Saturday, 14 April 2012

Ukrainian Easter Breakfast

Most people say I'm lucky when I explain that I have 2 Easters because of my religion.  Being Ukrainian Catholic, our religion celebrate festivals as per the Orthodox calendar.  So, most years our Easter is always after English/Western Easter but once every 4 years Easter falls on the same day.  This year, it falls on 15th April.

But yes, I am lucky as I get to celebrate twice and that of course means another feast with a delicious array of foods.  The celebration centres around breakfast which for those who observe the long fast prior to Easter Sunday, is the first meal.  The ritual commences either the evening before or very early Easter morning with a special church service, blessing the Easter breakfast food which people bring to church in baskets. 

Basket prepared for Church.  Embroidered cover with the traditional
greeting of  'Xpucmoc Bockpec'  - 'Christ Has Risen'

Back at home, the table is laid out with flowers and also 'pysanky' which are coloured/patterned eggs.  The centre piece of breakfast is 'Paska' which is a special Easter bread (although more like a cake-bread) typically made from milk, butter, eggs, flour and sugar and glazed using a mixture of egg and water (recipes available on the internet).  The rest of the breakfast menu typically consists of hard boiled eggs, cold meats, salads, cheeses, bread, fresh horseradish and 'Khryn/Tsvikla' (beetroot & horseradish sauce).  Eggs are consumed first and are usually shared out by the head of the family and they symbolise new hope and happiness.

Table set for Ukrainian Easter Breakfast

It is in effect, the ultimate continental-style breakfast with a heavy slant on meat as is commonplace not only in the Ukraine but across most of Eastern Europe.  So I make my Easter breakfast veggie friendly.  

I substitute the cold meats with Quorn or Linda McCartney sausages and The Redwood Co (Ready to Eat) Sage & Marjoram Sausages and ensure all the cheeses are veggie friendly.  As much as I love a good staple Cheddar, I use Easter Breakfast as a chance to create a varied cheese board which includes Double Gloucester with Chives, Hereford Hop, White Stilton with Apricots etc.  

For hard boiled eggs (with optional sprinkling of spring onions on top), I always, always use free-range, but at Easter I treat myself to top range ones and this year I have come across 'Posh Birds' ( which can be purchased from Tesco.  They are laid by Blue Baroness hens and the egg shells are pale blue with a promise of dense creamy yolks.  It is stated that the 'Posh Birds' (hens) enjoy fine al fresco dining beneath the trees which I believe contributes to their freedom and welfare and ultimately great tasting eggs!

For Khryn ("h-ren") sauce, I place ready-made creamed horseradish sauce (from a jar), a couple of slices of pickled beetroot and a large clove of garlic in a food processor and it creates a sauce that becomes a lush pink colour with an almighty kick! 

Hard Boiled Eggs with Khryn

A slice of paska always concludes breakfast and is traditionally smothered in butter and/or jam.  Also, as I always do, I save one of my chocolate Easter eggs and have it after breakfast which is my Western twist on  an Eastern style breakfast!  Also, if you still have room for more Ukrainian goodies, check out some Easter lunch ideas from Veselka, a Ukrainian eatery in New York.  Their cook book provides heaps of veggie ideas for occasions all year round.

 A Whole Paska

A Slice of Paska with Jam

So as I go to prepare my Easter basket, I'll leave you with the customary Ukrainian Easter greeting - "Hrystos Voskres" - "Христос Воскрес".  (Christ has risen) - Happy Easter!

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