "third culture kid" , and with a somewhat strong French influence (due to my many years living in France), this year, Easter had a Greek, Middle Eastern and French touch (we can thank France for the fabulous wine we enjoyed for instance hehe). In anycase, there was a lot of food to devour for Sunday's lunch after a week of lent, much that wasnt photographed as it was all too mouthwatering and I believe no one was patient enough to wait for me to take photos and then let everyone eat the food (I guess all us food bloggers have been faced with this situation before, no?)
But one thing was for sure: no one was touching the lamb before I took a photo of it. Indeed, this year, I prepared the main course and every detail involved in it. A premiere for me, as I usually volunteer to take care of dessert instead!
So for this post, I'll be sharing with you my very own Easter lamb recipe... but before that, some snapshots on the last 48 hours...
Saturday night: I prepare the marination for the lamb, and let it rest overnight in the fridge. Then, I head off to church for the Saturday night mass at one of the Greek Orthodox Churches in Paris.

Lots of candles on this important day...
The Greek community is not huge in France, in comparaison with Australia for instance, but there were many people on Saturday night (Greeks but also many Lebanese too), hundreds I should say, with quite a big crowd having to wait outside of the church under the rain...
Then at almost midnight, the first lit candle appeared, and each person lights their candle from one another... Everyone wishes each other a Happy Easter and you can hear people saying "Christos Anesti" (Greek) or "Al Maseeh Qaam" (Arabic) depending on where they come from...both meaning, "Christ has risen". In Greek, you then reply "Alithos Anesti" and in Arabic "Hakan Kam" which means "Indeed, the Christ has risen".

It is Sunday morning, and I have actually set my alarm clock to ring on a weekend... Of course, I have to be awake to check on my lamb. It has marinated all night with a fabulous mixture of herbs (full details at the end of post). I ask my mom for some last minute advice, and then it is just me and this gigantic gigot d'agneau face to face...

After a good hour and a half in the oven, and luring smells making their way through the house from the kitchen walls, the lamb has made it's appearance, accompanied with delicious roast potatoes and crunchy vegetables (that I had prepared while the lamb was cooking).
I have to say, for a first time, I felt quite proud of myself with the way the lamb turned out...! At least by the looks of it, I have yet to taste it...

The slicing begins, I observe closely and in an almost paranoid/perfectionist manner how each cut looks like... For this kind of lamb, our family doesn't enjoy eating it "saignant" nor "à point" (meaning, we don't want to see any blood gushing out of the lamb while it's being sliced). Thankfully, there was not a drop of blood, it was cooked just the way we all love it and had an amazing tender texture and bursted with flavour.
I had bought a lot of fresh tomatoes, asparagus, snap peas, and carrots that were all first boiled (except the tomatoes), the placed in a deep dish drizzled with a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic and salt before it went into the oven for about ten minutes... so that it could be enjoyed at the right temperature and get a nice toasty colour.
And voila! Would you like to try some?
Those Lindt rabbits are just way too cute, I had to get some.
To end things on a sweet note... for dessert, there was a lot of chocolate, but also my mom's signature orange-coconut cake, which has proved to be a smashing success year after year, amongst family or guests! It is a classic she prepares on big events, and we have never seemed to get bored of it!
If you would like to see images of how Orthodox Easter has been celebrated in certain parts of Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East, you can click here on the BBC News site or for a wider range of photos, you can check out Getty Images.
Easter lamb: (based on a leg of lamb weighing 2kg)
1 leg of lamb / gigot d'agneau
1 bundle fresh estragon, chopped
1 bundle thym
1 tablespoon mustard (preferably "moutarde à l'ancienne", the one where you can see the mustard grains)
A few bay/laurel leaves
Garlic cloves (according to your personal taste, I had 6 garlic cloves in total)
1 freshly squeezed lemon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & Pepper
3 mugs of hot water + 1 Maggi Kub d'Or (bouillon cube).
A few hours before baking (or if you can, preferably the night before): prepare the marination:
In a bowl, throw in all the ingredients stated above (except the lamb and laurel leaves) and mix well. Transfer mixture over the lamb, rub well, place the laurel leaves around and on top, and leave to marinate.
When ready to cook: take out the lamb at and let it rest at room temperature for 30min to 1 hour. Preheat oven to a high heat (about 300C) for 20 minutes. Indent the lamb with few small knive cuts. Dissolve the Kub d'Or in the three mugs of hot water, set aside. Lower heat to 200C, and bake for 60min to 1h30min according to personal taste (I baked for 1h30). During cooking time, make sure to check on lamb and take it out from time to time to drizzle it with a ladle of the Kub d'Or mix so that it doesn't dry up. You may or may not use up the entire three mugs, but that quantity keeps you on the safe side.
When ready, remove from oven, cover with aluminium and let rest for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

8 comments:

Peter G said...

"Christos Anesti!" Marianna...it was wonderful to read about Easter from your perspective...a great insight. Your lamb turned out beautiful! You should be proud! All the best for the coming year!

Peter M said...

Christos Anesti Marianna! It's wonderful to see all the Orthodox worshipping together and here, cooking together or in a similar fashion.

Your Easter banquet looks fabulous!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

What a wonderful feast you had. I love the lamb dish - and your mom's cake too.

365 Tage said...

Your easter has a lot of good old-fashioned magic about it - not least the food...all the pictures are a feast for the eyes.I can feel myself putting on a kilo just looking at them. Wonderful, Marianna.

Antonio Tahhan said...

Happy Easter Marianna! المسيح قام!
the lamb looks amazing :)

Maria said...

Alithos Anesti! Thank you for this gorgeous post...loved it from beginning to end! It really brought me to Paris for a few minutes and it's amazing to see how these special holidays are celebrated by Greeks and other members of the Orthodox faith in so many parts of the world.
Love all your photos and the lamb sounds absolutely amazing. But my favorite has to be your mom's cake--I can see myself secretly running a finger along that frosting and licking it right off!!!

The Clever Pup said...

All that work just for 6 comments. I'll make it 7.

I think this post looks fantastic. I have you on my blogroll, you should visit me sometime.

p.s.(I think your raspberry lips logo looks a little bit sinister)

Arlette said...

I miss lots of traditions from back home and the Hajmeh is one of them...
Thanks for sharing some information about the Orthodox celebration and Food.