Unusual decorations and recipes for Easter, the famous food blogger from Druskininkai Renata Ničajienė told us about the secrets of the chocolate bunny
The author of a culinary blog, books about food and famous competitions such as “100 cakes for the 100th anniversary of Lithuania”, Renata Ničajienė spends her time and works remotely during COVID lockdown at her home in Druskininkai. It’s not surprising that time flies by when there is a forest and a river nearby, squirrels are running around the yard, and primroses are blooming in the garden. And now that Easter is just around the corner, we invite you to read about Easter recipes provided by Renta.
Renata remembered and told us about the traditions of the Dzūkija region and her grandmother’s secrets. She also shared her original Easter recipes and ideas for interesting Easter decorations. We talked about what helps her keep her energy and inspiration during the pandemic.
How to make beautiful green compositions and edible decorations
– I begin preparing for Easter about 2-3 weeks before the holiday. I go to the garden and forest. I cut off the branches of birch, fruit trees, shrubs and put them in the water. After a while, leaves appear, and cherries, and sweet cherries may even bloom in time for the holiday. You can make different compositions from a green bouquet, – says Renata Ničajienė.
10 days before Easter, it’s time to sow wheat, oats or garden cress so that they have time to grow. Plates of eggs are usually decorated with green grass decorations. And sprouted garden cress is still a delicious product by itself.
– I make sure to bake flat cookies in the shape of an egg or a bunny. We make a hole in the cookies and hang them in the house or on green bouquets. It turns out very nice and festive.
Secret Granny’s recipes
Renata also kept and uses the local way of dyeing eggs:
– We have our own rules in the family. If spring is early, then the day before the whole family collects leaves, flowers (clover, hare cabbage, snowdrops). We put them over the egg and wrap it in an onion peel. We put it carefully in a stocking and boil them like that. You can add more onion peels to the water, then the patterns from the grass and flowers on the eggs will be brighter. In order for the shell to shine, it must be wiped with any kind of vegetable oil.
Painting eggs with wax is also popular in Lithuania. The wax is melted, an ornament is applied to the boiled egg with a special stick with a sharp end. Then the egg is dipped in the paint. After the wax is cleaned off, the patterns remain.
Traditionally, there should be maple or birch sap juice on the Easter table.
Why potatoes should be added to the dough
– For a long time in Lithuania for Easter they made cottage cheese baked goods. And my grandmother has a delicious curd cake recipe. I even put it in the book “Nostalgic Treats”.
Easter kulich (a Slavic Orthodox Easter bread that has its roots in Kievan Rus.), in Dzukija and in Druskininkai, were usually baked from buckwheat flour. You can try to repeat the tradition, but remember that the flour must be made from green buckwheat.
– If the Kulich is made traditionally, from wheat flour, it turns out a little dry. And then I came up with a way out, add boiled potatoes to the dough, then the kulich looks beautiful for a long time and does not dry out.
From Easter dishes Renata advised to make a roll of pork with peas, baked veal, lamb or rabbit.
– The roll looks very nice, this is my interpretation, it’s something between Lithuanian and French.
“Life in Druskininkai flows slowly, but we are content with that”
Renata is from Druskininkai and lives in Vilnius. Almost 11 years ago she created her first food blog and website, Seasonal Cuisine: sezoninevirtuve.lt and wrote her first book at the same time. Today 6 more cookbooks have been added for each season and about retro cuisine. For seasonal recipes (series: Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn) Renata Ničajienė won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2017. There are literally 365 goodies in the book “Recipes for Every Day”.
– Once my daughter finishes school, we are thinking about moving back to Druskininkai for good. When you are here in Druskininkai, time flows more slowly here – this whole city is like a park. We like to walk a lot and ride bicycles. We live near the Nemunas so I get the opportunity to go to the river every morning and I take my dog with me as well. While living here you get the chance to see how nature is changing and there is always something is happening: right now, the ice on the river is melting, the birds are starting to arrive, and you hear completely different sounds and voices from nature. That is one of the drawbacks of big cities, you don’t always get to experience nature and all of the things associated with it. And while living in Druskininkai, you get to experience something new every day and that is what inspires me.
Renata Ničajienė‘s Easter recipes for the Easter table
Easter cookies with maple syrup
Let’s start our Easter recipes with cookies with maple syrup, because who doesn’t like cookies, right?
Ingredients: 200 g butter, 150 ml maple syrup, 1 egg yolk, 3 cups light spelt flour, 1 grated lemon zest, a few drops of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt. For glaze: bars of milk, black and white chocolate.
