One can’t properly celebrate Easter in a Greek home if there is no tsoureki and red eggs on the table. Custom calls for these two traditional sweets that can turn any family gathering into a feast made in heaven. If you haven’t already bulk-ordered from your mum or loyal Greek baker, Neos Kosmos is bringing back two easy recipes that will help you make the most delicious Easter recipes that will crumble in your mouth at first bite.

The recipes have been passed down by Dora Kitinas-Gogos, the late mother of Neos Kosmos‘ publisher Christopher Gogos who was also an artist, an author and the heart-and-soul of the newspaper’s food column back in the day.

Read below one of her original articles:

Easter is not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament which is the book that Christianity adheres to. We know that the early Christians were Jews who practised Passover as Christ did. Today we know that Pesach (Passover) is a spring festival as is Easter or Pascha.

Easter and Pascha are celebrated at different times, Easter is with the Gregorian calendar and Pascha is with the Julian calendar. The Eastern Orthodox Church also applies the formula that Pascha always falls after Passover (Pescha); the thinking behind that is that the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ took place after he entered Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. In the Western Churches Easter often precedes Passover by weeks.

Dora, centre with her daughter Tania and Christopher. Photo: Supplied

Since the beginning of the 20th century a proposal to change this and have both Easters as a fixed holiday rather then a movable one has been circulated and in 1963 the Second Vatican Council agreed provided a consensus could be reached amongst Christian Churches and the second Sunday of April has been suggested as the most likely date – thus far nothing.

As noted, the Greek word for Easter is Pascha, almost identical to the word for Passover, it is the right word for Easter. Even western religious scholars tell us that this is the correct word. The Bible was first written in Greek from the spoken Aramaic. The word ‘Passover’ is what we call Pascha or Pescha, there is no mention of Easter in the bible. The word ‘Easter’ is a word for a pagan Anglo-Saxon festival; it is in honour of Eastra or Ostara a Teutonic fertility goddess and has no association at all with Christ, his death or Resurrection. This explains the rabbits, hares and eggs, as these were Easter’s symbols. Note that all Mediterranean countries use the Greek word Pascha and not Easter.

Red Easter eggs. Photo: Selini/Unsplash

Hares and rabbits have long been symbols of fertility. The inclusion of the hare into Easter customs appears to have originated in Germany, where tales were told of an ‘Easter hare’ who laid eggs for children to find. German immigrants to America brought the tradition with them and spread it to a wider public. They also baked cakes for Easter in the shape of hares, and may have pioneered the practice of making chocolate bunnies and eggs.

Germans gave green eggs as gifts on Holy Thursday, and hung hollow eggs on trees. Austrians placed tiny plants around the egg and then boiled them. When the plants were removed, white patterns were created; I have memories of this practice amongst Greeks.

The egg has been venerated in all ancient cultures as a symbol of new life and fertility and was used in all spring festivals by Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Romans.

Orthodox Christians in the Middle East and in Greece paint eggs bright red to symbolise the blood of Christ; hollow eggs (created by piercing the shell with a needle and blowing out the contents) are decorated with pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other religious figures in Armenia.

The most elaborate Easter egg traditions appear to have emerged in Eastern Europe. In Poland and Ukraine, eggs are often painted silver and gold.

Pysanky (to design or write) eggs were created by carefully applying wax in patterns to an egg. The egg was then dyed, wax would be reapplied in spots to preserve that colour, and the egg was boiled again in other shades. The result was a multi-colour striped or patterned egg.

Greeks consider Pascha as the holiest festive season, where previously the spring festivities of revelry have occurred, called Apokries (spring carnival celebrations), leading into Sarakosti (Lent) and culminating in the biggest feast in the Orthodox calendar, Pascha Sunday (Easter Sunday) with one of the richest and most diverse dinner tables.

Dora Kitinas-Gogos in Athens. Photo: Supplied

In most mainland areas of Greece a lamb is the roasted ‘sacrificial lamb’ which symbolises Christ on the cross. On most islands the lamb was roasted instead of skewered on the spit. I came across this interesting information about the tsoureki (τσουρέκι). The tradition of plaiting bread pre-dates Christianity. Pre-Christian Greeks baked braided bread (στρεπτίκιος αρτός) in circular form; it is the serpent swallowing its tail, one of the oldest symbols of nature repeating itself.

Tsoureki (τσουρέκι) as we know is a sweet, egg-enriched bread, rooted in the cuisines of Western and Central Asia. Other brioche-like breads can be found in Hungary and the Czech Republic, and examples of similar breads from other cultures are badnji kruh in Croatian cuisine, folar de páscoa in Portuguese cuisine, brioche in French, kulich in Russian cuisine, panettone in Italian cuisine and challah in Jewish cuisine. Wandering the streets of multicultural Melbourne a few years ago I came across an Italian bread shop during Easter that had the tsoureki with an egg in it, only this egg was not coloured like the Orthodox egg. I asked the owner about it and found out that it is a tradition from the south of the country – I would hazard a guess it was brought to this part of the world by the Byzantine Greeks who found themselves there and created ‘modern’ Greek-speaking colonies today known as ‘Grikos’.

