Easter came and along with it came the perfect time to renew the pretty coat, or the black patent leather shoes, or the lace blouse, everything so Eighty. This would happen not a hundred year ago, but when I was a child. About twenty years ago there was still the idea that Easter came along with Spring, massive spring-cleaning to welcome the parish priest come to visit to bless the house, a general rebirth and a sense of measure that could be found in small symbolic celebrations.
Everything was still related to a more sober way of understanding life, it gave value to small achievements, like finally wearing your new blue pinafore dress, that had been hanging in the closet for weeks. I won’t tell you how dramatic it would get when it was too cold outside to wear my new Spring dress. Definitely my motto Spring is within me, thus outside, thus I will dress lightly, was born in those days.
On the top shelf of our living room, on display for a few weeks, there was a chocolate Easter egg, at most two: my grandmother would buy an embroidered one, as I used to call the chocolate egg wrapped in cellophane and decorated with colourful icing drawings of flowers, lambs and doves.
On Easter morning we would get up early and crack the eggs open, one for me and one for Claudia, we were so curious to find out the surprise. There was nothing ritual in opening the eggs, you would just hit firmly the egg along the seam and dive immediately into a burst of small pieces of chocolate. Most of them would end up directly into the milk for breakfast.
Most of the time we would celebrate Easter in San Gimignano, to visit my grandfather Remigio. We would spend the whole day there with my aunt, my uncle and Margherita, my cousin. All dress up, we used to go to the Mass in the Cathedral, which was impressive for a little girl like I was, then we would run through the tiny back lanes of San Gimignano to get to lunch on time.
Mum and aunt Silvana had already set the table, my grandmother Marcella used to bring a tiny wicker basket covered with a linen doily. Underneath there were the blessed hard boiled eggs.
This is the perfect moment to think back with joy to those Easters, not only because in two weeks we’ll celebrate Easter again, but because we decided to make it our theme for this month’s Italian Table Talk round up. As you will see Easter is a religious holiday – actually the most important celebration from a religious perspective – that has as always important implications on our food culture.
Emiko is actually writing about what comes before Easter, she’s making a 19th century Good Friday lunch. Valeria has made for us the Neapolitan pastiera, probably one of the most famous Easter dessert of our country. Jasmine has baked a Passover bread, called mimuna, and she will tell us something more about the origins of this holiday.
I’ll show you instead what was waiting for me at home after Mass for Easter, being it still our lunch every year, with small variations.
The starters for an Easter lunch can change year after year: crostini neri, crostini with mushrooms, small vegetable flans, cold cuts and cheese… But there is always a constant, the blessed eggs. These are plain hard-boiled eggs, cooked as long as you need to recite the Apostles Creed, as my grandmother would say, peeled and placed with care in a small basket. The eggs are blessed during Mass on Easter and they always open our lunch, simply seasoned with a pinch of salt. The first course usually is not relevant for the tradition, for us it changes every year.
Then we come to the main course, and this is where the tradition is truly felt. It is lamb, roasted, stewed or even fried, but lamb it should be. This is an ancient legacy, which dates back to the Jewish Passover, but I think for us is quite simply related to family habits.
As a side dish, along with roasted potatoes that are a favourite of children and adults, we traditionally make piselli alla fiorentina, green pea made according to the Florentine tradition: a clove of garlic, a pinch of sugar, extra virgin olive oil and a few pieces of pancetta or prosciutto.
As dessert you’ll bring to the table the chocolate egg and the schiacciata di Pasqua, a classic and one of my fondest memories.
But here’s the recipe for the lamb, the real protagonist of Easter lunch. For this recipe I took inspiration from The Complete Book of Florentine Cooking: Over 250 Traditional Recipes, Easy to Prepare and Delicious to Eat written by Paolo Petroni, a reference for Florentine recipes.
- 800 g of lamb shoulder
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- ½ glass of white wine
- 2 tablespoons of white vinegar
- Heat oven to 170 ° C.
- Mince the garlic with rosemary and combine with salt and pepper.
- Rinse the lamb shoulder under running water, pat it dry, then with a very sharp knife make a few deep cuts in the meat. This will help to cook the lamb and allow the salt and flavorings to go deeper.
- Lie the lamb shoulder on a baking tray, rub with the flavoured salt and drizzle with plenty of extra virgin olive oil.
- Roast in the oven for about 50 minutes, basting often with the sauce. You can use a spoon to collect the oil, but also a sprig of rosemary, which will be a perfect brush to bast the lamb.
- When the lamb is almost ready, turn up the oven to 220°C, pour over the lamb the white wine and vinegar and let it cook for another 10 minutes, until golden brown.
- Serve with piselli alla fiorentina.
Not to lose a single post by the Italian Table talk girls, these are our Social Accounts:
- Emiko, her blog is Emikodavies.com, @emikodavies on Twitter, and her Pinterest
- Valeria, her blog is Life Love Food, @valerianecchio on Twitter, her FB Page and her Pinterest
- Jasmine, her blog is Labna.it, @labna on Twitter, her FB page and her Pinterest
- Juls, my twitter @Julskitchen, FB page and Pinterest
The hashtag to follow the conversation on Italian Table talk on Twitter is #ITabletalk (easy, isn’t it?). We are curious to hear which are your traditions related to Easter.