The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019








Tray full of freshly made kataifi, shredded filo dough rolled around a sweet nut mixture dipped in a syrup. Photo by Allie Ginwala.

Annual lamb barbecue

When: Saturday, June 20, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 1160 Bridge Street Extension, Manchester
Admission is free. Food priced per item.

Greek eats
Annual lamb barbecue celebrates Greek cuisine

By Allie Ginwala

By 9 a.m. on recent Wednesday morning, a handful of women were already up to their elbows in dough, syrup and powdered sugar, settling in for a day in the kitchen at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. The task at hand was to make over 200 kataifi and 300 kourabiethes, plus finikia and koulourakia, for the church’s upcoming annual lamb barbecue on Saturday, June 20.

Two weeks before the barbecue each year, six or seven women dedicate their time to prepare barbecued lamb, baklava, pastichio, Greek meatballs, stuffed grape leaves and pastry for over 5,000 people.
“We do produce — it’s amazing,” Roxann Stergiou said.
 She organizes and oversees the cooking process and preparation, laughingly accepting the title of “queen” or “grand poobah” from her fellow cooks.
St. Nicholas’s annual barbecue began about 15 years ago as a picnic for the church community, but as the years went on it grew in popularity, and church members upped the food ante.
“We didn’t have what we have now, [which is] a variety of food and also the pastry,” Stergiou said.
The main dish on which the barbecue was founded is lamb, still the centerpiece of the annual event. Marinated for three days before, all of the lamb is made fresh and grilled the day of, going straight from grill to plate. Another popular item served every year are lamb burgers.
The recipes used for the dishes each year are all family favorites that feature authentic Greek flavors and ingredients like mint, parsley, sugar, honey and vanilla, along with the regional spices chosen by that year’s chairman. Since Stergiou is leading the cooking this year, they’ll use Macedonian spices.
“Every region has basically the same but a little bit of different spices,” she said. “I’m from Macedonia so I’m using Macedonian spices, which is spearmint, oregano. … I don’t use a lot of cinnamon in the cooking except the pastry.” 
The same group of women volunteer year to year, Stergiou said, with a handful of young people taking a few hours off from work to come and contribute. From 7 a.m. to the early afternoon, women duck in and out for other appointments or commitments while a core group remains to keep the process going.
“It’s really amazing with these women,” Stergiou said.
In the morning, she’ll come in and tell everyone what the day’s item is and they’ll get right to work. For that day’s kourabiethes, one woman stood in the main kitchen area, constantly running the standing mixer and checking on the batches in the oven while another two women sat at a table kneading dough and shaping it into the proper size for the cookies. Once they were out of the oven, Stergiou covered them with generous amounts of powdered sugar. 
The other pastry being made was the kataifi, a sweet nut mixture wrapped with shredded filo dough. Dipped in a syrup of rose water, vanilla and brandy, they are then arranged on trays and covered with sheets to maintain the moisture. 
It’s a “Greek festival with a little bit of international,” Stergiou said, and as such, homemade whoopie pies and fudge will also be available at the barbecue. 
“It’s a family type church, and we have an awful lot of young people attending mainly because it’s 95 percent English,” Stergiou said. “We do have mixed marriages so we want them to be happy and welcome here.”
The small, family community at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church will host the festival on the grounds of the church, nestled into a neighborhood on Bridge Street. Tents will be set up in case of inclement weather, and guests can enjoy Greek music throughout the day while getting their fill of Greek favorites. 
As seen in the June 18, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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