The daffodils are in bloom and the sun is somewhere on the horizon. Before we know it, the Easter celebrations will be upon us and there is no better way to celebrate than indulging in the seasonal spoils, such as lamb and spring vegetables. If you’re hosting family and friends, we have compiled some beautiful, simple recipes to bring the whole family together.
If we are considering the traditional foods of Easter, it would be negligent not to mention the humble chocolate egg. The custom of giving chocolate for Easter first appeared in the Victorian age and was famously modernised by new technology developed by the Cadbury factory in England, which enabled manufacturers to make hollow sculptures in large quantities. By 1893 Cadbury offered 19 products for Easter and the brand remains synonymous with the tradition to this day.
For the main centrepiece, lamb is traditional. In fact, the tradition of eating lamb on Easter has its roots in early Passover. The religious connotations have continued to modern times and Jesus is often referred to as the “Lamb of God”. This recipe is a modern take on a classic, and a must try!
Hay-baked stuff leg of lamb
250g kale, stalks removed
4 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 anchovies, finely chopped
1 lemon, zested
70g fresh breadcrumbs
1 ½ kg leg of lamb, part tunnel-boned, shank still attached (ask your butcher to do this for you)
2 bunches of rosemary
1 bunch thyme
100g hay, toasted for 8-10 mins
500ml lamb or chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
Butchers’ string to tie the lamb
- Cook the kale in boiling water until just wilted, then refresh in iced water. Drain and carefully squeeze the excess water from the kale, then roughly chop. Tip into a mixing bowl, stir in the garlic, anchovies, zest and breadcrumbs, and season. Pack the stuffing into the cavity of the lamb and tie with string – it doesn’t matter if it’s messy, just make sure the filling is secured.
- Heat oven to 190°/gas mark 5. Mix the herbs with the hay, transfer to a deep roasting tin, then pour over the stock. Nestle the lamp on top, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 1hr 20 mins for pink lamb, adding 10 mins if you want it cooked through and another 10 mins for well done. Rest for 20 mins, then carve into thick slices and serve.
For something a little less traditional, we also have a delicious vegetarian alternative in the form of a Greek-inspired filo pie.
Crispy Greek-style pie
200g bag of spinach leaves
175g jar sundried tomato in oil
100g feta cheese, crumbled
½ 250g pack of filo pastry
- Put the spinach into a large pan. Pour over a tablespoon of water, then cook until just wilted. Tip into a sieve, leave to cool a little, then squeeze out any excess water and roughly chop. Roughly chop the tomatoes and put into a bowl along with the spinach, feta and eggs. Mix well.
- Carefully unroll the filo pastry. Cover with some damp sheets of kitchen paper to stop it drying out. Take a sheet of pastry and brush liberally with some of the sundried tomato oil. Drape oil-side down in a 22cm loose-bottomed cake tin so that some of the pastry hangs over the side. Brush oil on another piece of pastry and place in the tin, just a little further round. Keep placing the pastry pieces in the tin until you have roughly three layers, then spoon over the filling. Pull the sides into the middle, scrunch up and make sure the filling is covered. Brush with a little more oil.
Punchy spring greens
50g unsalted butter
6 anchovy fillets
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g spring greens, washed and shredded
1 lemon, juiced
50g finely grated parmesan
30g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
- While the lamb is resting, melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once bubbling, add the anchovies and cook for 2 mins until they melt away. Stir in the garlic, fry for 1 min more, then toss in the greens and cook for 8 mins until wilted.
- Add the lemon juice and parmesan and stir well to melt the cheese. Season to taste, transfer to a serving bowl and scatter over the hazelnuts
After a delicious meal, what better way to end the celebration than with a show stopping Easter cake? Here is a straightforward recipe and one the kids can decorate.
Easter Nest Cake
For the chocolate sponges:
200ml vegetable oil, plus extra for the tin
250g plain flour
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
280g soft light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
For the nest:
100g butter, chopped into chunks
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
75g salted pretzels, crushed
4 shredded wheat biscuits, crushed
Chocolate eggs, to decorate
For the icing:
150g slightly salted butter, softened
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
300g icing sugar
4 tablespoons milk
- Heat oven to 180°/gas mark 4. Oil and line two 20cm round cake tins. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarb, sugar and a large pinch of salt into a bowl. Mix with a whisk, squeezing any large lumps of sugar through your fingers, until you have a fine, sandy mix.
- Whisk the oil with the buttermilk in a jug. Stir in the vanilla and eggs, then pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until there are no more streaks of flour. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25 mins. Test the cakes by inserting a skewer into the centre – if there is any wet mixture on the skewer, return the cakes to the oven for 5 mins more, then check again. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 15 mins, then transfer to wire racks to cool fully.
- Next, make the nest. Clean one tin and line it with some oiled baking parchment. Put the marshmallows and butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave on high for 1 min, stirring halfway through. Continue microwaving in 20-second blasts until you get a runny mixture. Stir in the cocoa, pretzels and shredded wheat until well combined. Tip the mixture into your lined tine and use the back of your spoon to create a nest shape. Leave to cool at room temperature for a few hours, or chill in the fridge if you need it to set faster.
- To make the icing, beat the butter, cocoa, icing sugar and milk together until smooth, adding a splash more milk if the mixture is too stiff. Assemble the cake by stacking the sponges with icing in between, topped with more icing and the nest. Fill your next with as many chocolate eggs as it will hold, then serve. It may be easier to cut the cake if you remove the nest – you can then chop the nest into chunks and serve alongside the cake.
You can find out more by visiting the BBC Good Food website, www.bbcgoodfood.com.
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