Greek Easter will be celebrated this coming Sunday. At Café Collage we will be offering several authentic specialties that are prepared once a year for Greek Easter. The seven weeks of Lent (Greek Orthodox Church tradition) is the preparation to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The tradition is that during this period, the followers abstain from consuming any animal product, such as meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheese.
On Holy Saturday, following midnight mass where everyone carries a lighted candle during the service, families share a nocturnal meal that begins with Easter eggs and a lamb soup called Mayeritsa. During the day, women are busy baking Easter bread and cakes while the men are getting the lamb ready to be placed the next day on the spit.
In most Greek villages, everyone is ready to celebrate together the joyous Easter Sunday. Whole lambs are carried to the communal roasting pit. The men are all gathered in a long line, turning their spit from time to time while satisfying their thirst with some Retsina wine or Ouzo.
Once the lambs are ready, everyone returns to their home to enjoy their first roast after seven long weeks.
I have been aging some local lamb for a couple of weeks and will serve it as Orzo Youvetsi, among Spanakopita, moussaka and several other dishes.
Leg of Lamb Roulade (Stuffed lamb roll)
Boneless Leg of Lamb (approximately 5 lbs.)
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh Greek oregano
2 cups minced garlic
3 cups fresh Meyer lemon juice
Half-pound fresh spinach
One-cup feta cheese
Kosher salt & ground pepper as needed
Add more lemon juice and olive oil if the lamb gets dry during the roasting.
Seasoning the lamb
In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon, garlic, oregano, salt & pepper. Find a flat large working surface where you can lay the leg of lamb, after removing plastic netting or twine.
Open up the lamb and, with a sharp paring knife, trim excess fatty areas. Using a sharp knife cut deep slits in the meat, in order to keep the meat flat. Place over the meat a piece of thick plastic wrap, and pound evenly the meat with a mallet.
Make sure the meat is not pounded excessively as to avoid holes.
Preheat the oven at 425 degrees. Place the lamb in a baking pan, season and rub the lamb with the mixture. Spread the fresh spinach in the middle and sprinkle the feta cheese on top.
Roll the meat up into a tight cylinder, and tie it together with kitchen twine.
You might wish to roast some Yukon potatoes in the same pan, which will absorb the flavors from the drippings and the fat.
Bake the lamb for an hour or until you get 125 to 130 degrees temperature in the middle of the roll. While baking turn the roll occasionally to allow all sides to get crusty evenly. Add extra lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil as needed.
Once the lamb is ready, let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes and cut it in one to two inch slices.
Add a touch of lemon juice and white wine to the baking pan and scrap the bottom.
Use as a jus to drizzle over the lamb roll slices. Serve with your favorite accompaniment.
(The ideal accompaniment is lemon-oregano roasted potatoes, Greek salad or yoghurt dip).
Calo orexi (bon apetit)!