It’s decidedly spring in Cyprus. And Easter is around the proverbial corner. Last year I made traditional Cyprus Easter Cheese Bread (“flaounes”) and Cyprus Easter orange bread “tsouerki” french toast. This year I opted for naturally egg dyeing and a modern “flaounes” recipe. Both of my recipes this year – I am happy to say – are appearing in other places. This recipe will be appearing in Greek in Toutoukki Niouz, an amazing local free-press magazine about Cyprus. And the “flaounes” recipe will be appearing somewhere else on Saturday – I will tell you on Thursday!
Which brings me to some other happy news, the recipes will slowly be translated into Greek as they will be appearing somewhere else soon! (I can tell you more about that “somewhere else” once everything has been OKed!) I am thrilled with this, as I can not translate the recipes myself. My Greek has improved since I have arrived in Cyprus two years ago, but it’s definitely got a long way to go. (The last time I took lessons, I told my Greek teacher I loved him in front of the entire class … not on purpose.) Anyway, I am thrilled that this happy turn of events has come about. There is other happy news I would like to share, but I will do so in next week’s recipe as it is also my birthday.
This week I dyed some eggs. It is a tradition for every Cypriot house to dye eggs and have an “egg-smashing” contest every Easter. Who ever has the “last-egg-standing” so to speak – the uncracked egg – supposedly has good “luck” for the rest of the year.
My sister and I were always quite competitive and would devise different techniques over the years – how hard to hit, from which angle, which side of the egg to use. It was always a lot of fun.
Of course, my mom and aunts always made sure to make us eat the egg afterwards so we wouldn’t waste food. Usually it would go into a Cypriot potato salad, but that is a recipe for later.
These particular eggs come from my aunt’s chickens. My aunt has four chickens and one rooster. The rooster is beautiful but seems confused. It doesn’t really pay attention to the time. It cockles or roes – or whatever the sound roosters make – all day instead of just in the morning. I am surprised that the neighbours haven’t complained yet. We sure do. But the eggs are good. So we don’t want to get rid of the time-challenged rooster.
Last week, I asked my aunt for 9 eggs and took them home. I set them on my table board in my studio (i.e. the corner of my living room) to photograph. Ernie, my pug, often likes to come and see what I am doing. So she came and started to climb on the board. At this point I should have moved her outside, but obviously I didn’t and six of my eggs rolled off the board that bounced up as Ernie stepped off and landed “splat” on the floor. I couldn’t exactly explain to my traditional aunt that I was taking photos of eggs on the floor and my dog stepped on the board and the eggs went splat because I knew I would be yelled at. So I salvaged three eggs, and took 3 back to my aunt and asked for 3 more.
Once I had my (unbroken & slightly cracked) eggs together, I prepared the natural dyes. There are some tips & tricks for getting a good colour. I dip my eggs in vinegar before dipping them in the dyes to soak up the colour more. I used to make Ukranian Easter eggs (rather obsessively) when I was a kid. I mean, like really complicated ones with intricate designs that would take two weeks. Living room display worthy. My mom still has them on display in the living room. So I learned how to work with dyes. In either case – natural or artificial, vinegar totally helps with the colour. So make sure you wipe your eggs with a paper towel soaked in vinegar or just put them in a bowl of vinegar for 30 seconds and wipe dry before placing the eggs in the actual dyes themselves. Enjoy and good luck with the egg-cracking!
9 eggs (preferably white, but light brown are OK too)
4 cups chopped red cabbage
4 cups chopped red beets
3 tablespoons turmeric
12 cups water
6 tablespoons white vinegar
white vinegar for coating purposes
3 teaspoons olive oil
To Dye The Eggs:
1. Add the eggs to boiling water and hard-boil them until cooked, about 10 minutes.
2. In another pot, add 4 cups water and 2 tablespoons white vinegar. Select a dyeing agent (i.e. red cabbage OR chopped red beets OR turmeric) and place the dyeing agent in the pot together with the water and white vinegar.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower heat. Allow the ingredients to simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the dye into a plastic bowl. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the other dyeing agents (i.e. red cabbage OR chopped beets OR turmeric) until you have all three dyes prepared.
4. Before dyeing the eggs, wipe each egg with a paper towel soaked with white vinegar. This ensures that the eggs absorb more colour. Then, follow the guidelines below to achieve the desired colour. When removing from dye, light tap dry with a paper towel and let dry on a paper towel.
For An Optional Marbled Effect:
1. For a “marbled” effect once the eggs have been dyed, add a teaspoon of olive oil to a separate bowl that contains your choice of dye (the dye must be only 1/2 an inch deep) and whisk the olive oil around with your fork.
2. Place an egg of a different colour to the dye, into the dye with the olive oil and roll the egg around for about 5 minutes, or until the desired colour is achieved.
3. Remove, and light tap dry with a paper towel and let dry on a paper towel.
Use the following guide to help you achieve the colours you want:
Deep Gold: Boil eggs in turmeric solution, 30 minutes.
Pale Yellow: Soak eggs in room-temperature turmeric solution, 30 minutes.
Light Pink: Soak eggs in room-temperature beet solution, 30 minutes.
Light Blue: Soak eggs in room-temperature cabbage solution, 30 minutes.
Royal Blue: Soak eggs in room-temperature cabbage solution overnight.
Lavender: Soak eggs in room-temperature beet solution, 30 minutes. Follow with room-temperature cabbage solution, 30 seconds.