Easter is the most important celebration in the Greek Orthodox calender,with the feast on Easter Sunday being the most important meal of the year - especially after 40 days of fasting beforehand. Even without the full fasting, the last week can be pretty lean so you are ready something special.
Lamb or goat is the order of the day, roasted on a spit over charcoal or slow cooked in an oven. Here, there tends to be more of the latter done and it is a very social evening on Easter Saturday when many local families gather to put their lamb or goat in the wood burning oven.
It starts by making the stuffing which we make with the offal from the lamb/goat, rice, oil, garlic,pine nuts, cinammon and salt and pepper. The offal is fried off and then everything else added and left to cook for a while but not completely. The lamb/goat is then stuffed and stitched up.Sometimes we cut a leg off and keep that for another day. It is then, unbelievably, put into a tin (yes, there is room) and tied up tightly with our name on. You can also use a heavy pan or a ceramic dish with a lid.
The oven that we use belongs to Maria Parvaki who has Marias Rooms and Ilios Studios and it is beside Ilios Studios. The lighting of the oven takes place early in the evening, the last few years with the fine branches which we have pruned from our olive trees.
A good blaze is started and then left to burn down and the resulting red charcoal is then levelled out and pushed towards the sides of the oven by which time most people have arrived with their lamb/goat. In the meantime someone will have been busy making the mud to seal the door. All of this is of course helped along by the odd glass of ouzo or wine!
Having got the fire to the correct stage - loading starts.
The oven will take up to 22 tins so will feed a lot of people. The numbers vary from year to year but there are usually at least 18. When they have all been put in the door is closed and then sealed with mud.
The oven is left to do its job until late morning on Easter Sunday when the door is unsealed and everyone comes to pick up there feast. Having been slowly cooked for more than 14 hours it is one of the most succulent meals you could ever eat and is more than worthy of being at the heart of Easter celebrations.