Monday, February 15, 2010

Clean Monday

The Prophet Isaiah says:
Wash yourselves and ye shall be clean; put away the wicked ways from your souls before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well. Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, consider the fatherless, and plead for the widow. Come then, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow; and though they be red like crimson, I will make them white as wool (v. 16-18).
Today is Clean Monday.  In Greece it is a public holiday.  Clean Monday is a public holiday in Greece, a day of great celebration and traditions. Families take to the beach or countryside for picnics and kite-flying. Children make "Kyra Sarakosti," (Lady Lent), a paper doll with seven legs to represent the seven weeks of Lent. Every week, a leg is cut off to show how many weeks remain until Easter.

The entire first week of Great Lent is often referred to as "Clean Week," and it is customary to go to Confession during this week, and to clean the house thoroughly (or to have it clean before the beginning of the Fast).

Father asked us to be particularly observant of the Fast and to maintain silence as much as we can.  I better get my prayer rope.  It looks like I'm going to need it.

Here is a recipe (from Jamie Oliver) for the bread, called λαγάνα  or lagana,  that the Greeks make once a year just for today.


4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 teaspoons of dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup lukewarm water
vegetable oil
4-5 tablespoons of white sesame seeds
a few black sesame seeds

In Greek: λαγάνα, pronounce lah-GHAH-nah 
This bread sees the light of day once a year, on the first day of the Greek Orthodox Lent, known as Clean Monday. It was originally an unleavened bread but, over the years, a little yeast has crept into the recipes. It's most often shaped like a rectangle with rounded corners, and is a fairly flat loaf. The choice of oil depends on how closely Lenten restrictions are observed.

Prep Time: 1 hours
Cook Time: 35 minutes


Sprinkle the yeast in 1 cup of warm water. Leave it for 30 minutes until it foams. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast-water mix and oil. With hands or a wooden spoon, mix to create a cohesive dough.. If needed, add a little more warm water. 

On a floured surface, knead the dough until it no longer sticks to the hands and is soft and malleable. Form into three flat loaves, round or rectangular, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch high. Place on cookie sheets, cover with a towel, and allow to sit until doubled in height, about 45 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 355°F (180°C). 

Poke the loaves in several places with fingers, brush lightly with oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds (approximately 1 tablespoon per loaf). 

Bake at 355°F (180°C) for 30-40 minutes, until golden. 

Serve lagana the same day they are made, as they harden quickly. 

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