You don’t have to be a fanatical foodie to enjoy gorging your way through the Easter break —after all, feasting during this period is a historical tradition around the world. Although many countries have their own unique customs festive food is the common denominator.
Lamb is an Easter Sunday favourite in Greece, Italy, France and Britain while ham is the centrepiece on American tables. Eggs, symbolising fertility and birth, are a feature of Greek, Portuguese, Italian Easter bakes and elaborately decorated eggs are also given as gifts.
My favourite Easter gift for friends and family this year is Hot Cross Gin. Pour gin into bottles of about one-cup capacity, then add a small piece of cinnamon stick, two whole cloves, three to four raisins and a few threads of saffron to each bottle. Cover and let the gin steep for four to five days.
An easy method of decorating hard-boiled eggs is to use Easter egg wraps available from some delis, stores selling decorations and online. Just slip the egg into the decorative wrapper, place it on a large spoon then dip in boiling water. The wrapper instantly shrinks around the egg.
EASTER EGG CHOCOLATE CAKE
A super quick cake. The garnish is limited only by your imagination.
Chocolate Cake: 1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
125g butter, softened
1 teaspoon each: baking soda, baking powder, vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup boiling water
Chocolate icing: 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, melted butter, milk
Garnish: 1 large white chocolate Easter egg
an assortment of smaller eggs
white chocolate, melted
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 20-23cm cake pan and line with baking paper.
Place all the ingredients in the order listed in the bowl of an electric mixer (preferably) or food processor. Beat for 3 minutes in the mixer or 1 minute in the food processor. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl. Add the melted butter and enough milk to create a spreadable consistency. Ice the sides of the cake first then the top.
Cut a large white chocolate egg carefully in half and fill with smaller eggs. Place on the cake lightly pushing it into the icing. Garnish the cake with smaller eggs. Drizzle with melted white chocolate to keep them in place.
CROCKPOT EASTER BREAD
If the top is still pale, brown it quickly under a grill. Alternatively, turn the bread upside down to serve. Slices can be served fresh or toasted.
1 tablespoon all-purpose active yeast
4 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup currants
1/4 cup glace mixed peel
3 cups high-grade flour
1 1/2 teaspoons each: mixed spice, ground cinnamon
Lightly grease a deep 18cm cake pan. A shallow pan should be lined with baking paper. Ensure the paper rises 3-4 cm above the rim.
Place the yeast in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon of sugar and a 1/2 cup of water. Stand for 5 minutes until frothy.
Place the remaining sugar and water in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, salt and olive oil. Stir in the wholemeal flour, currants and mixed peel until smooth.
Sift the high-grade flour and spices together. Add enough to the liquid mixture to make a stiff dough.
Turn out onto a floured bench and gently knead the dough until elastic and shiny. Place in the prepared cake pan.
Make a sling of folded baking paper, place the pan on top and lift into a crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 1 1/2-2 hours until lightly golden and a skewer inserted in the centre come out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
TAKE-OUT HAM PIE
Ham has become a popular Easter meat.
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
3 sheets ready-rolled frozen flaky puff pastry
1 each: onion, large clove garlic, diced
450g ham off the bone, diced
1 cup thinly sliced beans, blanched
1/2 cup good chicken stock
2 handfuls (50g) rocket
2 teaspoons each: cornflour, fresh thyme leaves,
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Lightly oil a 20cm springform cake pan.
Cut 2 x 20cm rounds from 2 sheets of the pastry. Cut 2-3 strips of pastry the same depth as the cake pan. Line the base of the cake pan with 1 pastry round. Line the sides with the strips. Chill. Join the scraps and cut shapes to garnish.
Sauté the onion and garlic in the remaining oil, until softened. Add the ham and beans. Sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and rocket. Simmer until the stock has almost evaporated. Cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place a baking tray in the oven to heat.
Lightly beat the eggs. Reserve a little to glaze the top. Mix the cornflour, thyme and pepper into the remaining egg. Stir into the cooled ham mixture.
Spoon into the chilled pastry shell. Place the remaining pastry round on top. Fold over the sides of the pastry. Glaze the top. Garnish with the shapes and glaze again.
Place the pie on the baking tray. Bake for 40 minutes, until the centre is firm and the pastry golden. Serves 6-8.