My Easter is not what I call Easter if I’m not with my whole family. It’s a sacred time for me and last year baking my Yiayia’s( grandmother in Greek) traditional koulourakia (semi- sweet cookies) alone in my kitchen just didn’t seem right.
I am not very religious in going to church on a Sunday morning. I try, I did try more in the past but I find that with such a demanding schedule my Sunday mornings don’t end till lunch time so it is impossible at this stage of my life to get ready and go to church. Saying that, I look forward to the week leading up to our Greek Orthodox Easter to enjoy my faith, preparations and customs which still remain a strong tradition in our family. During Holy Week each day has a particular theme, a spiritual lesson for the faithful who attend the services. I get much of my inspiration not from reading books but from attending these services year after year. My mother in law also does a good job drilling the importance of each mass and we as a family love to make the most of it.
Visiting different churches and worshipping and bowing to their prettily decorated Epitaphs is another tradition which I follow. In general, the whole lead up to Easter Sunday is beautiful.
Thursday is all about baking traditional breads like flaounes, my grandmother’s ‘koulourakia’ and preparing the dyed, red eggs; It’s our precious family time where we (my sisters and all the children) gather round at my mum’s. Everyone gets involved one way or another. Some help to dip the eggs in dye, others oil them and arrange them carefully in baskets, while the other older ones cheekily select their champion eggs, set them aside and prepare to win the egg clash which takes place on Saturday after midnight mass.
However, my favourite mass is on Saturday morning, we all get up early to go to church (the day of hope and waiting). We listen to the liturgy which commemorates Christ’s victory over death and witness the stripping of the black altar cloths which signifies the lifting of the heavy sorrow of Holy Friday. The rowdy banging on the pews, the shaking of the chandeliers and the throwing of the flowers is life affirming and visibly humbles the congregation. This service always gives me goosebumps and makes me tearful.
Although the real ceremony of the resurrection happens at midnight mass, we never get to bring the holy light from church home because the children are always too tired to go. I hope we manage this year! (I hear myself saying the same thing every Easter)
Thanks for reading! Let me bid you a Happy Easter and leave you with my grandmother’s fasting ‘koulourakia’ recipe, they are delicious!
Makes approx. 70
- 1 kilo plain flour
- 1 espresso cup of sugar
- ½ cup spry
- ½ cup of sunflower oil
- 2 1/3 cups of warm water
- 1 ½ tsp. freshly grounded cinnamon
- 3 freshly grounded cloves ( cloves and cinnamon to be grounded together)
- 1 ½ tsp. crushed mastiha (tip: crush the mastiha with 2 tsp. flour, this is done so the mastiha doesn’t stick together)
- 2 sachets of dry yeast (diluted in ½ cup warm water)
- Sesame seeds (washed, boiled and dried)
- A pinch of salt
Put the flour, mastiha, cinnamon and cloves, salt and sugar into a bowl and mix. Melt the spry and pour into the mixture along with the sunflower oil. Add in the yeast and warm water and kneed till the dough is formed. The dough must not be sticky or too hard but a medium soft consistency. Form into a ball and cover with a tea towel, wooden chopping board and a blanket for 30 minutes to ensure it rises into light, fluffy dough.
Place the dough for the koulourakia on a clean working surface and the sesame seeds in a tray. Take a piece of dough and form a long cylinder like shape. Roll it in the sesame seeds putting some pressure on to the dough to ensure they stick. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and place the koulourakia, leaving some distance between them as they will rise a lot when baked. Cook at 180 ° for 25 minutes.