Cranberry sauce that is not from a can…. you can do it!
We believe that there are three types of cranberry sauce people in the world. The first are those who like to open up a can and plop the contents onto a dish to be sliced and served. We are not those people, although we 100% respect and adore that many canned cranberry sauce friends tell us that the sight of the unmolded can of sauce, complete with rings from the can, reminds them of home and their childhoods. You know, we are all for that! The second class of cranberry sauce people are those who realize that making fresh cranberry sauce may be the easiest culinary feat possible, and so they do. We have become those people, but the truth is, for most of our lives, we fell into category three. This last group of sad, deprived folks are those who never knew of cranberry sauce growing up, because holiday turkey was lamb and it was served with tzatziki.
A layered Christmas bread with the most unbelievable texture and flavour
Christmas traditions certainly vary across cultures, regions and families; some are embedded within religious traditions while others are developed through years of “that’s just the way we do things”. One tradition which our family shares with many other Orthodox families is the baking of the traditional christopsomo, which literally translates to Christ’s bread. This bread is typically baked on Christmas Eve and eaten on Christmas Day and is replete with symbolism and meaning.
Summer is coming, and with it, wedding season. We love everything about weddings; the blissful couple, the beautiful dress, the personal touches which permeate the entire event. There is so much to appreciate! What we love most however are the traditions. Whether they are cultural or religious or simply familial, these traditions situate the nuptials within something larger than the day itself. How lovely!
Within our family, and Greek culture, we have our own set of traditions. Some of these, of course, revolve around food. In the Messinia region of the Peloponnese, which is where our parents and grandparents (and great-grand parents) are from, one of these sweet traditions is diples.Offering diples at weddings represents a wish that as two individuals become one couple and one family, their joys and blessings double.
Greek Pascha is the holiday which keeps on giving…leftovers. One of the things that our Easter season seems to leave us with plenty of is tsoureki, and we’re thrilled. It seems that most Greek homes bake a huge number of these sweet loaves during this holiday season, many of which are then are gifted to family and friends. If you are Greek however, you usually end up receiving as many tsourekia as you give away; you end up breaking even! Good problems to have!
If you have been following our blog and reading our stories, then you may know that we Greek Canadian sisters are both married to Xeni (if you are Greek, you know exactly what this means…and if you are not Greek, well, Xeni is you). One of us is married to a man who is of Irish and Scottish descent, and so it seemed fitting to share a recipe from his original neck of the woods, especially with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner.
Irish soda bread is classified as a quick bread because it does not include yeast, hence there is no proofing time where the dough rises, and then rises again. Here, baking soda and buttermilk combine to do all the work. The result is a bread which goes from flour in a bowl to warm bread in your mouth in about 45 minutes. The Irish know that sometimes, there are more important things to do than spend hours in the kitchen.
This is probably one of our favourite times of year. In Greece, carnival season is ending and Monday marks the beginning of lent for Greek Orthodox Easter (Pascha). Although we live in Canada, and there are no such Carnivals, we do what we can to keep with some of the Greek traditions and customs. Many people have abstained from eating meat this past week and will now continue to abstain from meat, eggs and dairy until Easter Sunday. Whether you are fasting entirely, partially, or not at all, is of course a personal decision. Throughout our lives, for various reasons, we have fasted in the ways which were most appropriate for us at the time. One thing that has always remained constant however is that on Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday), we eat lagana.
Ever wonder why, in most Greek families, names seem to be on repeat? At any given family function you are likely to find 4 Marias, 3 Costas and about 7 Georges. That’s because Greek parents have traditionally always named their children after their own parents. So, two siblings who each have daughters, may very well name their girls after their common mother, for example. Many Greek names are also names of Saints, making the Nameday (the day during which we commemorate the life of a given Saint) a much bigger deal amongst many Greeks than birthdays could ever be. Each of us is named after one of our grandmothers, and one of our Greek names (Vasiliki) is also associated with Saint Basil the Great, who is commemorated on January 1st, the day of his death.
Who doesn’t dream about a white Christmas? We certainly do! Thankfully, living in Canada means that most years, our dream comes true. It is rare that December 25th rolls around without a blanket of beautiful, white, fluffy snow covering everything! If you have never made snow angels on Christmas morning, we really hope that you get to one day! Our parents grew up in Greece however, a country not known for frosty winters and snow storms. So, in their villages, the whitest and fluffiest thing they could hope for at Christmas time, were kourabiethes.
Sweet is the day that you decide to devote some time to making tsoureki, the traditional Greek Easter bread which is often served to break the Lenten fast. On Easter Sunday it is offered to family and friends as a way to express friendship and love. Godparents often include a loaf of tsoureki in the Easter gifts they give their godchildren, tucked into the gift bag next to the shoes and the lambada (Easter candle).
Similar to Jewish challah bread, tsoureki is sweet, soft and fluffy. What sets it apart from other, similar, egg- enriched breads however are the flavourings of mastiha and mahlepi. Although these unique ingredients are key, and present in almost all tsourekia recipes, there are numerous variations, with some families adding additional flavours of orange or brandy or other nice things.