Amongst all the amazing Pascha food there is the magiritsa, traditionally made with the offal of the sacrificial lamb. This thick soup is meant to break the fast after returning from the mass of the Resurrection (ανάσταση) after midnight Saturday going into Sunday. I can hear all the ‘yuks’ when it comes to offal, and my children say ‘yuk’ too, but I have created an amazing recipe which I have made for my family over the years without offal and it’s yummy, and it follows here.

These days most people don’t fast for the whole forty days and minimise the fasting period to the Holy Week, and some don’t fast at all. Whatever one decides to do, it does to take away from the fact that Easter is the holiest time in the Greek Orthodox calendar.

The food is cooked on certain days if one goes by what the church tells us. Μεγάλη Πέμπτη (Holy Thursday) is the day that the baking is done, the tsourekia, koulouria and the dying of the red eggs.

Koulourakia in the making. Photo: Neos Kosmos


There are countless recipes for koulourakia, I have tried many, this one I’m giving is relatively easy one to make


1 cup butter, plus extra for greasing cookie sheets, 1 and 1/2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 egg yolks

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground mastic

1/4 cup orange juice

1 oz baking soda

1/2 cup milk

9 cups all purpose flour

Egg wash, made by beating one egg with two tablespoons of milk


Preheat the oven to 170 C. Grease the cookie sheets with butter.

1. Beat together the butter and sugar with a mixer. Beating constantly add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla, mastic and orange juice and mix.

2. Change to the dough hook. Combine the baking soda and milk in a bowl.

3. Beating constantly adding the milk mixture in three batches alternating with the flour. Knead the mixture, adding flour if necessary to form a smooth, easy to handle dough.

4. Take pieces of the dough and form them into balls about 3/4 of an inch in circumference. It will be convenient to finish rolling all the dough before proceeding to the next step

5. Roll each ball into a rod shape and fold it in half, then Place them on the cookie sheets and brush them with egg wash.

6. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. They should have a light golden color. Not too brown.

7. Take out of the oven and let cool slightly. Remove them from the cookie sheets carefully, as koulourakia can be fragile. Stack them in layers inside cookie tins.

Note: Koulourakia will keep for up to two months, unless you have little two legged creatures that are always hungry, that can open tins and take out handfuls of koulourakia to enjoy with a glass of milk.

Easter tsoureki, eggs and Greek wine. Photo: Alexandra Torro


This is a fail safe recipe; it has come to me via a friend from Thessaloniki that her mother taught her that has been in their family for generations. I have translated it from the Greek, which utilises Greek ingredients, and have substituted with what we have here; it is a large quantity as in Greece baking is not for the weak. If you want a smaller quantity, half the recipe.


* Amongst the spices there is a spice called κουκουλέ (koukoule), I cant find a translation for it and therefore have omitted it, if you know what it is please include it and please let me know what it is, thank you.

3 kilos plain flour

126 grams fresh yeast

1,250 grams sugar

10 – 12 eggs

1 litre warm milk

1 soupspoon of salt

1 packet of mahlepi

1 packet masticha

2 tablespoons of seed oil

125 grams of unsalted butter


1. Everything has to be warm

2. The butter goes in at the end

3. We don’t kneed, we only fold till everything becomes one. This is important as to much kneading, makes the gluten more glutinous and will make the tsoureki hard.


1. Dissolve the yeast in a glass of warm water adding a little of the flour till it has a runny dough consistency, cover and put aside in a warm spot till it rises

2. In a large bowel put the sugar, salt, the spices, the seed oil.

3. Add the warm milk and mix

4. Beat the eggs slightly in a separate bowl and add them the mixture

5. Add the yeast and mix everything preferably by hand

6. Add the flour gradually folding gently by hand till we have soft dough.

7. Melt the butter and add while warm but not hot and fold in gently till all the butter is one with the dough

8. The dough should be warm; we put it aside to rise covered well. I usually cover with a blanket as previous women in my family have done. Leave for at least an hour or when the dough had double its size.

9. Make the tsourekia into any shape that you wish and you might like to add a red egg

10. Put the tsourekia aside to rest for 1/2 hour, brush with an egg yolk that has been slightly diluted in warm water

11. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in a medium heat of 170 C, the time depends on the size.

Magiritsa without offal. Photo: Neos Kosmos


Following the Anastasi church service at midnight on Holy Saturday, church-goers go either to their own home or that of a close relative or friend, to break the 40-day Lenten fast with a feast featuring the first dish containing meat, magiritsa. It’s a dish that sees camps divided – and squeamish for that matter – and not because it can’t be tasty (plenty of dill, lemon and olive oil is said to do the trick), but because of its contents.

