Easter a catch up after denial (+recipes)

By Jan Bilton


Easter is steeped in religious and food traditions. During Lent, the six weeks leading up to Easter, many Christians fast or give up indulgent luxuries as a form of penitence. It's no wonder Easter Sunday is a day of feasting - everything from chocolate eggs and rabbits, to roasted meats and cakes and desserts.

Generations ago it was considered a lucky omen to meet a lamb, especially at Easter. It was a popular superstition that the Devil, who could take the form of animals, was never represented in the shape of a lamb because of its religious symbolism.

Roast lamb is an Easter tradition, especially in Greece. However, many Americans roast ham. Both provide great food for the family during the holiday weekend while we make the most of the last of the warmer weather.

Eating eggs was once prohibited during Lent and their welcome return provided a reason to celebrate. Hence the development of the giving of chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday and the advent of "Easter egg hunts" in the garden.

Throughout the world traditional breads are braided, shaped into crosses, serpents, buns and ropes to be enjoyed during the holiday break. Dried fruits and nuts are often added.

Hot cross buns were originally made in honour of an Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eastre. Goddesses went out of favour but the bun remained popular. It was marked with a cross, a symbol of evil, because Good Friday was regarded as an evil day.

Nutritious "seedy" Easter eggs: With the help of your children, prepare these a week before Easter. Keep the half shells from all the large eggs you use during the week. Wash and dry them well. With felt-tip markers, draw funny faces, designs or names on the shells. Place them, cut-side up, in an egg carton. Sprinkle cotton balls with water and place them in the eggs. Sprinkle with about half a teaspoon of seeds such as sunflower, alfalfa, cress, wheatgrass, radish or other microgreens. Place the carton on a sunny window ledge. Keep damp and the seeds will begin to sprout. When they have grown to about 5cm, cut them and add to salads or sandwiches.


RECIPES

PULL-APART EASTER BUNS

Add a half-cup each of mixed peel and currants, if preferred.

1 tbsp active dry yeast granules

1 cup warm water

4 & 1/2 cups high-grade flour

2 large eggs, beaten

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

175g butter, softened

2 tbsp ground cinnamon


Sprinkle the yeast evenly over the warm water in a mixing bowl. Stand for five minutes until foamy. Whisk in half a cup of flour. Cover and stand until bubbly and risen, about 30 minutes.

Whisk in the eggs, a quarter cup of sugar, salt and remaining flour. Using a dough hook preferably, mix until smooth, about four minutes.

Add 125g butter and mix until smooth. Add a little extra flour if too sticky.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about three minutes. Place in a bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, about one and a half hours. Punch down.

Melt the remaining 50g of butter. Lightly butter a baking tray.

Combine the remaining sugar and the cinnamon in a bowl. Roll the dough into 3-4cm diameter balls, about 30g each. Dip the balls into the melted butter then into the cinnamon mixture. Place 1cm apart in a 25cm circle on the oven tray. There will be about 15 balls. Then fill in the centre with the remaining balls, stacking the extra balls on top.

Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Cover loosely with plastic film and stand until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Uncover the balls and bake until golden and a wooden skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Cool for 15 minutes then drizzle with a light icing. (Combine a cup of sifted icing sugar with a tablespoon of lemon juice and enough water to make an icing that can be drizzled.) Makes about 30 small buns.

WASABI OYSTER OMELETTE

It's the Bluff oyster season. Treat someone special.

Filling: 1 tbsp each: butter, plain flour

1/4 cup each: cream, milk

salt and white pepper to taste

1 tsp wasabi paste

1 tbsp lemon juice

8-12 oysters

Omelette: 4 eggs, separated

1 tbsp milk

salt and white pepper to taste

1 tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese

1 tbsp butter

To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan; stir in the flour. Gradually stir in the cream and milk, stirring until thickened. Add the salt, pepper, wasabi and lemon juice. Stir well. Fold in the oysters.

To make the omelette, whisk the egg yolks, milk, salt, pepper and parmesan, until frothy. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold into the egg yolk mixture.

Melt the butter in a medium, non-stick frying pan. Add the egg mixture. Cook over medium heat until the base is golden and top firm. Spoon the warm oyster mixture over one half of the omelette and fold the other half over the top. Serves 2.

MUSTARD & HONEY LAMB RACK

Vegetables: 2-3 roasting potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm-thick slices

1 large onion, quartered

4 large cloves garlic

1 sprig rosemary

2 tbsp olive oil

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Lamb: 1 lamb rack of about 8 cutlets, well trimmed

1/2 cup fresh white breadcrumbs

2 tsp each: olive oil, wholegrain mustard, mild honey eg clover

1 tsp chopped rosemary leaves

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 190C. Place the prepared vegetables in a medium roasting pan.

Add the garlic and rosemary. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat evenly. Season.

Roast for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the lamb rack in half to provide four cutlets each. Combine the breadcrumbs, oil, mustard, honey, rosemary and pepper. Press onto the back of the lamb racks.


After 20 minutes of the vegetables cooking, place the lamb on a rack over the vegetables. Roast for about 20 minutes until medium/rare. Serves 2.

CHOCOLATE PANNA COTTA

This rich dessert is delicious served with fresh fruit and a dash of whipped cream.

2 & 1/2 tsp powdered gelatine

2 tbsp water

1 cup cream

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 vanilla pod, split lengthways

200g dark chocolate, at least 70 per cent cocoa, chopped

Lightly oil four to six moulds. Place on a tray.

Soak the gelatine in the cold water, until softened.

Pour the cream and milk into a pan, add the sugar and the vanilla pod and bring almost to the boil. Whisk in the caster sugar and gelatine. Remove from the heat. Cover and set aside for one to two minutes to infuse.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Pour the warm milk mixture through a sieve into the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Pour into the prepared moulds. Refrigerate to set for three to four hours. To turn out, dip the moulds into hot water then turn onto a serving plate. Serves 4-6.

 

- Hamilton News

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