Easter Pies, or “Pasca”, as they’re called in the Eastern European country of Moldova, are made from a sweet, soft, enriched yeast bread. Seasoned with hints of nutmeg and orange, people in Moldova take the pies to the graves of their family and remember the days they spent together before they passed away.
Olesea’s food story is a story of celebration and of mourning; of childhood and womanhood – experiences which connect women across the world, whatever their nationality or social standing in the country in which they live.
For mum-to-be Olesea, making and giving traditional Moldovan Easter pies with her mother is a special memory she treasures as she expects her first child in a few days here in Bristol.
Olesea, a native Russian speaker who lives in the Emersons Green area of the city said, “My mother learned the recipe from her own mother who used to fill her pies with rose jam that she’d made herself with tea roses from her garden”.
“My mother and I would make the pies together on Maundy Thursday night, then take them with us to the cemetery on our national holiday called “Pastele Blajinilor”, (translated “Easter of the Gentle”), which falls on the second Sunday after Easter”.
To the cemetery, we would bring with us one box for each relative we’d be visiting, containing the Easter pie, a candle, matches and some sweets. When we got to each grave, we’d insert the candle into the bread, light it, and stay for a couple of minutes to remember our loved ones: we’d visit the grave of my father, who passed away when I was very young, my sister who died when she was just 18 days old, and my grandparents.
“When we’d finished, we would go and find someone to donate the pies to – usually someone who is a similar age to the person who we’d remembered. As we’d give it to them, we’d say “please take this for the soul of my dad Oleg”, or the same for my Grandad Alex.”
“As you can imagine it’s a busy day in Moldova as everyone goes to visit their relatives – often it would take us half an hour to walk from the cemetery gate to my father’s grave.
It’s more of a happy time than a sad one, so many people would dress in their best party clothes, and have a BBQ with their family at the graveside!”
“I loved taking our Easter pies to the cemetery with my mother and as the Pastele Blajinilor” day arrives after Easter each year, I remember what we did and miss it – it was a part of my childhood”.
1.4kg plain flour
10g dry yeast
500ml milk, plus 1/3rd cup
5 egg yolks (set aside the egg white)
1 tsp salt
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp nutmeg
- Heat 1/3rd cup of milk so that it’s not hot and not cold. Add 1 tblsp of sugar and 10g of yeast and leave it to grow for 20-30 mins.
- While waiting for the yeast to grow sift the flour.
- Divide the egg yolks and beat with an electric beater. Add the 500ml milk and beat. Add sugar, orange, vanilla and nutmeg and beat again.
- Add yeast mix and start adding flour – use your mixer until it gets too thick. Add until there’s 2/3 cups of flour left and set aside.
- Melt butter. Slightly cool, then grease your hands, and knead parts of it into the dough, alternating with the flour until the butter has finished – you may not need all of the flour as you don’t want the dough to be too dry.
- Leave in a warm place to rise for 4 hours.
- Form into palm-sized balls and place into each section of a well-greased muffin tray.
- leave to rise for another 30 mins
- Brush with egg white and place in an oven heated to 170c for 20-30 mins, covering with foil for the last 15 mins
- Brush with remaining egg white as soon as you take it out of the oven, and top with the sprinkles.
Enjoy on their own or spread with butter!