In Romania, we eat lamb only at Easter, there is no other time during the year when we cook with lamb. In the rest of the year, we may use mutton, but mainly cured as a pastrami and quickly grilled on the hot BBQ.
Easter for us is very important. I would say that it is more important than Christmas. Romanians plan their Easter meal a month in advance, they know what they are going to make, and when. Besides, there are certain days when you are allowed to cook certain dishes, such as on the Thursday before Easter, when we can dye the eggs and make Cozonac – the walnut and rum babka I was telling you about on Instagram.
There are four main acts to our Easter Sunday.
There is the church-blessed little morsel of bread, that you need to eat first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, together with a teaspoon of blessed wine. The gesture has obvious religious significance, but you can play along even if you are not religious: it is more for feeling part of the family gathering, and for good fortune in the rest of the year.
There are the dyed eggs, all in different colours, but mainly red, reining over the table, spreading their shine and glow over the rest of the dishes. We whisper ‘Christ is risen’ and play a fun ‘egg battle’ – I’ve written about it here.
The third act is the Pasca – it has a luxurious sweet cheese filling, enriched with silky eggs and tangy citrus, sweetened with sultanas, and encased in a buttery brioche, decorated with braiding around the edges. This is especially made at Easter and you can read more about it here.
Finally the forth act is the Drob – traditionally the main ingredients are minced meat from lamb organs, plus a generous mix of spring onions and fresh, green garlic. We also add a hard boiled egg in the middle. Then we wrap everything in a delicate and lacey lamb intestine, that melts into the terrine while baking, and keeps everything together.
There are different ways to make drob – for instance I’ve made mine here only with minceD lamb and a tiny bit of lamb liver. It is encased in buttery pancakes, but we can actually bake it in pastry (more like a hot water pastry), or just as it is, with no crust.
There are of course other dishes we cook for our Easter lunch, including a lamb roast, with a thyme crust; or a spring onion casserole with lamb chops; or even a lamb borsch. The variety of dishes comes from the fact that we use the lamb from nose to toe, therefore we need to find ways to cook with all these ingredients.
The use of fresh herbs, spring onion, fresh garlic or sorel, loveage, or even spinach and nettles in some parts of the country (depending on how late the Easter Sunday falls in a year) – are all examples of celebrating the nature bursting into new life in Spring.
For the terrine
1.5 kg mince lamb (it is important to get good quality lamb)
200g lamb or chicken liver
1 leek (finely chopped, including the green part)
4 bundles of spring onions, roughly chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 eggs + 3 hard boiled
2 bunches of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 bunch of fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vinegar
For the crêpes, makes 6 x 25cm diameter crepes:
200g plain flour
600ml whole milk
10g of salt
You can start the preparations two days in a advance.
Hard boil the 3 eggs: put the eggs in cold water and bring to the boil. Keep boiling for 1 minute, then set the pan with the eggs in the water aside until completely cool.
Make the crêpes:
Mix all the ingredients together just enough to be well incorporated. Set in the fridge for 30 minutes. Heat a drop of oil in a large frying pan, and fry the pancakes adding 1 knob of butter per each pancake, when you toss them on the other side. Stack all crêpes on a plate in the fridge.
Make the terrine mixture:
Prepare the liver: put a drop of oil in a frying pan and heat until the smoking point. Put the livers in and fry for 2 minutes on each side. Add the vinegar and toss for 1 minute. Set aside to cool, then chop them finely by hand or in a food processor. Make sure it’s not a paste, but it is just roughly chopped.
Prepare the rest of the terrine mixture: in the same pan, gently fry the minced lamb together with the leek for about 15 minutes, until the meat is brown and firm. Set aside to cool.
When it is cool enough to handle, mix the lamb with the liver, herbs, spring onion, garlic and the 6 whole eggs (not the three hard boiled ones). Mix well with a wooden spoon or by hand. I prefer by hand because you feel the texture better.
Set aside for the next day.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Grease your terrine dish with a bit of butter. Arrange the crêpes around the edges of the terrine dish, to overlap one another but also to hang over the edge. It doesn’t have to be very precise, just make sure all gaps are covered.
Take half of the lamb mix and press into the terrine dish. Add the hard boiled eggs, whole, one behind another. Then add the rest of the lamb mixture on top, pressing gently not to burst the eggs, but firm enough to get rid of any air bubbles.
Cover the terrine with the over-hanging crêpes, they should meet in the middle. Place the terrine dish on a baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 25minutes.
Take out, leave to cool and store in the fridge.
Eat! Before serving it, sauté a few spring onions sliced lengthwise until just soft, and add them on top of the terrine. Take to the table on a chopping board and slice (thick slices!) for the guests.
You can serve it next to rocket leaves or simply with mustard.