How to make: Combine softened butter with maple syrup, pour in egg yolk. Add lemon zest (squeeze well beforehand), vanilla extract, salt, flour and knead the dough so that your hands don’t stick. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Roll out the dough on baking paper (about half an inch thick), shape with Easter tins, punch out a hole with a stick or cocktail straw to hang on a green bouquet or over a table.
Put the cookies on a baking sheet on paper, bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees for about 10 minutes. You can decorate the cookies with melted chocolate.
Ingredients: 1 kg of fat country cottage cheese, 180 g of butter, 8 eggs, 300 g of sugar, 2 tablespoons of corn flour, 2 tablespoons of semolina, 1 grated lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of orange peel candies, 100 g of raisins, 4 tablespoons of rum, 1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Wash the raisins the night before, scald with boiling water and pour over the rum.
How to make: Rub the curd through a sieve and beat it with soft butter and vanilla sugar until smooth. Separate the yolks from the whites. Beat egg yolks with sugar, add together with candied fruits and rum-soaked raisins to the curd mass, mix. Add corn flour and semolina to the dough, stir until smooth. Whisk the whites and mix gently into the dough.
Advice. For decoration, you can use an old lace napkin from your grandmother. Place a napkin on the cake, cover it with powdered sugar, and then carefully remove it so that the pattern remains.
This recipe is from the book “Nostalgic Treats”. Photo: Egle Juzumienė.
Dzūkija, buckwheat kulich
This Easter buckwheat kulich is flavoured with nuts and buckwheat, covered with dark chocolate. When I baked this Kulich the first time in my life and tasted it, I liked it very much, and even my husband who is from Aukštaitija, also appreciated it. Kulich itself is quite and fragile, but butter does not allow it to dry. It’s Very tasty and goes well with a traditional Easter table.
Ingredients: 250 g of buckwheat flour (must be made from green buckwheat), 50 g of wheat flour, 250 g of butter, 5 eggs, 250 g of sugar, 120 g of chopped hazelnuts, 2 g of baking powder, 1 g of vanilla sugar. Glaze: 200 g dark chocolate. For decoration: almond chips, candy eggs.
How to make: Rub the egg yolks with sugar and soft butter. Beat the whites until foamy. Mix buckwheat and wheat flour with baking powder and ground nuts. Combine the whipped whites with the egg yolks and add to the flour mixture. Stir into a homogeneous mass. The dough should be thick enough. Add the dough to the cake pan (pre-wipe it with oil from the inside) and bake in an oven preheated to 160 degrees for about an hour. Cool in a slightly open oven.
Melt the chocolate in a water bath, garnish with sweets and almonds.
Eggs stuffed with dried mushrooms
Easter recipes are full of options, for example stuffed mushrooms! It’s a fact that there are many forests and many mushrooms in Dzūkija, so the recipe for eggs stuffed with mushrooms goes back to ancient times. This is a traditional Easter table dish.
Ingredients: 1 handful of dried boletus mushrooms (boletus, etc.), 1 onion, 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, salt, ground black pepper, to taste, fry in oil. For stuffed eggs: 6 hard-boiled eggs, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, preferably homemade, pepper and green onions for garnish.
How to cook: Pour boiling water over dry mushrooms in the evening. Wash in the morning and chop finely. Fry the chopped onion in oil in a frying pan. Bake the onion like this, sprinkling with sugar for about 15 minutes to caramelize it. Add mushrooms to the onion and fry for another 10 minutes. Add spices.
When the mushrooms and onions are ready, chop them in a food processor. The mushroom mass should be thick. Put the mushroom filling prepared in this way in the refrigerator, where it can stand for about a week. Before serving: cut the eggs in half, remove the yolks and grind them with a fork, add the mushroom mass and fill the halves of the whites. Sprinkle the eggs with onion or pepper.
Rabbit drumsticks stewed in apple juice with dried fruits
Ingredients: 4 rabbit drumsticks, 1 onion, 2 carrots, 100 g of prunes, 100 g of dried apricots, 1 liter of natural apple juice, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and dried thyme, ground black pepper, sugar and salt to taste.
How to make: Rub the rabbit with cinnamon, thyme, salt and ground pepper. In a frying pan, fry the rabbit drumsticks in a little oil, transfer to a saucepan and simmer together with apple juice, carrots, washed dried fruits, add about 0.5 liters of water and simmer for about 1.5 hours in the oven at 180 degrees. Fry the onions separately and serve with the meat.
Instead of mashed potatoes, you can also make pumpkin puree which is also very tasty.
All information about the resort Druskininkai –htttps://www.druskininkai.lt
Feeling hungry and don’t know where to eat in Druskininkai? Follow this link – https://druskininkai.lt/en/food-and-drinks/
For more Easter recipes and other recipes, and helpful tips, see –https://www.sezoninevirtuve.lt/
Photos provided by Renata Ničajienė