Mardi Grass or Shrove Monday means the end of Carnival and the beginning of Lent. Traditionally it symbolizes the manifestation of our love for nature, thus taking the flying of kites, and the starting point of mental and physical preparation for the Week of the Passion and Resurrection, with fasting and contemplation. It is said that Mardi Grass celebration has roots in antiquity and celebrations of God Dionysos, and was later named "shrove" because in the morning of that day, housewives used to clean the dishes from the cooking of the carnival and conjured the meat scraps.
The "menu" of the day contains only "koulouma", a word derived from the Latin colum, which means "pure." The koulouma must be simple and fasting, and they usually include white bean soup and Lagana (unleavened bread),Tarama salad and olives.
In various parts of Greece there are carnival parades and various curios and revive traditions maintained for centuries.
This year I wanted to follow the tradition and made a lagana bread and tarama salad:
Lagana bread recipe
There's some old folklore that warns that you should tear pieces off the bread instead of cutting it with a knife in order to ward off evil spirits. I'm not sure where that superstition came from, but it couldn't hurt to follow along.
500 gr. flour
1 tsp fresh yeast
1 ½ cup water and some warm water (1 cup in dough and knead for about ½)
1 ½ tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp sesame seeds for sprinkling
In a large work bowl, dissolve the yeast in one cup of lukewarm water.Add 1 cup (150 gr.) flour and stir to make a porridge.Cover the bowl with a blanket and leave in a warm place for 30-40 minutes or until the mixture starts to foam and bubble.
After 30-40 minutes, add flour, sugar, salt and combine. The dough does not stick any more. Cover again the bowl with the blanket and leave in warm environment for half-hour.
Then knead briefly to remove air and deflate.
Grease a baking pan with olive oil and while you still have some oil on your hands, spread the dough and give it an oval form. The dough should be thin and oval. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and using your index finger, poke holes across the surface of the bread (about every 2 inches).
Leave for 15-30 minutes the dough to proof (rise) again.
Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a deep golden colour.
Tarama salad (appetizer)
- 1 pound of day old white bread, crusts removed
- 140 gr tarama (carp roe caviar)
- 1 finely minced onion
- 2 cups olive oil
- juice of 1 fresh lemon
Remove crusts from bread and soak briefly in a bowl of water. Squeeze out excess water and set aside.
Add tarama and bread to food processor or blender and mix for approximately a minute or until well blended.
Add the onions and mix until combined. With machine running, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mixture forming a paste. Add the lemon juice a bit at a time and blend until smooth and creamy. If you prefer it tangier, you can add more lemon juice.