Spring is one of the most exciting times to be in the kitchen. There’s a lightness in the air that makes us start to crave fresher flavours and more exotic tastes.
Just as we start to spring clean our houses, it’s perhaps also time to spring clean the palate, to introduce a little novelty to those slumbering taste buds.
What better way to celebrate than by introducing the flavours of spring to your food? Here are some ideas for exciting Easter recipes that work with the tastes of the season.
Flowers herald the arrival of warmth and light. Rather than just placing them around the house, though, or starting to nurture them again through chilly spring days in the garden, why not try introducing a bit of flower power to your cooking?
The sweetness of rose works surprisingly well with the strong flavour of lamb, making it a perfect addition to your Easter roast. I prefer lamb shoulder when roasting – it has a wonderful marbling of fat, making it glorious for slow-roasting until tender.
- Make a few shallow cuts in a lamb shoulder with a sharp knife
- Rub the meat generously with a mixture of crushed garlic, chilli flakes, lemon or orange zest, dried rose petals, olive oil, salt and pepper
- Cover with foil and roast at 170C for 4 hours, removing the foil for the last half hour
- Leave to rest for 30 minutes, then pull the meat from the bones with a fork
- Serve simply, with the cooking juices, green vegetables and some plain roast potatoes
- Simply slice the peel off citrus fruits (you want around 8 smaller fruits, or 4 smaller fruits and 2 grapefruit), cut into thin slices then place in a pan of simmering water for around an hour, until tender
- Drain, then simmer in fresh water for another 15 minutes before draining again
- Put 500ml water and 250g granulated sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil
- Add the peel, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for around 90 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peel has absorbed nearly all the syrup
- Place on a cooling rack to dry for 48 hours (or use a low oven to speed things up)
The end result is far superior to anything you can buy in the shops, and will make the most delicious hot cross buns you have ever tasted – with a certain je ne sais quoi from the lovingly made peel. You can also dip the peel in melted dark chocolate, for a fabulous after-dinner treat or pick-me-up to enjoy with coffee. These also make lovely gifts (for grown-ups) – far more interesting than an Easter egg!
Instead of baking a big family-size simnel cake for the Easter period, try using your candied peel in these mini simnel cake muffins – much lighter and more portable than the traditional version, with irresistible chunks of marzipan. They look beautiful, too.
Try experimenting with the joys of other egg and chocolate creations, such as a thick, rich chocolate mousse for Easter lunch. I love to add a teaspoon of ground cardamom to my chocolate mousse recipe for a gorgeous fragrance – even better if you decorate it with rose petals and slivered pistachios.
- Simply melt 150g dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water
- Then stir in the crushed seeds from 8 cardamom pods
- Allow to cool slightly, then beat in 2 egg yolks
- Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl to stiff peaks, then beat in 4 tbsp caster sugar
- Stir a spoonful of this into the melted chocolate mixture to loosen it, then fold in the rest of the egg white mixture, being careful to keep as much air in as possible
- Spoon into 4 ramekins or dessert glasses and chill for at least an hour before serving
You could also try this gluten-free chocolate and mandarin olive oil cake – perfect for those cutting down on gluten, it still has a satisfyingly squidgy texture from the eggs and olive oil, and can be adapted to suit whatever flavours you feel like this spring. Try experimenting with different citrus zests, or simply keep things plain and chocolatey.
Elly McCausland is a food writer and blogger at Nutmegs, Seven. She has a passion for travel and all things gastronomic, with a particular emphasis on fruit, breakfast and proper British puddings. When not concocting recipes or planning her next cultural odyssey, she is an English literature academic, specialising in children’s literature.