HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!
In orthodox households all over the world, housewives still prepare for the Easter feast: eggs are hardboiled, dyed and decorated, cakes are baked and lamb is prepared for Easter Sunday. The Russian housewife bakes a yeast cake, known as Kulich, which she wraps in a spotless napkin to take to church for the priest's blessing. (See above)
The custom of exchanging eggs goes back to pre-Christian times when eggs as a token of renewed life, were exchanged at the spring festivals.
Flower petals can be placed on damp eggs, covered with onion skin and kept in place with string or tape. The boiled eggs will then bear the imprint of both petals and onion skins. Add a few drops of vegetable dye or food colouring to the water you plan to boil your eggs in. (Carmine, blue, green or yellow). Narrow strips of masking tape can be stuck on to the eggs in geometric patterns. Peeling off the tapes afterwards will reveal white patterns on a coloured background. Polish all boiled eggs with a little olive oil.
Simnel Cake is a tradition over here. I always bake on for my mother-in-law and one for us.
The Simnel Cake was originally made by servant girls and given to their mothers for Mothering Sunday in March, but is now baked for Easter in Britain.
Recipe for Simnel Cake
8ozs (225g) soft margarine or unsalted butter
8ozs (225g) light soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
8ozs (225g) self-raising flour
8ozs (225g) sultanas
4ozs (100g) currants
4ozs (100g) glace cherries, washed and quartered
2ozs (50g) candied peel
Grated rind of 2 lemons
2 level teaspoons mixed spice
For the filling and topping:
1lb (450g) almond paste (marzipan)
About 2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 egg, beaten, to glaze
Crystallised primroses or small chocolate eggs
1 Grease and line the base and sides of an 8 inch (20cms) deep round cake tin with greased baking paper.
2 Measure all the cake ingredients into a large mixing bowl and beat well until thoroughly blended. Place half of the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.
3 Take one-third of the almond paste and roll it out to a circle, the size of the tin and then place on top of the cake mixture. Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and level the surface.
4 Bake in the centre of the oven, preheated to 350 degrees F, 180 degrees C, Gas Mark 4, for three to three and a half hours, or until a warm skewer comes out clean from the centre and the cake is pale golden. Should the cake top be getting brown and is not done, cover with a piece of foil. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about 30 mins before turning out and cooling on a wire rack.
5 When the cake is cool, brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam and roll out the remaining almond paste to fit the top. Press firmly on the top and crimp the edges to decorate. Mark a criss-cross pattern on the almond paste with a sharp knife.
6 Form the remaining almond paste into eleven balls to represent the Apostles. Brush the almond paste with the beaten egg and arrange the almond paste balls around the outside. Brush the tops of the balls with beaten egg too, and then stand the cake carefully on a baking tray and place under a hot grill for just a few minutes (be careful, don't let it burn, the objective is to just brown the top very slightly).
10 The top of the cake can be decorated with crystallised flowers such as primroses, or little chocolate eggs, or even small golden Easter chicks.
These are my cakes...
Hot Cross Buns possibly stem from the small wheat cakes, eaten at the spring festivals in honour of Astarte, the Phoenician fertility goddess. Her Anglo-Saxon counterpart was Eostre. The cross on the buns, however, is of Christian origin.
If anyone would like any further Easter recipes - just let me know!
Another very interesting custom, which I believe stretches right across Eastern Europe is the Easter Spanking! (See, I left that until last!)
The first time Starman and I witnessed it in action we were speechless!
It was many years ago when we visited my cousins in Poland for Easter. We had no idea whatsoever about what was going to take place on Easter Saturday!
We were awoken quite early in the morning by my cousin's husband rushing into our bedroom with "willow switches" which he had soaked overnight in water! He pulled back the covers (luckily it was far too cold to sleep in the nude as I would have died of shock otherwise and would not be here today!) and liberally swished my legs especially in the 'thigh' area. It stung, but naturally he didn't do it too hard, thank goodness!
The tradition is that all wives get 'switched' to remind them to be good for the year to come! Hmmm......
It seems to have become extended these days to cover ALL women! And lots of horrid little boys take advantage of the 'water' aspect of this, and sprinkle, in fact throw, water over any passing female! Not nice I can assure you.
I wish you all a Very Happy Easter. I am on 'restricted computer time' from now until otherwise decreed (yeah, I know, well there's nothing I can say in my defence at the moment, HOHisness has gone to his head!), so I doubt that I'll get back here till after Easter.
Eat lots of lovely Easter goodies and have a good time and a rest from work if you can.
Prayers and blessings to all of you!
And many hugs,