Magiritsa (μαγειρίτσα) is the traditional soup eaten early on Easter Sunday morning, following the midnight Divine Liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church, to break the fast of Lent. The soup is prepared on Holy Saturday and many families put the soup on a very low heat to cook, before they leave for church.
Traditionally magiritsa is made with all of the offal from the lamb, which is spit roasted for the Paschal meal. The lamb offal is flavoured with spring onions, dill and lettuce. Rice is added towards the end of the simmering process and the stock is thickened with avgolemono. Accompaniments to this dish sometimes include the red, hard boiled eggs, salad, cheese and the Easter bread, tsoureki.
I grew up in a household where offal was a rarity, eaten only very occasionally at my grandparent's houses, my mum being more of a pescatarian (although not strictly). My first taste of traditional magiritsa came at my parents in law's home at Easter. It was absolutely delicious and I have longed to make this dish for many years. So this year, I braced myself and headed off to our local Greek butcher ready to conquer the offal cleaning processes. Well, confronted with a whole wall of lamb's offal glistening under the fluro butcher's lights - I chickened out and asked for lamb necks and shanks, instead of the traditional offal. The butcher was highly amused, but comfortingly told me that many people opt for these cuts today foregoing the offal. One day I'll get there....but in the meantime, here is my version of magiritsa with lamb neck and shanks.
2kg lamb necks and shanks, trimmed of fat
2 large brown onions, peeled
2 medium carrots, peeled and halved
1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped
1⁄2 cup long-grain rice
3 bunches fresh dill, finely chopped
1 large cos lettuce, shredded
2 egg yolks
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat around 2 tbsp. of the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add lamb neck and shanks and cook, turning to brown. Add onions, carrots, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, skimming occasionally, for 2½ hours.
2. Strain stock, discarding vegetables but reserving necks and shanks. Pull meat from bones, cut into small pieces, then return to pot with stock.
3. Heat remaining a little more oil in a large frying. Add the spring onions and leeks and cook until they are wilted, 3–5 minutes. Transfer to stock pot. Add rice, dill, and lettuce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and simmer until rice is tender.
4. Just before serving, make avgolemono. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and slowly add the lemon juice and the corn flour (which has been dissolved in a little cold water), While beating constantly, ladle in the warm broth and add it to avgolemono. Make sure you are stirring constantly. About 4-5 ladles should be enough.
5. Remove the pot of soup from the heat and then add the avgolemono to the pot stirring constantly.
7. Return to the pot of soup to a very low heat and stir until the soup thickens without letting it boil, otherwise the avgolemono will spilt. Serve immediately.