Easter 2024: Anglo-Indian Experts Share Food Traditions & More

There are many ways to celebrate the Lord, but there’s something about unwrapping a shiny foil to bite into a festive and calorific chocolate ganache-covered egg that just feels right. Layer it with some gooey caramel over buttery shortbread crumbs and whipped Biscoff, and your Easter egg is nothing short of a masterpiece! One might even say Easter is a better holiday than Christmas, where food is concerned.

“Easter is so much freer. No need to eat a large, often dry, bird with all the trimmings that are totally at odds with the balminess of our summer,” said the inimitable Aussie food critic Matt Preston recently. Bengaluru-based cookbook author Bridget Kumar-White might attest to this sentiment too. “It’s much too hot for a lamb roast!” says the author, who’s spending her Easter with her family in Singapore. 

So, what are you most likely to find at an expert’s table on Easter? At least, one slow-cooked Anglo-Indian curry that makes for great leftover and maybe even some biryani if you’re lucky! Every Easter spread across India, however elaborate or low-key, is anchored around family traditions and recipes that have been passed down through generations. We spoke to some celebrated food personalities to learn about their annual Easter traditions and what they’re cooking this year!

‘Anyone hardly touches the sweets!’

Two-time Gourmand World Cookbook Award Winner Bridget White-Kumar is partial to Anglo-Indian recipes on Easter since the majority of them are made for a humid climate. So, you’re more likely to find a pot of steaming vindaloo or some coconut rice on her table, rather than a lamb of leg.

Kumar grew up in Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), a British mining colony in Karnataka, which was a picture-book colonial town with big summer bungalows, expansive lawns, clubhouses and churches in the mid-nineties. The author recalls spending Easter at her grandparents’ home where the tables would be smattered with puddings and the gardens full of hidden Easter eggs. 

Now that the longstanding festive traditions are fast fading out, recreating her mother’s banana pudding or Easter sponge cake, helps the author reconnect with her Easter memories. “I want my grandkids to have a sense of what we had, the family traditions we held so dear,” remarks White. In a chat, the author shared what her Easter will look like this year. Excerpts:

Tell us how you spend Easter every year. Do you have any festive food rituals?

I’m spending Easter with my family in Singapore this year and it’s too hot for a roast! So we will probably go for something else like a biryani for lunch and of course pork, maybe a vindaloo. A chicken or ham roast fits the bill perfectly for Christmas, but not in this climate. When my mum was alive she would make a sponge cake with pink icing make a sponge cake and then of course, there are the Easter eggs! 

I would make them at home when I was in Bengaluru, nothing too fancy, maybe with chocolate. But now we can buy lovely ones and they are available everywhere. But honestly, kids nowadays don’t touch sweets! And I thought it was just a thing here but my friends have also gone off sweets so they don’t eat them. My mom used to make a banana pudding and that used to be so tasty but my grandchildren don't even like bananas! So often I end up eating most of it!

Do you have any fond memories of Easter when you were growing up?

I was born and brought up in the Kolar Gold Fields, which is an old mining town so our lives were greatly influenced by the British who lived there. There were huge bungalows and families would celebrate Easter; we would go to my grandparents' house and all my cousins and aunts and uncles would be there and we'd have like a treasure hunt for easter eggs in the huge gardens. But now we live in apartments or smaller spaces and the thrill is not there anymore, there are not many Easter egg hunts. 

What does your table look like on Easter?

An Easter breakfast is quite similar to a Christmas breakfast, we have a big spread; there’s toast, fried eggs, your bacon, sausages and pancakes. I want my grandchildren to have a sense of a tradtional fare. For lunch, we usually go for mainly Indian, Anglo-Indian dishes, with some biryani but for dinner we go for a roast. Not turkey or duck, it’s usually pork or chicken along with some potatoes. 

For Good Friday are supposed to fast or at least stay away from meat, so we make a special kind of gruel, it’s a sort of khichadi, with boiled rice and moong dal and we add in a few whole spices. It’s a porridge for afternoon, because normally Good Friday is very hot.  

‘For Easter, we make Goan food at home’

For Alisha Alexander, the fourth-generation owner of the 94-year-old Saldanha Bakery in Kolkata, Easter is closely intertwined with work. Thousands of foodies await the heritage bakery’s festive roll-out and their selection of new Easter eggs. One of the biggest highlights is the family-sized marzipan Easter egg, which is a supersized wonder. The bakery sells off-the-rack hot cross buns and had to ramp up its production this year on popular demand.

“Easter is a festival of hope for me; it’s Jesus’s triumph over death,” says Alisha. For the Alexanders, an Easter spread is about scrumptious Goan food, from a homely Vindaloo to the elegant and rich sorpotel. The family also lead the Carmelite Choir in Kolkata, so the baker has to pencil in choir practice during the busy week leading up to Easter. Alisha broke down some of her cherished Easter traditions in a recent chat. Excerpts:

Tell us how your family celebrates Easter. What are some of your annual traditions?

My fondest memory from childhood is cracking open my Easter egg and feasting on the goodies that come tumbling out! For us, Easter is a big festival as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Preparation for Easter is preceded with  40 days of Lenten period, which marks reparation, prayer and sacrifice. 

We are in charge of the Carmelite Choir so we have choir practice to make the service more meaningful during Holy Week which starts on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter.

Tell us what you usually eat during Easter?

You’ll likely see Goan delicacies like Chicken Xacuti, Vindaloo, Sorpotel and Pulao. This is a time spent with family and friends and everyone loves these recipes.

How do your family's festive traditions inspire the menu at Saldanha?

You know, for children this year, we have made really cute minion Easter eggs, bunnies and hens, all symbols of new life and spring. Plus, we have had to  increase the production of Hot Cross Buns, they are our best-sellers as they are very different with plenty of fruit and they are cut with a cross on top.