Easter Feasting…with a twist
Whether you’re going to spend the long, leisurely Easter weekend hunting for chocolate eggs with your little ones, getting all of your friends together for an extended knees-up, or spending quality time with your family, there is one thing that all of these scenarios will have in common: food. Easter is a time for feasting, so we’ve pooled some wonderfully traditional recipe ideas here alongside some quirkier alternatives for those of you who like to stray from the norm.
Traditional: Classic Potted Shrimp (6)
100g unsalted butter
2 pinches cayenne pepper
1 generous grating of nutmeg
350g cooked and peeled North Atlantic prawns, or shrimps
1 ciabatta loaf
1tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges to serve
- The day before, melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat and add the cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Add the prawns or shrimps to the pan, stir to warm through, and season.
- Using a large slotted spoon, remove the prawns and press them into your ramekins. Allow to cool, then chill for 10-15 mins or until set. Once set, pour the leftover butter in the saucepan over the prawns to cover (you may need to reheat to melt). Return to the fridge to set overnight.
- Before serving, heat oven to 200°C. Cut ciabatta into thin slices, drizzle with olive oil and toast on a tray in the oven. Once golden, arrange on a serving board with the potted prawns and lemon wedges alongside.
Alternative: Crispy-skinned salmon with Chilean Chili Salsa (4)
4 boneless, scaled salmon fillets (about 150g each)
1tbsp vegetable oil
For the Chilean Chili Salsa:
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely sliced
½ a yellow pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
3 tomatoes, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
½ cup roughly chopped coriander
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup grapeseed oil
- For the salsa, mix the ingredients together and allow to stand at room temperature.
- Heat a heavy frying pan over high heat and brush the skin of the salmon with a little oil.
- Season the skin side of the salmon with salt and place the salmon in the pan skin-side down. Press with a spatula on the back of the first 20 seconds of cooking to keep the skin against the pan. Cook for about three minutes on the first side until the skin is browned and crisp.
- Season the flesh side of the fish, turn and cook for a further three minutes until just cooked through. Serve with the salsa.
Traditional: Roast Lamb with Spring Herb Crust (8)
For the crumbs
100g good-quality white bread
2 garlic cloves
Zest 1 lemon
1tsp thyme leaf, chopped
Small bunch parsley, chopped
3-4 anchovy fillets, chopped
For the lamb:
5 carrots, cut into chunks
2 onions, cut into chunks
4 bay leaves
Small bunch rosemary
2tbsp olive oil
Large leg of lamb (about 3kg/6lb 8oz)
3 garlic cloves, thickly sliced, plus a whole bulb, halved
For the gravy:
5tbsp plain flour
200ml white wine, plus a splash
600ml lamb stock
- Heat oven to 160°C. For the lamb, scatter the vegetables, bay leaves and a few rosemary sprigs into a large roasting tin and drizzle with the olive oil.
- Use a sharp knife to make little slits all over the lamb. Poke a slice of garlic and a small sprig of rosemary into each one. Sit the lamb on top of the veg in the roasting tin, add a splash of wine, then cook for 2hrs if you like it pink, or 2hrs 15 mins for cooked through.
- Remove from the oven, transfer to a board and cover with foil, then rest for 45 mins.
- To make the gravy, pour off most of the fat from the tin, but leave the veg and any meat juices. Place the tin on the heat to caramelise the veg, then stir in the flour and cook to a paste. Gradually stir in the wine, cook for 1 min, then stir in the stock and simmer until you have a tasty gravy. Push the gravy through a sieve into a small pan and keep warm.
- Turn oven up to 220°C. For the crumbs, blitz everything in a food processor and scatter over a tray. Bake in the oven for 10-15 mins until crisp, then re-blitz or break up with your fingers to crumbs again. These can be made in advance and kept in an airtight container for 2 days. Serve the lamb carved into slices, sprinkled with crumbs and a jug of gravy alongside.
Alternative: Hot Cross Chicken (6)
1 medium chicken, around 1.5kg
A little rapeseed, sunflower or olive oil
2 bay leaves
½ peeled onion
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the spelt or barley mix:
1tbsp rapeseed, sunflower or olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
150g pearled spelt or pearl barley, rinsed
1tsp ground mixed spice
Zest of 1 lemon, plus half its juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oil for the spelt in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic, and fry gently for about 10 minutes until soft. Stir in the spelt or barley, pour in 500ml water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the grain is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed: about 20 minutes for spelt, a bit more for barley. Remove from the heat and stir in the raisins, spice, lemon zest and juice, and plenty of salt and pepper.
