Feast for the Gods

From traditional roasts to treasured desserts, here’s a look at some of Easter’s favourite foods and the stories behind them.

Over centuries, the festival of Easter has involved unique rituals and traditions, many of which celebrate food and eating. The gastronomic journey that comes with the end of Lent is often given as much importance as the spiritual one—with the Sunday Mass sharing limelight with the grand lunch that follows. In the course of my conversations with chefs well versed in Easter culinary traditions, it became quite evident that the association of certain foods with the festival works on several levels, from religious symbolism to celebrating seasonal produce.

Meat of the matter

While the lamb itself has direct connotations to Christ, in Europe, the general tradition also comes from the eating of the season’s new lamb during Easter, when fresh meat arrives in the market following a long winter with no livestock slaughter. Different countries serve this differently: Britain usually prefers a roasted leg, shoulder or saddle, served with potatoes and mint sauce, while in France, the gigot pascal with leg of lamb comprises the traditional Easter meal. Interestingly, as Chef

Saulo Bachhilega, exec Chef at the Park Hyatt tells me, while the tradition called for lamb even in his northern Italy home in Emilia Romagna, his mother preferred to make the less common but truly sumptuous Coniglio arrosto (oven-roasted abbit) for the main course—something he misses deeply in Goa during this season. to make up for that, he will be bringing back some of those flavours from Emilia Romagna into the Sunday Pranzo in da Luigi this Easter, with dishes like Asparagi all’olio e limone (asparagus in vinaigrette), tortellini in brodo di carne (meat tortellini in rich beef consomme’) and Agnello al forno con patate (oven roasted lamb with potatoes).

Mutton, with its strong, deep flavours is yet another popular choice for Easter lunch. Older traditions would follow highly complex mutton recipes with sharp flavours of verjuice, vinegar and lime in their sauces and gravies, explains Chef shubhendu Kamat from Alila Diwa, as sourer ingredients had largely disappeared from the market then. While recipes will vary from region to region, Easter worldwide is celebrated with the preparation of ‘festive’ foods—and this is observed in Goa as well, where popular curries are a part of the occasion, while some east Indian traditions such as roast suckling pig have also trickled in over time. In Panjim, Fidalgo’s gala Easter dinner will feature a suckling pig this year, informs Chef Amol Desai, Exec Chef at the Fidalgo.

Some of the most commonly prepared dishes for Easter lunch here in Goa will include roast lamb, pork or beef, or a roast turkey with cranberry sauce; pork or mutton sorpotel or vindaloo, served with sanna, fugya or poi. After the 40 days of abstinence from meat that most Goan Christians adhere to, one can only imagine the sheer delight at the sight of the table weighed heavy with these all-time favourites.

Room for dessert

Of course, no Easter lunch is complete without an unbelievable array of desserts, as Chef Samantha Nunes, Pastry Chef at the Marriott Resort and Spa explains, though even this will vary from region to region. Goa’s own Bebinca and Bath (coconut cake) are some of the popular desserts served at family lunches, while older generations still prepare the Folar de Pascoa, a traditional Easter loaf of sweet bread, hand-rolled with hardboiled eggs inside and baked until a golden shine. In olden days, even pretzels were associated with Easter because the twists of the pretzel were thought to resemble arms crossing in prayer, mentions Chef Desai, who’s shared the recipe here for us to try at home.

Another conventional sweet is the Simnel cake, a fruit cake with a double layer of almond paste or marzipan, eaten during Easter, primarily in the United Kingdom and Ireland. “Originally prepared during the middle Sunday of Lent or Laetare Sunday, there are over 1200 references to “bread made into a simnel”, explains Chef Nunes.

The Hot Cross Bun is another treat associated with the season, confirms Chef Sunit Sharma, Exec Chef at Cidade de Goa. Generally made on Good Friday and meant to be eaten through the Holy Week up to Easter Sunday, the traditional method of baking this is to use the short-crust pastry. According to superstition, hot cross buns baked on Good Friday never went mouldy, and were sometimes kept as charms from one year to the next.

We hope you don’t have to wait quite as long as that. Whether you’re at home or away this Easter, here’s wishing that several of these delicious treats find their way to your celebratory lunch, along with all the season’s good cheer and happy tidings. Bon appetit!

Pretzels

By Chef Amol Desai, Executive Chef, Fidalgo

Ingredients

Warm Water – 1 lit

Sugar – 1 tbs

Koshar salt – 2 tsp

Yeast – 30 gms

Flour – 1 kg

Butter-50 gms

Water – 3 lit

Baking soda – 100 gms

Egg yolk beaten-1 no.

Method

Make a bread dough with Flour, Yeast, Sugar, Koshar salt and butter. Rest the dough for one hour. Divide dough in eight balls. Roll and twist it like crossing arms. Make a solution of 3 lit water and baking soda. Deep the breads in the solution and put on the baking tray brushed with oil. Brush the breads with beaten egg yolk and bake for 25 minutes at 2200C temperature.

Text: Sudarshana Sengupta



Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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