after easter. spring

the weekend four weeks ago i wore shorts and a tshirt on my way home and it was warm enough, giving me a nice brush of sunlight on my skin. then we had snow. easter was colder than christmas. but yesterday, just a day too late, the weather changed, but only today it was finally warm, in a consistent and fulfilling way. i went cycling without a coat, wearing only a checked shirt instead. it finally felt right, even more so when the warm evening full of bright starts appearing on the clear sky smelled like spring. my body was made of shivers. i am still shivering, and smiling.

i took my bike alexander, the faithful friend, and cycled around the neighbourhood for some time, noting all the little changes that happened during the winter time. it looks a bit depressing, now, will everything grey and dull, but there is a certain charm to it. i could picture clearly in my head the trees full of leaves, the blooming flowers and people wearing smiles. stories kept running though my head, some of them new and some of the ones that i know by heart, as i hummed to myself and pedaled quickly and fervently. it was just after noon so the streets were mostly empty, i passed the usual mixture of elderly people with dogs and a few mothers with their kids in pushchairs. after an hour i changed the route and cycled the opposite way, to make the first ride through the pristine area, too. i felt very holiday-like, with sunglasses and sun licking my neck with its rays, passing rows of low houses that remind me of little towns by the seaside.

 on my way back i stopped off at a cemetery to pray and light some candles. in the very middle there is a big monument where i always go: a memento of soldiers who died in the area after second world war. i lit a candle there too, and wandered between the graves of hundreds of people, so many unknown, some of them only being stars found on their uniforms. the place was silent, like always, birds’ songs seemed loud contrasting with the swelling silence. 

when i came back home, i also came back to duties. one of the was very pleasurable: eating leftover pascha from easter. pascha is a traditional dessert in eastern europe, mostly russia, ukraine and poland.  it is only eaten once a year. it is prepared with quark (curd cheese), sugar, butter and lots of dried and candied fruits – those used to be luxury products, so they symbolized all the wealth that people wanted to offer to god to celebrate his resurrection.  certainly worth the effort. it is lush and creamy, a bit crumbly in texture, and full of flavours . i like mine with lots of candied citrus peel that gives it a fresh note and an interesting bitter aftertaste. it is very filling and deceptively rich, so a small piece per person will suffice. it is customary to decorate it nicely with nuts or candied fruit – it should look as good as it tastes.

pascha recipe
1 kg quark, twice minced (i think ricotta would do, too)
200 ml double cream
6 egg yolks
250 g powdered sugar
200 g butter, softened
1 vanilla pod
300 g of dried and candied fruit mix, chopped (i use: candied orange and lemon peel, figs, dates, candied cherries, apricots)
some candied cherries and orange peel to decorate

you will need
huge strainer (preferable plastic, dome shaped)
thin linen cloth or gauze to line the strainer
lot of space

beat egg yolks with sugar until creamy
add butter and mix well, then add cream and mix again
heat to approx. 80°C / 175 F, adding quark and mixing all the time – all the fats will melt and it will be rather runny
leave to cool down
add fruit and mix until evenly spread

prepare a big strainer with small holes (preferably made of plastic) and line with either linen cloth (not thick) or gauze (two layers), put over a big pot or a bowl (big enough so the strainer will not be too close to the bottom as some liquid will appear)
carefully transfer the mix into the strainer
if it is runny, leave for 8-12 hours in a cool place (basement, fridge), if not, cover with a flat strainer-sized plate and put something to weigh down the plate (up to 1 kg weight; not essential, but it helps the pascha to gain a better texture)
leave for at least a day in fridge, at the end discard the liquid

to serve: invert the pascha onto a bigger plate, helping to support it with loose pieces of the cloth
decorate with candied cherries (around the top) and candied orange peel (around the bottom)


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