Peter Minakis is Canada’s most well-known Greek food expert, blogger and chef. He has published two cookbooks and his blog Kalofagas is followed by tens of thousands of people.Peter currently hosts and cooks for the “Kalofagas Greek Supper Club” in Canada— a popular evening of traditional, planned menus featuring Greek regional cuisines paired with local wines and historical and cultural explanations of the regions. He is active on social media and often posts to his Facebook and Twitter pages. Peter took some time away from his Easter preparations to share some of his favorite Easter tips with readers of The Pappas Post— including naturally dyed eggs.
A message from Kalofagas: This year Orthodox Easter is a week later than the Catholic Easter. I jokingly tell my non-Greek friends this is because we need an extra week for our preparations. Greeks take Easter very seriously— never mind the devout who fast for the entire period of Lent, attend the many church services that culminate to Megalo Savato— Holy Saturday when practically every Greek is gathered at their church to light a candle and wait for the stroke of midnight when we all chant “Christos Anesti!”. I still get chills up and down my spine. Here are three family recipes I will be using this Easter: first one is a slow-roasted leg of lamb…the Greek way. Then I have a recipe for naturally dying your eggs and finally my family’s Tsoureki recipe, one that needs patience but easy to follow. Kali Anastasi!
Get Peter’s two cookbooks:
12 room temperature eggs
For Red Eggs
-the skins of approx. 10 medium yellow skinned onions
-5 cups of water
-2 Tbsp. white vinegar
For Blue Eggs
-5 cups of finely chopped purple cabbage
-5 cups of water
-2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1. Add your dry ingredients into a pot and pour enough water to cover by over an inch. Bring up to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool to warm.
2. Remove the purple cabbage or onions skins and place the eggs gently in the respective pot. Bring back to boil and simmer for 5 minutes then take off the heat.
3. Allow the eggs to cool in the dye then transfer to your fridge to set overnight.
4. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and allow to air-dry (about 45 minutes). Dab a white paper towel into some vegetable oil and polish then place in the egg carton and store in the fridge until needed.
NOTE: Want to make some other colored eggs?
Use brown eggs with purple cabbage to get green eggs
Use brown eggs with yellow onions to get rusty red eggs
Use shredded beets with white eggs to get pink eggs
Use shredded beets with brown eggs to get maroon brown (same water to vinegar to vegetable matter ratio)
Use 2 Tbsp. of tumeric per cup of water for yellow eggs
1 leg of lamb (bone in) or 2 short-cut legs of lamb (6-8lbs.)
1 head of garlic, skins removed and cut into slivers
5 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons. sweet paprika
2 medium onions, peeled & quartered
1 cup dry white wine 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
10 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 teaspoons dried Greek oregano
2-3 bay leaves
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Stick a paring knife into the lamb and make a hole, then slip a sliver of garlic. Repeat and insert as many slivers of garlic as you can into the leg.
2. Pre-heat your oven to 550F and place the rack in the middle position. Drizzle your lamb with some olive oil and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Place the leg of lamb in a roasting pan that just fits the leg. Place in your pre-heated oven and roast uncovered for about 10-15 minutes or until browned, then flip the leg and roast for another 10-15 minutes.
3. Remove the lamb from the oven and reduce the heat to 350F. Place the quartered onions around the lamb, add any remaining slivers of garlic, add the herbs (thyme, bay, rosemary, oregano) and squeeze in the lemon juice and pour the wine into the pan. Add the olive oil and enough hot water to cover third of the lamb.
4. Cover and place the lamb back in the oven for 2 hours (add more hot water if needed), baste the lamb once an hour. After two hours, flip the leg of lamb (add more water if necessary and adjust seasoning of liquid with salt and pepper).
5. After 3 hours, the leg of lamb shoulder be a deep brown and the bones will be exposed and the meat should show signs of separating from the bone. Remove the lamb from the oven, baste with liquid and allow to rest. Have some peeled potatoes (quartered) to roast in another roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pour enough pan juices from the lamb leg to come up a third of the way on the potatoes and toss to coat. Taste, adjust seasoning and crank your oven up to 450F and place the potatoes in the oven to roast for 35-40 minutes or until fork-tender (the lamb will stay warm covered in the roasting pan on the stove-top).
1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups plus
1 tablespoon sugar, divided
2 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk, divided
zest of 1 medium lemon
zest of 1 medium orange
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm/tepid water
12 1/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted and divided
1 tablespoon ground Mahlepi
1/4 teaspoon ground Mastic
6 large eggs, beaten plus 1 large egg, unbeaten, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1. In a large pot over medium low heat, add butter, 2 1/2 cup sugar and 2 1/2 cups milk. Cook for 5 minutes until the butter is melted. Add zest of lemon and orange and orange juice. Set aside but keep warm.]In medium bowl, add yeast, remaining sugar and water. Leave it for 7-10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate. You will see it bubbling. Whisk beaten eggs to reserved milk/butter mixture then whisk entire egg/milk/butter mixture into the bubbling yeast.
2. In a large bowl, combine 12 cups flour, mahlepi and mastic. Add the egg/milk/butter mixture into the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or your hands, stir mixture to form dough. Knead dough on a floured (use remaining flour) surface until it is soft and pliable. Place the dough back in the bowl, rub the surface with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to double in size in a warm place (about 2 hours). Punch the dough down and let it rise a second time (about 2 hours).
3. Divide the dough 15 equal balls. We are making braids here, so work with 3 balls at a time. Cover the remaining balls with a tea towel. Roll each ball into a 12 inch long log. Pinch the top ends of the logs together and then braid the logs. When you get to the end, pinch the bottom ends together. Tuck the top and bottom ends underneath the dough. Place braided loaf on a parchment lined baking sheet. You’ll only fit 2 loaves per baking sheet because you need enough room to let the braided loaves rise to double their size. So, braid the dough in batches. Repeat steps with remaining dough.
4. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining egg and milk. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg/milk mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake (in batches) for 20-25 minutes. Allow the bread to cool completely before serving.