For this year’s Easter celebrations, we are doing a little time travel into the last century, to the United Kingdom in the 30ies and 40ies. Hand-picked black & white images by the Europeana Food and Drink partner TopFoto, also featured via our Picture Library show British traditions and spring scenes, also depicting limited supplies and shortages for post-war Easter celebrations.
Hot Cross Buns & Fish for Good Friday
Traditionally, Hot Cross Buns are eaten for breakfast on Good Friday, being the only luxury afforded during this time of mourning. According to a legend, in A.D. 1361 a priest at St. Alban’s Abbey in Herfortshire gave these to the poor on Good Friday, and the tradition was born.
22 March 1932: Finding Britain’s champion hot cross bun eater. A contest is taking place at the East Ham skating rink in London to find the champion eater of hot cross buns. Competitors must eat as many buns as they can but must not take more than two minutes per bun. Anyone exceeding this time is disqualified.
4 April 1936: Billingsgate Fish Market is already working at top pressure to deal with the terrific demand for Good Friday fish . The approach of the Easter festival means greatly increased work for Billinsgate , which has to supply eight million Londoners . The photo shows the busy scene at Billingsgate Market .
3 April 1947: Girl workers at the Cadby Hall bakeries of J Lyons and co, prepare for dispatched part of the huge number of hot cross buns baked the Good Friday. In this year of bread rationing there are hot cross buns for the first time.
Easter Eggs and Special Treats
March 1947: Chocolate Easter eggs are in great demand this year, but the supply is very limited. Very few manufacturers are making this year owing to the rationing difficulties and shortage of man power. A girl at shuttle worth’s factory handles some austerity two ounce eggs, being prepared for nest week’s rush. In one hand she holds a pre-war chocolate egg for comparison just to torment the hungry buyers. March 1947
The Coles Quads of Pimlico, London, Left to Right Patricia Frances, Edna and Marie are all ready for Easter with their new Easter bonnets and Easter Eggs.
Get inspired for the holidays with the most traditional Easter cakes, pastries and breads.
– by Angelika Leitner
Religious and ethnic traditions around the upcoming Christian holidays celebrating the resurrection of Christ are manifold. Especially when it comes to the socially shared activity of eating, there is a variety of symbolic Easter food recipes handed down from generation to generation. We selected the most delectable Easter dishes with historical roots for you.
Eastern-European Easter – eclectic, embellished and very sweet
One of the most beautiful Easter cakes is Mazurek from Poland. Typically made of short cake, the sweet tart has been part of Polish Easter tradition since the 17th century and is said to be coming from the Mazur tribe in the Mazovia Region.
What distinguishes the festive cake from other holiday desserts is the unique look of the Mazurek: On top of a generous layer of fruit, chocolate, cream or sugar icing, the cake is decorated with an abundance of decoration with dried fruit, meringues, seeds and nuts.
Mazurek is often part of Święconka, the blessing of the Easter baskets, which is one of the most common Eastern European traditions.
As a symbol of resurrection, painted Easter eggs and other products like bread, salt, sausage, ham, horseradish, and the Easter cake are put into a basket and brought to Church on Holy Saturday to be blessed by a priest. The food items are enjoyed the next day for Easter Sunday breakfast.
In Poland, the Tradition of Święconka became so popular that the blessing takes place not only at the church, but can be organized as a public ceremony on the main square of Polish towns.
Similar to Poland, the typical food on the Slovenian Easter table consists of bread, ham and horseradish and the distinctive specialty Potica. There are over fifty recognized variants of the cake depending on the filling, which can be both sweet and savory. Walnuts, hazelnuts, dried fruit, honey and peppermint or cottage cheese, sour cream, cracklings and bacon are some of the typical ingredients.
Baked Easter Lambs are a typical Easter Tradition in Central & Eastern Europe. The lamb as a symbol for innocence and defencelessness represents Jesus and relates his death to that of the lamb sacrificed on the first Passover.
The Easter Lamb cake, which is known as anuszek, baranek wielkanocny in Polish, or simply Osterlamm in German, is baked in a special iron-cast lamb mold. Lots of eggs are needed for the sponge cake, making the Easter Lamb a special treat for Holy Sunday.
Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Polish cuisines all share the tradition of Easter Paska. Literally translated the word means Easter, and describes round-shaped sweet bread. Elaborately decorated with dough ornaments, the cross is the central motif. Along with other foods, this bread is also taken to church to be blessed. The fancier the decoration, the better.
Island style– Cyprian Flaounes and Maltese Figolli
Moving further to the island Cyprus, we detected a very special Easter bread that is following an old Greek tradition.
On Thursday before Easter, Cypriots typically do their Easter baking of Flaounes. This festive Easter bread made of sour dough is filled with grated flaouna cheese, a kind of cheese prepared only during this time of year especially for this recipe.
Further mixed with grated halloumi cheese, eggs, chopped mint and raisins, this preparation has its roots in ancient Greece: “Palathi”, a kind of bread made with nuts, was offered to children who went from house to house singing about the coming of swallows and spring.
This tradition continued during the Byzantine era and until recent years. “Flaouna” is still offered Cyprian children as a treat when walking through town to announce the resurrection of Christ or to wake up the people to go to church for the midnight mass on Easter Saturday.
Another very adorable Easter tradition comes from the island of Malta: Maltese Figolli.
These marzipan or almond filled biscuits have been made for centuries by Maltese people. Typically cut in various Easter shapes and decorated with sugar icing in all sorts of colours, Figolli are finally topped with an Easter egg.
It is common to prepare batches of these sweets and give them as gifts to friends and family.
We are pleased to share a traditional family recipe for Figolli from one of our Maltese partners with you:
Start with the pastry by beating sugar, margarine, vanilla and lemon peel in a mixer.
Add the 3 eggs in a measuring jug and top up with lemon juice to the amount of 155mls. Beat for a while, then start adding the sifted flour gradually which you prepared beforehands.Beat well until you have a very soft dough. Roll up on a well floured surface and leave to rest for an hour.
For the filling, mix sugar and almonds. Add vanilla, eggs and lemon Juice and beat for about 3 minutes. The mixture should stay soft, as it may dry a bit after some time. Cool well.
You can get 3 to 4‘figolli’ according to the size and thickness of the pastry. Always cut 2 shapes of the same kind at a time. Fill with the filling, cover and press pastry together.
Preheat the oven to 140° C and bake for approximately 40 mins.
After cooling, cover the Figolli with water icing, then decorate with royal icing of your choice. The biscuits can also be covered in chocolate.