Easter, a popular festival known for delicious and colourful eggs, is celebrated all around the world. Although a traditional Christian celebration, it is believed to have seasonal links to spring and the equinox thereby considered a seasonal festival too.
As with other festivals or celebrations, one of the most important elements is, without a doubt, food! While certain food items are obligatory, different traditions and habits in many countries have adapted to what’s locally available and regional variations have developed.
An overview of Easter food traditions
The most popular Easter foods are, without discussion, the hard boiled brightly coloured eggs dyed and decorated for Easter. They are symbolic of new life or rebirth especially for Christians and are a fun activity and part of a traditional Easter for many. Painting eggs and easter egg hunts have evolved as entertainment for children whilst edible chocolate Easter eggs adorn the food tables and are gifted to friends and family as well. Chocolate eggs with a surprise toy or candy inside are very popular, and by far the tastiest.
After a period of abstinence for Christians, roast lamb is the preferred dish on the Easter menu in many countries. Young lamb born in spring is often chosen for its succulence and flavoured with rosemary and garlic, or stuffed with pancetta, bacon or herbs, making the perfect roast lamb the centrepiece. Nowadays, lamb is often prepared for a traditional Sunday roast throughout the year! In some countries, it is served with a sweet-sour raisin sauce. Plan well as roasted lamb takes time to prepare and might need a few hours to marinate before starting the cooking process.
Cooked ham is a popular alternative to lamb, especially in America. It is also referred to as Easter ham and became the meat of choice for Easter lunches historically when pigs were slaughtered in the fall and cured over the winter. The ham would be ready to eat in spring and Easter is the perfect time and occasion for it. Another reason ham is popular during Easter is affordability and ease of cooking. Use a simple glaze to cover the ham and roast in the oven.
If the bunny is symbolic of spring and Easter, vegetables can’t be far behind. Carrots, roasted asparagus, sweet peas, refreshing salads are only a few that come to mind. Flavour young spring vegetables with herbs such as thyme, rosemary and a squeeze of lemon and your lunch will be even more delicious and colourful.
What’s a good roast without a side of potatoes? These wholesome carbs can be prepped in numerous ways with dauphinoise potatoes in our opinion being the tastiest. Cooked with the richness of garlic and cream, and added gruyere cheese as a final extra touch, these potatoes never fail to please! Roasted potatoes or a potato salad are lighter alternatives and are equally delicious served with lamb or ham.
Other accompaniments on the festive table are Easter pies, savoury or sweet. Just like quiche, savoury pies are cooked with delicious fillings of meat, vegetables, herbs, and cheese. Delicious, sweet pie ingredients vary from rhubarb to lime and from coconut to chocolate, let your creativity take over!
Traditional Easter breads date back to the Byzantium time and the Homeric Greeks. The closest version of Easter bread is the well-known Christmas panettone. The Italian version for Easter is similar to this and shaped as a wreath. Easy to make, as it requires a slow rise, the bread can be savoury or sweet with the addition of candied fruits. Many eastern European countries call this bread ‘paska’ which is another variation prepared as a braided large round loaf and usually includes cheese.
Hot cross buns
The origin of Hot cross buns dates to the 12th century. Named after their looks, these buns have a cross made on the surface with lemon icing. The dough includes pieces of apricots, raisins and currants and is flavoured with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. In earlier years, some believed that if these buns were baked on Good Friday, they would never go stale, and when hung in the home they would keep away evil spirits for the rest of the year. On the culinary side, hot cross buns are a perfect accompaniment to an Easter meal, or a hearty snack in themselves.
Modern Easter dishes
If you have a smaller family or are planning a smaller gathering, roasting a large piece of lamb or ham and preparing extra side dishes might not be appropriate. Being mindful of reducing food waste and increasing costs may mean changes to traditional dishes and replacing them with modern alternatives.
Why not start with an Easter breakfast and serve some egg-cellent recipes such as eggs benedict or a gourmet omelette? What about using cookie cutters to cut toast into Easter shapes and serving them with funky dyed hard boiled eggs? Lunch can become a semi-fine dining experience with roasted spring chicken and lamb chops instead of a whole roast. Served with young carrots and a crispy salad, this will be a healthy and delicious Easter meal!
Whatever foods you choose to serve, Easter is the perfect time to enjoy feasting with relatives and friends.