Four Traditional Romanian Easter Recipes
Recipes From the Romanian Old Country
A friend of mine who is second-generation Romanian visited cousins in the Transylvanian sector of the old country during the Easter season one year and was treated to an abundant array of traditional foods of the season. She brought back the recipes from her aunt, and we tried them together right away.
Learning the traditions behind the recipes was as delicious as eating the finished dishes, especially if you are a history fan. Please enjoy the national recipes that are all surprises and each one a succulent delight.
Transylvanian Fried Cheese Appetizer
The cheese for the recipe used in Romania during Holy Week is made from the milk of local farm cows. It is made right on the farms and in homes where families have purchased the milk. According to friends and A Ukrainian in-law of mine, residents of many of the countries of Southeastern Europe and the European sector of the Russian Federation make this or a similar cheese at home, especially for Easter celebrations.
- 1/2 pound provolone cheese
- 2 whole eggs, beaten into 2 Tbsp water
- 1 1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
- 1 to 2 cups vegetable oil
- Several Romaine lettuce leaves or any leafy lettuce leaves for serving, rinsed and dried.
- A variety of favorite hot sauces and sour cream, for garnish
- Slice the cheese into 1.5-inch squares, about half an inch thick.
- Dip cheese pieces into the beaten egg, then into seasoned bread crumbs, then repeat for a total of 4 “dips” for each piece.
- Fry breaded cheese until golden brown on both sides.
- Serve fried cheese on a large lettuce leaf or a few smaller leaves arranged on individual serving plates.
- Offer guests a variety of hot sauces and sour cream.
- This recipe is easy to follow and quick to prepare. I use it not only during holidays but anytime I would like to have fried cheese squares. They have a much fuller taste than the kind you can buy in the frozen foods section at the supermarket.
- The very light soybean oil available is nice to use in this recipe, and olive oil tastes a bit heavy. Use what you like the best.
- Yield: Four servings
Easter Lamb Soup
This dish is made only at Easter and serves 12 people.
The soup is prepared with meat from lambs butchered during Holy Week, because those lambs are butchered in remembrance of 1) the Jewish Passover and 2) the Christian sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The synagogues and the Catholic and Orthodox churches of Romania celebrate these days of feasting or festivals.
In the Passover, lamb's blood painted on the doorpost of Jewish homes saved each home from death waged by the harsh government leader (Exodus 12:13). At the Crucifixion, Christ's blood was shed for the same purpose, to save humanity from death (1 Corinthians 5:7).
- 1 lamb's head and neck (if you prefer not to use these parts, then use a leg of lamb)
- 3 quarts water
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 3 carrots
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- 5 scallions
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 pound spinach
- 1 pound dark green leafy lettuce (like kale)
- 1 pound dock (another green)
- 1/2 pound red-root pigweed (amaranth)
- 1/2 pound sour dock (another type of greens)
- 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
- 2 Tbsp lovage (if you cannot find this herb, chop up celery leaves instead)
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 Tbsp sour cream
- Additional sour cream for use at the table.
- In a large pot, boil the lamb in salted water for 30 minutes, discard the water, fill the pot again and boil another 30 minutes. This softens the meat.
- Chop all the vegetables and greens coarsely, but save out 3 scallions and slice them on the diagonal. Save about ¼ of each type of the chopped greens and set them aside together with the sliced scallions.
- Add carrots and parsley to the boiling lamb and boil another 30 minutes (total time so far, 90 minutes).
- Stir in all the greens (except those set aside with the scallions), stirring and boiling for 10 minutes.
- Mix the egg yolk into the sour cream, then remove the soup from the heat and stir in the sour cream mixture quickly.
- Add the remaining raw greens and scallion, stir, cover, and set aside for 15 minutes to blend flavors.
- Serve soup with lamb meat and extra sour cream.
- This dish is a bit time consuming, requiring about two hours altogether, but is flavorful and filling. It reminds me of gyro meat in a soup.
- This dish traditionally uses several types of greens: spinach, dark green leaf lettuce, dock, sour dock, and red pigweed (also used by some Native Americans). Not all greens are consistently available in American stores, so I often use spinach, kale, and red or green leaf lettuce. If you are good at foraging, you may find pigweed around your house! You can vary the combination and measures of greens to achieve slightly different flavors.
- Passover and Holy Week often occur close together in the spring calendar and some years, they fill the same week.
Easter Pasca Cake
The Pasca cake made during Holy Week commemorates the passion of Jesus Christ, his suffering and substitution for humanity on the cross. Pasca is a word for "passion" in this sense, commemorating the pascal lambs that are butchered for Passover.
