Today is Kathara Deftera, which means ‘Clean Monday’ and it is the first day of Greek Orthodox Easter Lent, which lasts forty days.
Kathara Deftera is a public holiday in Greece, and traditionally most people go out for a picnic and to also enjoy the custom of kite flying. All over Greece today the sky will be filled with kites of every size, shape and colour and kids along with their parents will be trying to fly them as high as they possibly can.
Kathara Deftera means no red or white meat, fish, dairy products, or eggs are permitted but you can enjoy shellfish and anything else that doesn’t have any blood or is related to animal products. Traditionally, foods that are consumed today in Greek households are octopus, prawns, calamari, halva, taramosalata, skordalia, olives and the main one is Lagana, which is only made and eaten today.
Lagana looks like focaccia bread and has a crunchy crust and a soft and airy inside. Every bakery in Greece will be selling Lagana today but many people in Greece and the Diaspora still prefer to bake their own.
For those fasting most strictly, Lagana can be made without oil, for those less strict, olive oil is used and although traditionally it was made without yeast, nowadays most people do add yeast to their bread.
Here is a recipe from Miakouppa, which makes 2 loaves.
Kali Sarakosti all!
- 4 cups (1000 ml) all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) warm water
- 2 teaspoons (8 ml) active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon (4 ml) salt
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons (15 ml) sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) cornstarch
- In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of flour, sugar, water and yeast. Mix well. Allow to sit for approximately 10 minutes.
- Whisk together the salt and the remaining 3 1/2 cups of flour. Add this to the yeast mixture. Using the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer, or your hands, mix all the ingredients well until well combined. Knead the dough for approximately 5 minutes.
- Add the vegetable oil and knead again for about 2 – 3 minutes until the oil has been incorporated into the dough.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and with a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise in a draft free place for about 4 hours, or until the dough is double in size.
- Punch down the dough and divide it into two balls. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Knead each ball separately and shape each one into an elongated oval. The oval should be approximately 1/2 inch thick and 12 inches x 7 inches. We find that the easiest way to create this shape is partially in the air, almost like a pizza maker would make pizza dough in a cartoon! Then, finish shaping the lagana on the baking sheet. Do NOT use a rolling pin; imperfections are perfect here. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a draft free place for approximately 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 177°C.
- Take one lagana at a time and make indentations into its surface using your fingertips. In a small bowl combine 1/2 cup water with the cornstarch and mix well. Brush this on top of each lagana and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds onto each one.
- Bake in middle rack of your oven for 20 – 22 minutes, until the lagana is golden brown.
- Allow to cool, and tear away! Enjoy.
*Image credit: ekklisiaonline