Lent Brings Back Old-time Dishes

By Susan Hallett Created: February 15, 2013 Last Updated: February 15, 2013
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Herring salad with apple, potato, gherkin and dill. (Teresa Kasprzycka/

Herring salad with apple, potato, gherkin and dill. (Teresa Kasprzycka/

Just about everyone knows about Mardi Gras, the carnival season before Lent, but how many know what Lent is? In the Christian calendar Lent marks the start of the 40-day period before Easter in which traditionally no meat or alcohol could be consumed.

In Old English, “Lent” means “spring.” It now conveys the Christian period of 40 days of fasting and penitence leading up to Easter. Observance started sometime in the fourth century. In Eastern countries the Lenten period is the six weeks before Palm Sunday; in the West, the season begins on Ash Wednesday, the 40th weekday before Easter and the last day on which beer, wine, or schnapps can be drunk.

The following are recipes for three Lenten dishes.

Heringschmaus, an Austrian salad

7 oz (200 g) salted herring
2 large apples
1 onion
10 boiled potatoes
4 pickled gherkins
125 ml (8 tbsp) beans from a tin

Wash and dice the herring. Wash apples and cut into slices. Dice onion, potatoes and gherkins. Mix all ingredients together along with the beans. Prepare dressing (below) and mix it in. Leave for at least two hours. Serve with wholemeal bread.

500 mL (2 cups) yogurt
25 mL (2 tbsp) sour cream
6 chopped capers
15 mL (1 tbsp) vinegar
Dash of salt
2 mL (1/2 tsp) sugar

Mix all ingredients together.

Shrimp bisque

750 g (1 1/2 lbs) shrimp (defrosted if frozen)
75 mL (6 tbsp) butter
25 mL (2 tbsp) grated onion
750 mL (3 cups) warm milk
250 mL (1 cup) cream
Sprinkle of paprika
25 mL (2 tbsp) chopped chives
Dash or two of Tabasco sauce
Dash of salt
1 mL (1/4 tsp) black pepper

Remove shells and intestines from shrimp, if necessary. Poach shrimp if they not pre-cooked. Cool shrimp, and then grind in a meat grinder, or put in a blender. Cook butter and grated onion in the top of a double boiler over hot water for five minutes. Add shrimp and warm milk. Cook for two minutes then slowly stir in the cream. Do not boil. Add seasonings and serve immediately.

Ricotta balls

500 g (1 lb) ricotta
25 mL (2 tbsp) grated parmesan
45 mL (3 1/4 tbsp) flour, divided
1 mL (1/4 tsp) salt
15 mL (1 tbsp) parsley, chopped
2 eggs
Dash pepper
50 mL (4 tbsp) butter
500 mL (2 cups) tomato sauce (any sauce you like)

Mix ricotta, Parmesan, 23 mL (1 1/4 tbsp) flour, salt, parsley, eggs, and pepper together. Place on floured board and knead until firm but still soft. Makes 18 balls. Press lightly and fry in butter until all sides are browned. Remove from pan and pour the tomato sauce over them. Makes 4 servings.

Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings and Doctor’s Review among many others. Email:

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