Feel like it's a celebration by making the classic chicken soup of the traditional Greek kitchen, avgolemono. Everyone’s favourite dish takes pride of place at Easter, when families come together for the year’s biggest feast.

Avgolemono is popular at Easter © Magr / Shutterstock

What is it? 

Avgolemono, ‘egg-lemon’ in Greek, describes a number of different soups or sauces using the same technique to create a delicately silky, creamy, tangy result. It’s thought that the dish can be traced to Sephardic Jews who brought the recipe to Greece after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. For centuries, they’d been making a similar dish called agristada or salsa blanca, using verjuice, pomegranate juice or bitter orange juice to sour it; lemon became the Mediterranean’s souring agent of choice around the 10th century. 

Ingredients (serves 6)

1 chicken, 1.5kg (3lb)
1 whole red onion 
1 carrot peeled
1⁄2 cup short grain rice
3 eggs
juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

How to cook

Step 1: Rinse the chicken thoroughly and place in a large pot. Add the onion and carrot and fill with enough water to cover by 2cm (1in).
Step 2: Cover and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, skimming the fat from the top occasionally. When the chicken is done, the meat should pull from the bones easily.
Step 3: Transfer the chicken to a large bowl. When it’s cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones and shred it.
Step 4: Strain the broth and remove the onion and carrot. Put it back in the pot and add the rice. Season and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Turn off the heat.
Step 5: Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Add the lemon juice while whisking.
Step 6: Add one ladle of hot broth into the eggs slowly, while whisking quickly to prevent the eggs from curdling. Gradually whisk in another ladle of broth so the egg mixture is heated.
Step 7: Pour the egg mixture back into the pot, whisking briskly. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Step 8: Add the chicken meat and serve.

Note: Don’t let the soup boil once you’ve added the egg-lemon mixture, or it will break. Reheat leftovers gently without boiling.

Couple drinking in front of the Acropolis at sunset.
Enjoy one of Greece's traditional dishes © Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

Tasting notes 

Holy Week – a week of fasting observed by many of Greece’s Orthodox Christians – falls after the 40 days of Lent and leads into Easter, the year’s biggest feast. On Holy Thursday, eggs are boiled and dyed a deep shade of red, symbolising the blood of Christ. At midnight after the mass of Christ’s resurrection on Saturday night, the traditional egg-tapping game is played and avgolemono makes its appearance, as the creamy, tangy base to magiritsa, the traditional Easter soup. Made with lamb innards – intestines, heart, liver and head, depending on what the family likes best – it uses up the bits of the animal that won’t be cooked on a spit later, as the grand finale of the feast on Easter Sunday.

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