This week on the show, Evan talks with The Country Cooking of Greece author Diane Kochilas about what her island of Icaria does to celebrate.
Lamb is of course the star of the show, and the traditional Easter Lamb Soup combines every part of the animal (she says it’s “made apologetically of every manner of offal”) with bright flavors like lemon, dill, young romaine lettuce.
On Icaria, Diane says they also forage for wild herbs and vegetables to include in the soup.
Easter Lamb Soup (Mageiritsa)
Every Greek, save for a few timid souls, waits all year for Holy Saturday to arrive so he or she might indulge in a plate of mageiritsa, the Easter soup made unapologetically of every manner of offal. The soup, named after the Greek word for “cook,” mageirevo, is one in a long array of offal and viscera specialties, but its name implies a certain embrace on the part of the cook of almost anything that a lamb or goat has to offer and that a cook can make good use of.
There are regional versions of the soup all over Greece. The following recipe is common almost everywhere. In addition to the innards, it includes romaine lettuce, a lot of dill, and a tempering dose of avgolemono. For all its wealth of offal and viscera, mageiritsa is actually meant to calm the stomach after the arduous forty-day Easter fast and prepare for the roasted, carnivorous delights of Easter Sunday.
In some places, local custom dictates that cooks wash the intestines and braid them before adding them to the soup; others boil the lamb’s or goat’s head or hooves in the broth. Regional variations include the mint-flavored mageiritsa of Thessaly, in central Greece, which is more like a stew; the tomato-based version from the Peloponnese; and a garlicky one from Corfu.
Serves 8 to 10
Intestines, heart, lungs, liver, and other organ meats of 1 lamb
8 cups/2 l water
¼ cup/60 ml extra-virgin Greek olive oil
1 lb/455 g boneless lamb, finely chopped (optional)
8 scallions, white and tender green parts, finely chopped
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 cup/60 g chopped fresh dill
½ cup/120 g Greek glasé or another short-grain rice
Avgolemono (see below)
5 large eggs
Juice of 2 large lemons, strained, or more to taste
Cut the intestines into 12-in/30.5-cm lengths. Attach the pieces to the water faucet, one at a time, and run warm water through them until they are very clean, squeezing them between thumb and forefinger, if necessary, to force out any impurities. Make sure to do this thoroughly. Set aside in a bowl and squeeze a little lemon juice over the intestines. Next, wash all the remaining viscera very well under cold water. Chop into small pieces.
Bring the water to a rolling boil, salt generously, and drop in the intestines. Blanch for 2 to 3 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. Let cool, then chop into small pieces, about ½ in/12 mm long. Leave the cooking liquid in the pot.
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium heat and sauté the liver and other viscera until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon. Sauté the lamb bits (if using) in the same frying pan until lightly browned and remove. Sauté the scallions until wilted.
Return the intestines and sautéed meats to the pot. Bring the water to a boil and add the scallions, lettuce, and dill. Return to a boil, season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 1 hour. Add the rice and continue simmering until the rice is soft, about 20 minutes.
To Make the Avgolemono
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until frothy.
Very slowly whisk in one ladleful of the soup in a slow, steady stream, then repeat with the second one, beating vigorously with a whisk to keep the egg from curdling.
Pour the avgolemono into the pot and stir well with a wooden spoon. Adjust the seasoning with additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste, if desired, and serve immediately.
Variation: Lamb Shank Mageiritsa
Skip the innards and boneless lamb and make the soup with lamb bones and shanks. Begin by sautéing the bones and shanks, and then proceed with the recipe.