Made with lamb offal, it includes everything from intestines, liver and heart, as well as the lamb’s head and neck, and is topped off with avgolemono (egg lemon sauce).

Traditionally the soup is prepared on the afternoon of Holy Saturday, ahead of the midnight church service. It is eaten under the pretence that it is the best meal to ease the digestive system back into eating animal foods again. Although it also had a practical side, as it was a way to use up all parts of the lamb, which is eaten on Easter Sunday, without leaving any waste behind.

Among the many recipes Dora Kitinas-Gogos passed down through her Neos Kosmos pieces, is one on how to prepare magiritsa without offal so everyone might enjoy the Easter soup tradition.


4- 5 lamb shanks

500 grams chicken wings

2 large onions diced into big pieces

2 carrots diced into small pieces

2 sticks celery, diced finely

1 bunch finely chopped parsley

2 bunches finely chopped dill

cold water

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 small bunch green spring onions, trimmed and diced


1. In a large saucepan place the lamb shanks and onions, put lots of water almost to the top, leaving enough so that water does not spill over.

2. Bring to the boil, turn heat down to a simmer and cook for one hour, regularly skimming the white residue (fat) left over by the cooking process.

3. Add the chicken wings and cook for another half hour continuing to skim the fat.

4. Take off the heat, strain the stock in another large saucepan, which you will to make the magiritsa in.

5. Put meat aside for now until cool enough to handle.

6. To the meat stock add the carrots, celery, parsley, and dill and cook on medium heat.

7. While the vegetables are cooking, take the cooled shanks and chicken wings and strip all the meat off, discarding all bones and skins and cutting into very small pieces.

8. Add the cleaned meat into the stock with the vegetables, add salt and pepper to taste and cook for another 20 minutes.

Ingredients for avgolemono:

Note: This is a large amount of soup therefore the avgolemono will be accordingly

4 eggs, separated

4 lemons, squeezed and the pips taken out


Note: It is important that the directions for the avgolemono are followed strictly otherwise the egg may curdle or you could end up having scrambled egg floating on your soup

1. Beat the egg whites till they form peaks.

2. Add the egg yolks and beat till blended well.

3. Add the lemon juice gradually while beating.

4. While the soup is till simmering take small amounts of very hot soup and add to the egg mixture gradually while beating all the time, do this unitl the bowl is full. This heats the egg mixture slowly before pouring into the soup.

5. Add the egg mixture into the soup, stirring constantly while it’s simmering for at least 5-8 minutes until the avgolemono sauce becomes one with the soup.

6. Serve with a dash of freshly diced spring onions sprinkled on top.

Note: If this done carefully the soup can be reheated the next day safely and without scrambling the eggs.

Easter lamb with potatoes and vegetables. Photo: Ben Libby/Unsplash


A slow-cooked delicious leg of lamb with roast potatoes that melts in your mouth, the perfect dish for the Easter.


1 leg of lamb shoulder (1.2 kg or more)

1.5 kg potatoes

4 cloves of garlic

Fresh rosemary

Salt and freshly ground pepper

100g mild mustard

100g honey

Juice of half a lemon

1 tsp black sugar (optionally)

1 1/2 glasses of dry white wine

4–5 tbsps of olive oil

*Optional: asparagus or broccolini


1. Preheat the oven at 180C. To prepare this super easy Greek roast lamb recipe, place the lamb in a large baking tray and scar the surface of the meat with a knife. Make little holes (8-9) on the surface of the lamb, using a sharp knife.

2. Chop each clove of garlic into 3-4 pieces. Fill each hole on the lamb with some garlic and some rosemary. Drizzle with 1-2 tbsps of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Pour into the baking tray 1 and 1/2 glasses of white wine and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 and 1/2 hours.

3. The potatoes and the lamb cook at different times, so you should add the potatoes later.

4. After 1 and 1/2 hours remove the baking tray from the oven, unwrap the aluminum foil and add the potatoes (cut into wedges and seasoned well with salt and pepper). Drizzle with 1-2 tbsps of olive oil. At this point, there should be enough liquid remaining in the baking tray.

5. Place some aluminum foil on the baking tray and bake for 1 more hour.

6. Turn the pan out of the oven and unwrap the aluminum foil. At this time, there should be a little wine still remaining in the pan and your Greek roast lamb should be almost cooked, but not colored.

7. Prepare the glaze for your Greek roast lamb. In a microwave, heat the honey, until it becomes liquid. Blend the honey with the mustard and lemon juice. With a cooking brush, brush the glaze over the lamb and the potatoes. Sprinkle with some brown sugar (optional), so that the meat becomes more crunchy.

8. Place back into the oven (uncovered) and bake for 20-25 more minutes until the lamb is nicely coloured.

*Should you choose to add asparagus or broccolini do so for those last 20-25 minutes before you rest the meat.

Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Kali Orexi and Kalo Pasha!