The cake is often decorated with three leaves in the center, representing the Holy Trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
This cake is made at home and taken to church on Easter Morning to be blessed by the Catholic or Orthodox priest and then served later at home.
Get rid of the old "yeast" by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.— 1 Corinthians 5:7; NLT
For the sweet bread dough:
- 2 cups flour
- 3 whole eggs, beaten
- 6 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 1 cup milk
- 1 packet yeast, dissolved in a bit of the milk above
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp rum or rum flavoring
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp grated zest
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Combine flour and sugar, then cut butter and oil into the flour mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients together to form a ball of dough.
For the filling:
- 1 pound cottage cheese
- 4 whole eggs, beaten
- 5 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 whole egg, beaten for egg wash for dough
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Take 2/3 of the dough and roll it out to 1 inch thick.
- Place dough into a round cake pan (According to legend, round to remember the shape of baby Jesus's diaper).
- Twist the remaining dough into a rope (or make two strands and twist it together) and stick it around the edge of the cake dough in the pan. This is known as “the rope of life” in the local customs (perhaps even the umbilical cord). You might save a small portion of dough and fashion a cross or three leaves on top of the filling before placing the cake in the oven.
- Set the cake aside in a warm place to rise for 60 minutes.
- Mix all of the filling ingredients together to form a paste.
- After dough rises, pour filling into the center and, add the dough cross, if you like.
- Brush the top of cake and filling with beaten egg and place cake into the oven. Let it bake for 45-55 minutes, then turn off oven and prop oven door open until cake is cool (have patience).
- I find making this dough and working with it in the pan relaxing and fun. Letting it rise always requires patience, but I can do something else for that hour. The flavorful result tastes something like a cheesecake containing raisins.
Easter Lamb Haggis (Drob de Mielcan)
This is a traditional national Easter dish uses the organs of the lambs that are sacrificed during Holy Week in both Jewish and Christian observations. The organs are baked into a haggis and served on Easter Sunday with the fried cheese appetizer, lamb soup, and Pasca cake.
- Lamb organs: liver, heart, spleen, kidneys; whatever you have
- 6 xcallions, chopped
- 4 sprigs of garlic chives, chopped
- 4 whole eggs, beaten well
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 cup fresh dill, chopped
- Caul fat if you can acquire it (fatty membrane around organs; it will melt into the loaf to make it moist)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bread crumbs
- 3 hard-boiled eggs
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Wash organs and cut into bite-sized cubes.
- Place cubes in 3 cups and 1 cup white vinegar to remove gamey tastes and smells.
- Put cubes cold water in a pot and boil over medium-high heat 25 minutes. Remove foam as it is produced with a ladle.
- Remove from heat, discard water, let meat cool for 15 minutes.
- Grind the meat with all remaining ingredients, except eggs; season.
- Beat eggs, add to meat and stir into a thick paste.
- If too dry, add some sour cream or another beaten egg.
- Grease a loaf pan and dust it with bread crumbs.
- If you have it, place caul fat on bottom of pan and put meat mix on top.
- Work the hard-boiled eggs into the meatloaf and cover meat with additional caul fat or brush with a little oil.
- Bake 45-50 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from oven, cool, remove from pan and refrigerate wrapped in plastic wrap.
- To serve, slice the loaf.
- Serves six people.
- This dish requires about an hour and forty-five minutes from start to finish. I find that it tastes better than Scottish haggis, but I also find that using other, more familiar meats, provides a tasty alternative. Chicken, beef, and pork are all good in this dish than can be a meal in itself.
- Regarding gravy, a traditional sauce is made from the crushed cloves of an entire head of garlic, combine with a little oil, salt, and sour cream to the desired consistency.
Romanian Easter Eggs
The Easter egg in Southeastern Europe, Ukraine, and Russia represents the new beginning offered by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
These Easter eggs are called variations of "pysanky," "pissankii," and "krashanky." They are delicately different in design in each nation, with patterns recognizable, like a fingerprint, in each of these countries. The most intricate I have seen in Poland and Romania. Ukrainian eggs are celebrated in Chicago at a museum that stores and exhibits thousands of these intricate eggs—some very old. In Russia, you will see solid red eggs dyed with beet dye or red onion skins and hot water.
If you would like to try making Romanian style eggs, watch the video below. I was fortunate to have a teacher in middle school who taught us to make the Ukrainian and Romanian eggs that were used in her Orthodox church services and after church feasts at Easter, so I think the art form is a lot of fun.
© 2009 Patty Inglish MS