St George’s Day is one that often gets overlooked by the hospitality industry. Especially in comparison to St Patrick’s Day, the month before, which sends cities into week-long celebrations. But there’s no reason we should celebrate St George’s Day any less. After all, it is also known as the Feast of Saint George’s Day…Yes, you’re right in thinking that, in this context, ‘feast’ doesn’t actually mean ‘a large meal’ but rather an annual religious celebration dedicated to a saint, but there’s nothing to stop us from throwing a feast to celebrate, right?
All over the world countries are celebrating this religious day, which falls annually on April 23, including Bulgaria, England, Georgia, Portugal, Romania, and Spain.
In the UK, a roast dinner with all the trimmings may be a tradition on St George’s Day. But in Bulgaria, roasting a whole leg of lamb on a spit is the way to go (known as ‘cheverme’). There’s a great stuffed lamb shoulder recipe here – don’t worry, you won’t need a spit!
In Croatia and Slovenia, it’s also common to roast a lamb, with the holiday celebrating the return of springtime and considered one of the most important dates in the calendar.
Here’s a Croatian roasted lamb speciality, if you’d like to try something different, which uses fresh Mediterranean ingredients like tomato, apple, and rosemary.
Fancy something a little more traditional? Try Jamie Oliver’s lamb roast – the homemade mint sauce is a real winner. Or go big on flavour with this Persian recipe. Think sweet molasses, fragrant cumin, and a fresh pomegranate salad.
In Spain, where St George (or Sant Jordi) is heavily associated, a public holiday not dissimilar from Valentine’s Day is held. Roses and books are exchanged by lovers, and the region of Catalonia celebrates by filling the streets with book and flower stalls, as well as food stalls.
You could adopt this tradition and encourage guests to bring books to swap? Or even gift everyone a flower, with a note about the tradition. And why not take inspiration from the food too?
In Albania, St George’s day is celebrated a little later, on May 6. Known as Shen Gjergji or Shengjergji, people come together to celebrate the blessing of God, attend church ceremonies, and sing songs about St George.
Later, they might tuck into traditional Albanian dishes. Favourites include Byrek, a salty pie made with filo pastry. It’s often filled with spinach but the cheese and meat versions are just as delicious.
Qofte, or grilled meatballs, is one of the most popular meat dishes of Albania. Generally, qofte are seasoned with spices and fresh mint and served with raw onion, salad and flatbreads.
Albania is also famous for its seafood. Whole fish are cooked over a hot fire and served with a light salad.
Meals are often finished with a sweet treat like Baklava. This Turkish delicacy is just as popular in Albania. Nutty, sweet and delicious.
In the UK, St George’s Day is celebrated with an array of typical English traditions, with morris dancing and Punch and Judy shows being just two. But it’s the food we’re most interested in…
The BBC Good Food site offers all kinds of menu ideas, from age-old classics to retro desserts.
Jamie Oliver has some great ideas too, like his pheasant stew, English muffins, brown shrimps on toast, and treacle tart.
For some slightly more refined dishes, take a look at Great British Chefs – the traditional fish and chips is a winner.
However you celebrate St George’s Day this year, make sure it’s an occasion to remember. Whether you break British tradition and take influence from another country or roll out some old classics, get planning and start spreading the news that your establishment is the place to come for St George’s Day.