Traditional Easter Fare: Meanings and Recipes

This is the time of year we’re seeing chocolate bunnies and lambs, and all kinds of candied eggs on display at the stores for the upcoming holiday of Easter.  In Pagan times, eggs and rabbits were signs of good luck and new life. Later, the early Christians used the symbolism of eggs and spring flowers, such as the Lily, to remember the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and His promise of new eternal life. The Lamb came to symbolize Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God,’ being sacrificed for the sins of mankind. This is the reason many households serve lamb as the main course for their Easter meal.

Easter bread is another culinary symbol of the resurrection of Jesus, prepared with yeast so that the bread rises, and decorated with colorful eggs representing new life.  You can get many good recipes for this tasty attractive bread online.

Following are two traditional Easter recipes handed down from my mom.  An economical  tasty lamb dish and a hearty sweet grain pie.  Enjoy your Easter fare this year!

Anita’s Tender Lamb Shanks

 Serves 4

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds lamb stew (shanks) with the bone in
1 large onion, chopped, or one-10 ounce bag frozen chopped onion
¾ cup tomato sauce
1 ounce red wine
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper
1 cup frozen baby green peas

Place the oil into a lightweight non-stick large skillet, heat over medium heat and add the lamb pieces.  Brown on all sides. Remove lamb from the skillet but leave the oil and grease.  Place the frozen chopped onion into the skillet in the oil and grease.

Cook over a medium heat until the water evaporates from the frozen onions and they are softened.  Return the lamb to the skillet along with the remaining ingredients, except for the peas. Cover and cook over low heat for about 1 hour or until lamb is tender. Add the peas to the skillet during the last ten minutes of  cooking.  Can be served over rice or pasta with sides of spring vegetables such as  asparagus or artichoke hearts.

Grain Pie – Pastiera di Grano

Full of eggs, barley and ricotta cheese, this pie symbolizes the richness of the spring season. My mom made this pie the day before Easter and we would often enjoy it as an Easter morning breakfast with a cup of coffee or tea.

Makes three-9 inch pies

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Custard part: 6 egg yolks, 1 cup milk, 1 cup sugar, grated rind of one lemon, 1 t. flour.

Mix all ingredients together with an electric mixer. Then cook over a low heat, stirring frequently until thickened like pudding.  Set aside to cool.

Ricotta Grain Filling: 6 eggs, 1 ½ pounds ricotta cheese, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups cooked grain (barley works fine.) 2 t. orange blossom water (found at Italian groceries.) 1 t. vanilla, ¼ cup chopped candied citron.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar, then add the remaining ingredients one at a time. Add cooler custard, mix and pour into three 9-inch crusts. Use extra dough to slice strips to make a criss-cross pattern on top of pie.

Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.  Cool to room temperature, then sprinkle with confectioners sugar.  Store in the fridge covered with plastic wrap.

Have a happy Easter!

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