Easter, recipes, and life at the dacha.
Vasily: On line, on digital and FM –HAPPY EASTER, everybody!
Nataly: It’s so nice that this year we can wish everyone a Happy Easter, because once again the entire Christian world celebrates Easter on the same day!
Vasily: Is it because of the two different calendars?
Nataly: Yes, it is due to the difference in calendars – Julian and Gregorian. Remember I explained the difference? Most of the Christian churches adhere to the new, Gregorian calendar, while the Russian Orthodox Church, the Georgian Orthodox church and some others stick to the old, Julian calendar, introduced over two thousand years ago by Julius Caesar. We hate changing our traditions; as a result, our church usually lags behind the rest of the Christian world in celebrating most of the Christian holidays.
Vasily: What’s the difference in time between the two calendars?
Nataly: 13 days, when it concerns such holidays as Christmas and Epiphany, as for Easter, the gap between the celebrations may reach a whole month! Every year it is different, because Easter is celebrated on a different day every year. But this year we are lucky – the world is united on this greatest holiday of all!
Vasily: That’s nice! How do Orthodox Christians greet one another on Easter Day? Do they say Happy Easter?
Nataly: That’s what we say on the eve of Easter Day. But on Easter Day and for the following forty days (Easter lasts forty days!) we greet one another with the words: CHRIST IS RISEN! To which the other person answers:
Vasily: IS RISEN INDEED!
Nataly: Exactly! And Vasily, you can’t imagine what a sweet dream I had last night I mean literally SWEET. We were having a party – and you were baking some very sophisticated cake!
Vasily: I was baking a cake?!
Nataly: Oh, yes, and you were all absorbed in the process - you were mixing the ingredients, baking the merengue, and the process went well into the night, when all of a sudden it turned out you needed some lemons, and I said I would go and buy them, but I never did, because I woke up!
Vasily: Is it a good dream or a bad dream?
Nataly: It’s a very good dream! When you make or eat something sweet in your dream, especially cakes and pastry, it is a very good sign – it means you will be happy and prosperous! And the fact we didn’t have any lemons makes it even better – nothing sour to spoil the sweetness of life!
Vasily: Funny, because just yesterday I WAS thinking of cakes and pies. I read an article calledFive Russian pies you’ve never heard of before, and was going to ask if you have ever heard of them. NAT: Do they have names? VAS: They do. The first is called VEKOSHIK, and then comes NALIVASHKI, then BORTNIK, GUBNIK, and last but not least CHAPILG, which doesn’t sound Russian at all, compared to the first four.
Nataly: Yes, the others have traditional Russian names and make my mouth water. I believe I can tell our listeners how to make all these pies, but let’s take one pie at a time. This way in the coming five weeks you will have the recipes of all the five pies and will be able to surprise your guests with a unique Russian dish.
To begin with, the word “pirog" (pie) derives from the old Russian word "pir" (feast), which suggests that every important meal in Russia traditionally involved pies.
You’ll be surprised to hear that Vekoshnik is an old name for a pie made from leftovers!
Vasily: Very economical! Instead of throwing out the leftovers of your meal – put them in a pie!
Nataly: Exactly! If there was some fish or meat left from the previous night's dinner (they used to be called vekosh), which no longer looked very presentable but which it would have been a shame to throw out, a thrifty housewife would make some dough, stuff it with all the leftovers, put it all in the oven, and get a wonderful new dish for lunch. In many ways, this traditional Russian pie is not unlike Italian pizza.
Vasily: This is easy, come on tell us about another one. I like the name NALIVASHKI. In English you would probably call them POUR-INS?
Nataly: Right! These are small triangular pies made of stiff dough fried in sunflower oil with a filling made of cheese, eggs or jam, which was put only in one of the corners.
You will need the following ingredients:
Flour – 450 g; Water – 200 g;
Berry jam – 200 g; Sunflower oil
Powdered sugar and Salt .
Sieve the flour and mix the dough by adding water, a tablespoonful of oil and salt. Leave the dough for half an hour.
Then roll out the dough thinly, cut out flatbreads, add the filling, form the flatbreads into triangles and crimp the edges, then deep-fry them.
In the Russian variant of deep-frying, the food is not floating in oil but is cooked in a frying pan, half-immersed in heated oil. Oh, I know why I had this dream, I was baking Easter cakes yesterday…
Vasily: Yesterday? Weren’t you supposed to bake them on Clean Thursday?
Nataly: Yes, I was. Easter cakes must be baked on Clean Thursday – that’s the Thursday of the Passion or Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, as it is called in the Western Church. It precedes Good Friday. Why Clean Thursday? Because traditionally on that day Russian families had a spring cleaning in their homes and then, when the house was clean and sparkling as a new pin, they began getting ready for Easter –bake cakes on Thursday night, paint eggs and make Paskha on Good Friday, and then on Saturday take all that to church for blessing. But I did all the baking and cooking on Thursday night and Friday morning.
Vasily: Tell us more about the traditional Easter dishes.
Nataly: First comes Easter Cake. There is no Easter Feast without an Easter Cake. BTW, you can bake Easter cakes throughout all the forty days of Easter celebrations, but it’s a long and difficult process. Let’s put the recipe on our Facebook Fan page, as it is too long to describe now.
Vasily: Good idea. You also mentioned PASKHA. What’s that?
Nataly: PASKHA in Russian means Easter and is derived from the word Passover. It is made of cottage cheese, with butter, sugar and lots of spices, and is served in a traditional wooden container, symbolizing Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified.
Vasily: What about the eggs? I keep forgetting why they should be dyed or painted?
Nataly: The tradition goes back to Mary Magdalene, who came to tell Roman Emperor Tiberius that Jesus had resurrected, and presented the Emperor with a white egg- a symbol of life. The Emperor listened to her skeptically and said that a man could rise from the dead no more than the egg in her hand could turn red. Immediately, the egg turned red. Because of this, you can see Mary Magdalene on some icons holding a red egg.
Vasily: I understand that nowadays eggs are painted not only red, but in all possible colors.
Nataly: Oh, yes, they look so jolly and so festive. Kids and grown-ups alike, love to paint eggs. Every family has its own tradition of doing it, but the best to my mind, is the traditional Russian way of dying eggs with onionskins. You put the eggs in a pot, cover them with a thick layer of onionskins, add water and a spoonful of salt to protect the eggs from cracking and boil them for some 10-15 minutes. The eggs turn different shades of brown. After you dry them you must rub them with oil. And you get the most beautiful Easter eggs dyed with natural coloring!
Vasily: What’s the story with the old custom of smashing these painted, hard-boiled eggs against someone’s forehead?
Nataly: That’s a game for the most stone-headed men, who would play this game after several shots of vodka. There’ve also been egg fights in Russia. Egg tapping, also known as egg fight, egg knocking,[or egg jarping is a traditional Easter game. In English folk traditions, the game has variously been known as "shackling", "jarping" or "dumping".
The rule of the game is simple. One holds a dyed hard-boiled egg and taps the egg of another participant with one's own egg intending to break the other's, without breaking one's own. And the winner is the person whose egg has the strongest shell.