Beyond traditional hot cross buns and simnel cake, there are a myriad of tasty Easter delights and national seasonal dishes out there that might persuade you to widen your foodie horizons. Our chosen treats are from all over the globe and all have their own twist on the traditional. You won’t be surprised to hear that eggs feature highly in traditional Easter cuisine, wherever you are in the world, but there may be one or two snacks on our list that surprise you…
For the ultimate selection of Easter recipes, see our Easter collection.
What you’d eat for Easter if you were from…
During ‘Semana Santa’ or holy week, Spain’s food scene explodes with Easter sweets and breads. Torrijas, enjoyed all over Spain, are a typical example of Easter indulgence. A variation on French toast, torrijas are slices of slightly stale bread, soaked in milk, sugar and spices overnight, then dipped in egg and fried in olive oil until crispy and golden brown. There are variations soaked in wine, syrup or honey but all torrijas are sprinkled with a delicious cinnamon sugar mix after frying. In Catalonia, these are traditionally served on Easter Monday.
Another variation on a spiced Easter dough are rosquillas de Semana Santa. Rosquillas are similar to doughnuts, however they have a denser, cake-like texture as they’re made without yeast. They can be dunked in different flavoured icings, dipped in cinnamon sugar or simply left plain. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or hot and fresh from the fryer at one of the many food carts at a Semana Santa festival. After the abstinence of Lent, Easter in Spain marks the start of spring and end of self-restraint. The mona de pascua cake, originating from Catalunya, is the archetypal example of something served at an end-of-abstinence feast. Ordinarily, this decadent dessert is a gift given from godparents to their godchildren. It resembles a bread basket or large doughnut, topped with as many brightly coloured eggs, feathers and figurines the cake can hold. Bakeries across cities compete for the most extravagant mona in their shop windows.
With Greek Orthodox influences, Easter preparations in Greece are extensive and begin during Holy Week with tsoureki and red eggs. Food plays a huge role in these celebrations and takes on many symbolic qualities. Tsoureki is an egg-enriched bread, made from individual strands of dough braided together. It contains two traditional Greek spices, mastic and mahlab, and sometimes a sprinkling of cardamom. The kneading technique for tsoureki results in a moist, aromatic dough that retains some stretch and has a chewy texture.
The celebrations continue on Holy Thursday, when families boil and dye eggs a deep crimson red, symbolising the blood of Christ. These eggs usually decorate the sweet tsoureki, and can be used in the cracking game, tsougrisma. This involves players trying to crack each other’s eggs while keeping theirs intact. Koulourakia is another Greek delicacy not to be missed. These buttery Easter biscuits can be identified by their typical twisted shape, vanilla flavouring and crunchy sesame seed outer shell. Their fluffy, light-as-air texture and shiny, golden brown glaze makes them look extra inviting.
In the UK, we have hot cross buns packed with fruits and spices. In Italy, there’s colomba di pasqua, or ‘Easter dove’, which has similar flavour elements, kneaded together into a magnificent centrepiece. During Easter, the shelves of Italian bakeries groan under the weight of this traditional cake, which falls somewhere between panettone and pandoro. It’s flavoured with candied peel and topped with sugar and almonds, though modern variations come studded with chocolate chips and fudge for hardcore sugar fans. Before baking, it’s fashioned into a dove shape to symbolise the bird that flew back to Noah with an olive branch in its beak. If you’re looking for something savoury, a pizza chena may be the festive bake for you. This Easter pie is filled with Italian meats, cheeses and eggs, all encased in a buttery, flaky pastry crust.
Russia has a myriad of traditional Easter dishes ranging from the spectacular to the everyday. Pashka is a traditional food made from tvorog (cheesecurds) and has a cheesecake consistency. It comes in both cooked and uncooked forms and tastes similar to a rich custard. This showstopper is pressed into a mould in the the form of a pyramid and is most often white in colour, symbolising the purity of Christ. It’s then decorated with the letters ‘XP’, which stands for Khristos Voskres (‘Christ is risen’).
Pashka is normally part of an Easter basket of treats and spread on a rich, narrow tower of bread called kulich which resembles an iced panettone. Its domed top is covered with frosting and decorated with flowers and colourful sprinkles. Despite being a traditional loaf, it wouldn’t look out of place in any modern bakery window. If you’re craving something more filling, try kurnik, a warming pie filled with juicy chicken, hard-boiled eggs and a rich, thick mushroomy sauce.
A succulent roast ham is the crowning glory of any Easter dinner table in Austria. There are various cooking methods, the most popular being osterschinken im brotteig, a cooked ham baked into bread dough. The ham can also be stewed with sauerkraut, which imparts the tangy flavour of the pickled cabbage into the tender meat.
The traditional sweet dish is a dense pound cake called reindling, which originated in Carinthia. Unusually, it doesn’t necessarily have to be sweet and it’s sometimes served with the customary meal of ham, spiced smoked sausages and hard-boiled eggs. It can also be baked with a dash of cocoa powder, cinnamon or even a splash of rum and has a distinctive colourful swirl through the centre. The dough is rolled up and baked in a round.
Have you tried any of these international delicacies? Is there a recipe you love that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments section below…