Magiritsa is a traditional Greek lamb soup made with offal removed from the whole roasted lamb that’s usually served as Easter lunch/dinner. This dish, like many other offal-dishes like it, was created so that nothing of the lamb went to waste. Furthermore, ingredients such as fatty meat, liver and stomach make this dish very filling and nutritious, which is great because the soup is eaten to break the 40-day fast during Greek Orthodox Lent. It’s traditionally prepared on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday) and consumed immediately after the midnight Divine Liturgy.
This recipe is only for lovers of real traditional Greek food and ‘controversial’ ingredients. Even amongst Greeks the soup is not always that popular, which is why nowadays it’s also commonly served as a vegetarian soup prepared with mushrooms. You can find many variations of magiritsa amongst the different regions and villages of Greece: some people prefer to add only liver, others like to add rice, in some regions it’s common to add a lot of vegetables and herbs, while others like to add lamb neck to add some extra flavour to the broth.
I had never tasted nor made magiritsa, so of course I had to taste it and wanted to learn how to make it myself in a proper way. The only way to learn traditional and authentic cooking is by closely watching someone who has been making it for years – if possible. Thankfully, for this Easter-weekend we were invited by a close friend to her family home in Megála Kalyvia (Μεγάλα Καλύβια), a small village nearby Trikala in the Thessaly region, in order to partake in the Easter-festivities and to learn something about authentic Greek Easter food from her γιαγιά (grandmother).
My friend’s γιαγιά is an unbelievably cute and lovely 92-year-old lady who knows how to cook authentic, regional food from Thessaly. I asked if I could please watch her closely and, if possible, help her while she and my friend’s mother were going to make the magiritsa (of course, they didn’t let me help that much as often happens with grandmothers and mothers everywhere; they never allow you to do any of the work haha!). They did call me into the kitchen from time to time and allowed me to sit nearby to show me how to clean, cut and cook the intestines, liver, and stomach (with the help of my friends translating Greek into English, and my English into Greek).
My trying to take photographs of every step along the way got some giggles and laughs from both γιαγιά and my friend’s mother (“γιαγιά and her magiritsa are going to be famous in The Netherlands!”), but I eventually managed to document some of the process (though, some pictures had to be taken with my phone due to the lack of light and my old camera giving up on me).
One of the first things I learned is that, while magiritsa is commonly eaten as a soup, in Thessaly they prefer to eat it is a kind of fricassée, which means lots of offal cut into small pieces mixed up with a lot of vegetables, but not a lot of soupy-ness and definitely no rice, or αυγολέμονο (a combination of egg and lemon used to thicken soup)! Since the family lives in Thessaly, the recipe I was taught is according to the customs of the region, but if you prefer to try magiritsa as a soup simply add more of the broth.
The intestines need to be cleaned and rinsed thoroughly and I don’t think I need to explain why… then, the intenstines and the pieces of offal are boiled shortly in water for a short amount of time and then drained to get rid of any leftover waste and dirt. It is then cooked for about 2.5 hours after which most of the fluid is drained (but kept aside). The meat is then mixed with a lot of shortly-boiled vegetables such as spinach, green onions, romaine lettuce, and a bunch of fresh dill (and several good glugs of olive oil!).
Areti’s γιαγιά’s Magiritsa / Μαγειρίτσα (Easter Lamb Soup)
- 1kg spinach
- 10 green onions
- Whole bunch of fresh dill, stalks removed
- 1 big romaine lettuce
- 2 lamb livers
- 2 pairs of lamb lungs (If not available, replace with an extra liver)
- 3 lamb stomachs, thoroughly cleaned
- 3 lamb intestines, thoroughly cleaned
- Black pepper
- 4 soup-ladles olive oil
- Thoroughly clean the intestines and stomach, turning them inside out and rinsing them many times.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Simmer the intestines, stomachs, lungs and livers on a low temperature and drain and replace the water once after 5 minutes. Refill with fresh water and continue simmering for about 2.5 hours. Add some extra water if necessary.
- Meanwhile, cut the vegetables into small pieces and boil in a little water for about 2 minutes.
- When the meat has boiled and turned soft, drain, and keep some (about 1 cup) of the fluids on the side.
- Cut the meat into small chunks.
- In a clean pot, add about 3 ladles of olive oil. Fry the meat until pieces turn brown and add about two tablespoons salt and a teaspoon black pepper. Add a little of the reserved broth to avoid sticking.
- In another large pot, add a soup-ladle full of olive oil and shortly stir-fry the vegetables. Add some salt and pepper.
- In one of the pots, mix the greens and meat and keep on a soft simmer for about 5 minutes to let some of the fluids steam out. Then turn off the heat and you're ready to serve!