We experienced our first Irish Easter in the beginning of our stay on the Catholic island, our second one in the end of our year abroad. At that time we didn’t yet know which quaint traditions the Irish pursue around this church holiday. The only thing we noticed was that pubs or shop fronts were cleaned from top to bottom with plenty of water and foam a few days before Easter. It’s quite unusual to see a building simply soaped like a car and scrubbed with a broom. However, we only realized later that there are some other Irish Easter customs…
Just a few decades ago, in the 40 days before Good Friday Irish people were strictly fasting. Not only meat, sausage, milk and cheese (actually the entire Irish diet), but also music, dance and sociability were renounced. On Good Friday itself, public life was completely set aside.
In order to avoid the weeks-long waiver of meat, Irish church officials themselves came up with a canny excuse:
“There are old records that the wild goose was simply not ranked among meat and thus among the prohibited dishes. How can this be explained? It was claimed that the geese grew on trees and did not come from an egg.”
– Ina Brecheis – www.gruene-insel.de
On Holy Saturday the Irish then sprinkled their houses, its inhabitants and their cattle with Easter water that had been blessed by the pastor and that was supposed to have healing powers. A little rest of it was kept in a safe place for emergencies.
The greatest ceremony for devout Catholics was and still is held on the evening of Holy Saturday. For the so-called Easter service, all the lights in the church are turned off until the solemnly lit Easter candle illuminates the darkness again as a reminder of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Even though people there are nowhere near as strictly Catholic and religious as they may have been 40 years ago, some traditions are still lived out every year… The washed houses aren’t the only thing that has to look brand new now – no, also the clothes! Only recently bought clothes are worn by the Irish people who believe (in superstition) on Easter Sunday. Probably to do justice to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In addition, the Easter bunny is rather unknown in this country, instead everyone knows the Easter lamb (which, even if it sounds bizarre, is also one of the most popular Easter dishes in Ireland). Also, if you’re looking for painted Easter eggs, you’re searching them in vain. The only thing the Irish kids are looking for in egg form, are lots of colorful chocolate eggs, which again likely come in a huge chocolate Easter egg. In terms of chocolate consumption, the Irish are in no way inferior to the Germans on this holiday!
Apart from that Easter Sunday is and remains a family day, when all shops and most of the pubs are closed or only open in the late afternoon.
Since we spent the last two Easter without our families (as well as this one thanks to the corona virus) our usual Sorbian egg painting (or rather egg waxing) and mutual gifting was cancelled. Instead we cooked a delicious, Irish-inspired 3-course Easter menu, that we would like to share with you in the following. In case you want to cook something of it (because one thing we can promise: it tasted really great!), here are the recipes! 😉
Carrot & Orange Soup
- 500g Carrots
2 Cloves Garlic
700ml Vegetable Stock
Juice and zest of 1 Orange
4tbsp Single Cream
Fresh Mint, chopped
- Peel the Carrots, onion and garlic.
- Roughly chop the carrots and the onion, finely chop the garlic.
- In a medium saucepan, melt a little butter.
- Add the vegetables and on a low heat, sweat them in the butter for a few minutes.
- Pour over the stock and bring to the boil.
- Season, and cover the pan, cook for about 20 minutes until the carrots are tender.
- Stir in the orange juice and zest.
- Liquidise the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- When ready to serve the soup stir in the cream and top with the chopped mint.
Shepherd’s Pie (without lamb)
Serves: 6 people
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
- 675g lean mince of your choice (we used turkey mince)
- 15ml sunflower oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 100g/4oz green peas
- 30ml/2tbsp plain flour
- 30ml/2tbsp tomato ketchup
- 30ml/2tbsp brown sauce
- 30ml/2tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
- 1 meat stock cube, crumbled (we used chicken stock)
- 300-425ml vegetable stock
- 675g lb floury potatoes, peeled and cut into medium chunks
- 450g swede or other root vegetable, peeled and cut into small chunks
- 100ml milk or single cream
- 50g butter
- 30-45ml freshly chopped parsley or chives
- Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion and carrot until soft but not coloured.
- Add the mince, in batches and cook for 5 minutes until brown on a moderate heat, turning frequently and mashing any large lumps with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Remove and discard half the oil.
- Stir in the peas.
- Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the ketchup, brown sauce, rosemary, lamb stock cube and lamb stock. Season.
- Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the potato and swede topping. Place the potatoes and swede in a large saucepan with boiling water and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
- Drain and mash together with the milk or cream and butter.
- Season if required, and stir in the parsley or chives.
- Preheat the oven to 180-190°C.
- Spoon the meat filling into a 1.7L/3pint ovenproof dish and pipe or spread the surface with the potato mixture.
- Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, or until the top is brown.
Mini Pavlovas with Yoghurt and Berries
Serves: 8 people
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
- 4 x Medium Egg Whites
- 215g Caster Sugar
- 200ml Greek Yoghurt
- 250g Fresh Mixed Berries (Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberries)
- Preheat the oven to 130°C.
- In a clean glass bowl whisk the eggs whites using an electric beater till the meringue has formed soft peaks.
- A teaspoon at a time add the caster sugar beating well between each spoonful, this takes time – but don’t rush as you want the sugar to be well mixed. The meringue will be thick and glossy when finished.
- Line a couple of baking trays with some non-stick baking parchment.
- Use a tablespoon to spoon the mixture onto the baking sheets and swirl to make a hollow for the yoghurt and berries.
- Bake in the oven for 60 mins.
- Allow to cool in the oven with the door slightly open.
- Once cooled take off the baking paper, spoon yoghurt in the hollows and top with berries.
Have fun cooking, enjoy your meal & Cáisg shona daoibh (Happy Easter) – albeit with a small number of people this year! 🙂