- Heat the oven to 220°C. Untruss the chicken and pull its legs away from its body a little to help hot air circulate. Brush it with a little oil, then season well inside and out. Put the bay leaves and onion inside the cavity, put the chicken in a roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes. If your spelt or barley has cooled down, reheat it gently: it should be hot when you add it to the chicken dish.
- Baste the chicken, spoon the spelt or barley mixture all around it and trickle 150ml water over the grain. Return the tray to the oven, turn down the heat to 180°C and roast for 40 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the chicken inside with the door open for 20 minutes.
- Take it out and check that it is cooked – the thickest part of the meat, when pierced with a skewer, should release juices that run clear with no trace of blood in them.
- Tip the chicken up, so any juices run into the spelt or barley. Carve the chicken and serve with the spiced, fruity grains and shredded greens or broccoli.
Traditional: Braised Baby Leeks (2)
280g baby leeks
Knob of butter
500ml chicken stock
Handful thyme sprigs, plus extra leaves to serve
- Wash and trim the ends and roots of the baby leeks. Heat a knob of butter in a large frying pan and add the leeks. Roll them around to coat them in the butter.
- Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and add the thyme. Cook for 20 mins or until tender. Serve with a sprinkling of thyme leaves.
Alternative: Punchy Spring Greens (6)
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
- 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, 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.
Traditional: Simnel Cake
175g soft butter
175g light muscovado sugar
175g self-raising flour
45g dried apricots
45g dried apples
90g glacé cherries, quartered, rinsed, and dried
30g candied peel, roughly chopped
Grated Lemon zest
1tsp ground mixed spice
500g almond paste
2tbsp apricot jam
1 egg white
- Preheat the oven to 165°C. Roll out one-third of the almond paste. Using the base of the cake as a guide, cut out an 18cm disc.
- Grease the cake tin, then line the bottom and side with greaseproof paper.
- Combine all the cake ingredients in a bowl. Beat well until thoroughly blended. Spoon half of the cake mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Top with the pre-cut disc of almond paste.
- Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top of the disc and smooth the surface. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until golden brown and firm to the touch. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover the top of the cake with greaseproof paper.
- Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin, and leave to cool fully.
- Warm the apricot jam and brush on top of the cake.
- To decorate the cake, roll out half of the remaining almond paste and use the tin to cut out another 18cm disc. Put it on top of the jam and crimp the edges. Roll the remaining almond paste into 11 even-sized balls. Place the balls evenly around the edge of the cake, attaching them with egg white. Brush the tops of the balls and the almond paste top with egg white. Place under a hot grill for 1-2 minutes until golden.
Alternative: Lemon Tart (6)
120g softened, unsalted butter
80g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
2 medium free-range egg yolks
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 medium free-range egg, beaten, for glazing
For the filling
5 medium free-range eggs
150g caster sugar
140ml double cream
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons and the juice of 4
- To make the pastry, beat the butter and icing sugar in a large bowl until creamy, then beat in the egg yolks. Add the flour and, with your fingertips, rub it with the butter mixture to get a crumbly texture. Add 1-2tbsp iced water, quickly mix with a knife, and press to form a ball. Lightly flour a work surface and, using your palms, lightly knead the pastry until blended.
- Flatten the dough with your palm into a thick disc, wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes. Lightly flour the table and roll out the pastry to 2-3mm thick, to fit a 21cm loose-bottomed fluted tart tin with a depth of 2.5cm. Roll the pastry over the rolling pin and unroll over the tin. Lift the dough with one hand and, with the other, gently tuck it into the bottom edge of the mould so it fits tightly.
- Take a small ball of dough wrapped in cling film and press all around the base of the tart to ensure a complete fit. Cut off the excess pastry with a knife. Prick the pastry base all over and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and put a baking sheet in the oven to heat up. Line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice. Bake on the hot baking sheet for 10-15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, return to the oven and bake for 5 minutes until the pastry is golden. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and return to the oven for 1 minute. Remove and leave to cool a little before removing from the tin.
- Turn the oven up to 190°C. To make the filling, put the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Gently whisk in the cream, lemon zest and juice until just combined, then pour into the case. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Remove and cool for 1 hour. Dust the tart with icing sugar, slice and serve.