All this time at home for Easter and I was keen to continue with family traditions of baking delicious Easter goodies. Some are traditions that I have begun with my own family like baking batches of spicy Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday to share with family and friends; some are my mother’s traditions like making Pastiera, a traditional Easter tart rich with ricotta, custard, candied citron and cooked grain (rice or wheat) that hails from my mother’s town in Naples, Italy. No Easter meal is complete without Pastiera. I have kept up with her tradition of making it every Easter Vigil despite being a very laborious type of sweet to prepare. It’s well worth the effort especially to see the smiles on my loved ones’ faces when they savour a piece. My husband, Rob has brought his own family traditions which include baking a type of rich pastry roll stuffed with a mixture of crushed roasted almonds, hazelnuts, buttered breadcrumbs, chocolate, currants, sultanas, lemon zest, rum and grappa. This is a sweet from his parents’ origins in Trieste, Italy, called Presnitz. They also make strucolo, a Triestino version of an apple strudel. Trieste was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian empire and its influence is clear in their cooking.
This year apart from colouring eggs, a tradition which I have adopted from my Greek friends, I also made tsoureki, the Greek sweet bread that is plaited with a coloured egg in the middle. The egg is always dyed red. My Greek friends tell me that the red is symbolic of the blood of Christ. That is why Greeks always have bowls of red dyed eggs on their festive Easter tables. I’ve also borrowed from their tradition and ask that everyone tap their egg with others at the table saying, Cristos Anesti! (Christ has Risen!) To which the person whose egg is being tapped responds, Alithos Anesti! (Truly He is Risen!) It makes for a lot of merriment at the table and the one whose egg does not crack usually receives good fortune throughout the year (so the Greeks tell me). It is a lovely beginning to the meal and a great addition to the first course which in our house is always antipasto. Then there usually is either a soup or a pasta course, followed by the main of roast lamb and vegies. Fresh fruit usually follows and then an aromatic cup of Italian coffee with Pastiera and Presnitz. A small glass of liqueur usually caps off the meal. Easter was always a time of celebration in my family growing up. We would have this long lunch with our family and sometimes my aunt, uncle and cousins. My mother, my sister and I cooked for hours to prepare it (often well before going to morning mass) but we always enjoyed sitting down to this feast with everyone.
Getting together with family sharing good food and wine over conversation and laughter is at the heart of Italian culture. Easter was a special time for celebration. It still is!
What Easter traditions to celebrate the Risen Jesus do you keep in your family?