Easter feasting: The best recipes to spring you into the festive mood
From an easy but ever-so-delicious main course to a no-fail baking project for the kids and ideas for what to do with the inevitable leftovers, here’s your guide to eating this Easter
When it comes to the main Easter meal, not all meat is created equal, with history and seasonality both suggesting that lamb should be the focus of this particular feast. For context, the idea of the sacrificial lamb and the tradition for eating the roast meat at Easter is believed to pre-date Christianity, and is first associated with the Jewish passover celebration. Additionally, many say that that the flavour of spring lamb is coming into its own right about now.
Tom Aikens, the acclaimed British chef who is no stranger to the UAE, with restaurants in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is inclined to agree. “At this time of year, there’s nothing better than a leg or shoulder of lamb. I love cooking the leg medium-rare, with plenty of thyme and rosemary, as well as crushed garlic. I’ll serve it with English asparagus and peas, finished with some lettuce and parsley and a traditional mint sauce.”
Alternatively, Aikens says that his seven-hour lamb shoulder – something of a signature recipe – remains a go-to. “The shoulder is first seared really well and then cooked with lots of balsamic vinegar, thyme, rosemary and garlic,” he explains. “The balsamic reduces down and becomes all sticky and sweet. and the thyme and garlic give it a lovely flavour."
For anyone on the hunt for an impressive looking (and tasting) main, that demands little hands-on effort but delivers flavour in abundance, here's the recipe.
Seven-hour braised shoulder of lamb and mashed potato, by chef Tom Aikens
Ingredients for the lamb:
1 shoulder of lamb, about 2.5kg in weight
150ml olive oil
20g fresh thyme
2 garlic bulbs, cloves peeled
Sea salt and black pepper
8 medium onions, peeled
250ml balsamic vinegar
Ingredients for the mashed potato
2 litres water
150ml milk, warmed
600g peeled potatoes, cut into quarters
12 turns of milled black pepper
Place a large casserole pan over a medium heat and add the oil.
Season the lamb and add to the pan once the oil is hot enough. Colour for three to four minutes on each side until nicely caramelised, then remove and put to one side.
Add the onions and colour for four to five minutes over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and thyme, then place the lamb back on top.
Transfer to an oven preheated to 110ºC and cover with a lid. Cook for about two hours, then take out the onions and garlic once they are soft. Carry on cooking the lamb for another two-and-a-half or three hours.
Add the vinegar and continue cooking without the lid, so the balsamic reduces, basting the lamb every 30 minutes. Be careful not to reduce the liquid too much.
Cook the lamb for a total of six to seven hours, until tender. Add the onions and garlic back towards the end of the cooking time and reduce the vinegar to a thick consistency.
While the lamb is cooking, put the cut potatoes in a pan filled with cold water and add 10g salt. Set over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, then tip the potatoes into a colander and drain well.
Return the potatoes to the pan and dry out over a low heat for one minute, then add the butter, remaining salt, pepper and warm milk. Mash well.
Slice or shred the lamb, then serve with the onions, garlic and creamy mashed potatoes.
Chocolate nest eggs
Yes, there are more elaborate recipes you could try – but you can’t go wrong by sticking to the classics. And when it comes to Easter baking, that means chocolate nests filled with mini eggs, a classic cooking project for the kids.
Makes 12 nests
200g milk chocolate
2 tbsp golden syrup
Mini eggs, to serve
Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases. Break the chocolate into pieces, then put in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (make sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Add the golden syrup and butter, and leave to melt, then remove from the heat.
Tip the cornflakes into a bowl, and pour over the chocolate mixture, stirring well to coat.
Divide between the prepared cases, pressing down with the back of a spoon to create a nest shape. Transfer to the fridge for an hour to set. Fill the nests with mini eggs just before serving.
More eggscellent treats
While the Marmite-flavoured Easter egg that’s dividing opinion on the internet isn’t available in the UAE, there are still some seriously interesting options out there. Here’s a select pick of the bunch.
Local artisan chocolatier Mirzam keeps things classy with a delectable Easter selection that includes white chocolate eggs filled with a creamy pistachio gianduja, a milk chocolate number that reveals crunchy, caramelised hazelnuts within, and a sophisticated 62 per cent dark chocolate option with an oozy salted-caramel centre. If you’re really out to impress, though, the oversized egg made with monsoon rose, pistachio falooda and white chocolate, and dotted with chia seeds and nuggets of sweet rose candy has star of the show written all over it (not literally, of course – this egg is far too sophisticated for that).
Whatever your Easter chocolate needs may be, there’s a good chance Marks & Spencer will be able to fulfil them. The Hide & Seek bags will help if you’re planning an egg hunt; a sprinkle-covered Jazzie Egg ticks the right boxes for retro sweet fiends; and a Moonbeam The Unicorn Egg, complete with fluttery lashes, a pink horn and rosy cheeks, will make your little one’s day. If you can bear to eat him, Bennet Bunny, a rabbit-shaped sculpture made from Swiss chocolate and weighing in at just under one kilogram, is an ideal treat for the family to share.
The niche choice
If there’s a lover (or a hater) of flat-pack furniture in your life, then Ikea’s Varkansla milk chocolate bunny could not be more apt. When built correctly, the three-piece, self-assembly kit (made from sustainable chocolate) slots together to make a rabbit that stands up on its hind legs, no Allen keys or screwdrivers required.
What to do with the leftovers
While at this point the idea of leftover chocolate sounds ludicrous, fast-forward a few sugar-filled days and you may well be looking for ways to use up an excess of shiny, foilcovered eggs. Here are a few of our favourite ideas ...
Easter egg ice cream
Remove a one litre tub of vanilla ice cream from the freezer, allow it to soften slightly then put in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. Meanwhile, break your leftover chocolate eggs – about 200g is ideal – into bitesize pieces. Stir the chocolate through the ice cream, then transfer to a freeze-proof container and freeze for two hours. Melt any additional chocolate and serve drizzled over ice cream.
An excellent option for using up any mini eggs, sweets and truffles hanging around. There are no real rules when it comes to chocolate bark; it all depends on the resources you have and personal taste, of course. Simply melt the chocolate (about 400g for a single sheet of bark), spread a thin layer over a baking tray lined with baking paper and, while still warm, add the decorations. Keep things sophisticated with dark chocolate scattered with flaked sea salt and orange zest, or swirl white and milk varieties for a marbled effect. Leave to set in the fridge before breaking into shards.
If you’ve had enough sweetness to last a lifetime (or a few days at least), this thick pesto-style sauce, which originates from Catalonia, is the perfect way to use up a surfeit of the sugary stuff. Traditionally, richly flavoured picada thickens and adds depth to stews and slow-braised dishes, but it works equally well when drizzled over meat, fish or roasted vegetables, or even served as a dip accompanied by toasted baguette slices and an array of crunchy, colourful crudites. To make a simple version of the picada, blitz or pound together some chopped toasted almonds, torn, day-old crusty bread, chopped garlic, parsley and dark chocolate with enough olive oil to make a coarse paste.
Updated: April 17, 2019 05:19 PM