Tomorrow, Sunday April 5, the clocks will go back an hour as daylight saving comes to an end. There's no escaping it, winter is on its way. In just 10 weeks time, the shortest day will be upon us.
Next weekend it's Easter. For the first time ever, we are all going to be at home in lockdown. Which will seem very odd. Given no one has left the house for the past 2.5 weeks, how to go about making Easter weekend feel different and special? You might like to play camp in the living room or out on the back lawn, bringing out the tent from the garage or making an indoor one with sheets and chairs. Get everyone into their sleeping bags, turn off the lights and use torches or the camping lamp. Turn off all the technology, read stories by torchlight and have a midnight feast. Adults may even like to do this too, though we aren't so good at the hard floors.
Cook up a big slow cook stew or casserole and serve it on camping plates on a rug on the floor. During the day, get into baking. Make hot cross buns, biscuits, cakes, bread and pancakes. Put a big pot of soup on to simmer.
For lunches, go Ploughman's style - bread and wraps, olives, roasted peppers, salad greens, tomatoes and avos, hummus, salsa verde, mayo, some kind of protein like smoked salmon, ham or salami, cheese, crackers, fruit and nuts.
Set up an Easter egg hunt around the house with fun clues - and bend the rules so the spoils are evenly shared. This is no time for winner takes all.
You can even just make sticky buns all weekend, they're simply the best.
Swedish Sticky Buns
Ready in 1 hour plus rising
Makes 40 half the dough makes 20
This recipe has been in our family since we had Swedish au pairs when our kids were little and it's one we all still make to this day. The recipe is super simple to make and everyone loves to eat them. This is a large recipe so half the recipe can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen for later use (though I bet you end up eating the whole lot). Be sure to check the expiry date of your yeast, it its past its use by date, the buns wont rise.
1 cup milk
1½ tsp dry yeast
¼ cup sugar
60g/2oz butter, melted but not hot
3 cups high-grade/bread flour
½ tsp salt
90g butter, softened but not melted
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
3 tbsp water
White Icing (optional)
¾ cup icing sugar
4-5 tsp water
To make the Sticky bun dough, gently heat milk in a small pot until lukewarm (it should feel neutral to the touch when you dip your finger into it, not hot). Remove from heat, sprinkle yeast over the top and whisk lightly to disperse. Whisk in sugar and stand for 3 minutes. Add butter and stir to combine.
Mix flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the milk mixture and stir until just combined. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and silky (60-100 kneading strokes) or knead in a mixer with a dough hook for 5 minutes. Place in a large, lightly oiled container, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place until it has almost doubled in size (about 1 hour 20 minutes).
When risen, roll out to a 40cm x 25cm rectangle on a lightly floured board. To fill with Cinnamon Filling, brush the rolled dough liberally with the butter. Mix the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the butter. Roll up the dough tightly along the longest edge into a cylinder shape and cut into slices about 4cm wide. You should have about 10 scrolls.
Line a 23cm round cake tin with baking paper. Arrange the scrolls in the tin, allowing 1-2cm between them. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place (not hot or the butter will melt) for 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200°C fanbake. Bake scrolls until golden and cooked through (about 20-25 minutes).
While the scrolls are baking, make the Syrup Glaze by heating sugar and water in a small pot, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 3-5 minutes. Brush the scrolls with hot syrup as they emerge from the oven.
If desired, make White Icing by mixing icing sugar and water to create a soft, spreadable icing. Allow rolls to cool a little before spooning the icing over the top.
To make Sticky buns in a breadmaker, place all ingredients in a breadmaker and put on dough mode. Once the dough has risen, continue as per recipe.
Mexican Beef and Beans
Ready in 3.5 hours
Serve this spicy slow cook with warmed tortillas or soft quick cook polenta and a spinach salad with avocado, tomatoes and salad greens, or slaw dressed with chipotle mayonnaise. The recipe doubles easily and freezes well.
800g-1kg cross-cut blade steak or shin beef, trimmed and cut into large chunks
2 x 400g cans black beans or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, angle-sliced
3 cups water
1 tbsp oil
2 tsp Mexican spice mix or taco seasoning
2 cups store-bought pasta tomato sauce
1-2 tsp chipotles in adobo sauce or 1 dried smoked chilli
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp chopped coriander or parsley leaves
Preheat the oven to 150°C fanbake.
Heat oil and gently fry Mexican spice mix or taco seasoning mix until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add store bought pasta sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Combine in a casserole dish (not Pyrex or ceramic) with all other ingredients except the lime juice and coriander or parsley, cover tightly and bake for 3 hours. Cool and chill if not serving at once, it will keep for 3- 4 days.
To reheat, preheat oven to 170°C and bake for another 20-30 minutes until bubbling, add a little water if the mixture looks dry, it should be nicely saucy
When ready to serve, adjust seasonings then drizzle with lime juice and top with coriander or parsley.
Yvonne's Pick: Andale! Andale to al supermercado as soon as you're able, to pick up a bottle of Yalumba Y Series South Australian Tempranillo ($14). Serve it with this glorious concoction of moreish, tomato-soaked, slow-cooked steak and chipotle chillis and your gizzard will instantly feel cuddled, warmed-through and completely satisfied. With its dark cocoa, sweet, dark fruits and smoked spicy notes, it's an affordable bottle of awesome.
Lamb and Chickpea Curry
Ready in 3.5 hours plus marinating
In Rajasthan I ate a version of this fabulous curry, with the most beguiling flavour, something that I just couldn't put my finger on. The Maharaja, who had invited us to his palace for lunch, took me to the kitchen to share his special secret. He dished up a plate of curry from the pot, then placed a piece of hot charcoal in a small metal dish and nestled this on top of the curry. A drop of rose oil (apparently clove oil is also used) was dropped onto the hot charcoal, and the dish at once tightly covered. He counted to 60 before uncovering, telling me that left any longer, the dish would taste quite horrid, like over-smoked bbq sauce. Like many things I came across in India, the effect from something so utterly simple was quite astonishing.
1-1.2kg lamb steaks, trimmed and cut into 3-4cm chunks
6 cloves garlic, crushed
5 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup Greek yoghurt
¼ cup lemon juice
4 Tbsp finely grated ginger
2 Tbsp each rice flour and soft brown sugar
1 Tbsp garam masala
2 tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp each curry powder, fennel seeds and fine black pepper
½ tsp chilli flakes
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup chopped roasted cashews
coriander leaves or sprigs
Place lamb in a bowl with all ingredients except tomatoes and chickpeas and mix to coat evenly. Allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 150°C fanbake. Transfer lamb and marinade to a baking dish and mix in tomatoes and chickpeas.
Cover tightly and bake for 3 hours. Skim off surface fat and remove cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods. Garnish with cashews and coriander.
Yvonne's pick: The Selaks 1934 Hawke's Bay Rosé ($17) is a super-value, siptastic smorgasbord of merlot, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, malbec, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Combined, they create one of the most lovely rosés I've tried in aeons. It also boasts a hit of herbaceousness from the hefty whack of sauvignon blanc in the mix. Very nice. Supermarkets nationwide.