Easter is a special time of the year, when family and friends gather around the table to share fabulous food and great company. Tunbridge Wells Farmers Markets’ Manager Bruce McMichael says where to source the best ingredients locally
TASTY treats associated with Easter include lamb served with new potatoes and lots of butter and mint, sweet and spicy hot cross buns and simnel cake.
The show-stopping roast is a lengthier dish to pre- pare, and an all-rounded roast is well worth the extra effort. To give your lamb joint an extra boost add garlic, olives, anchovies and rosemary to com- plement. Cooked in a large roasting pan and covered with wine, roast lamb is best served with beautifully seasonal steamed green vegetables. You can even roast your potatoes around the joint – they’ll absorb some flavour and stay crispy on top!
Good Friday is traditionally the day fish is eaten, so look out for some at your local farmers’ market open on the previous day or two to get your fish, fresh and often landed at Hastings or Rye.
For those of us with a sweet tooth, Easter offers plenty of opportunity to indulge. Simnel cake is particularly associated with this holiday period with its layer of marzipan (sugared almond paste) covering the top and decorated with marzipan balls, traditionally said to represent the 12 apostles present at the Last Supper of Jesus Christ.
At your local farmers’ market, the shelves will be piled up with other familiar Easter treats, including hot cross buns, a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins. Traditionally eaten on Good Friday, their glossy tops and fruit-filled doughy fillings are an Easter favourite. Avril Barrow, of The Quality Cake Company at the Tunbridge Wells Farmers’ Market, reveals her top tip for getting the best buns is ‘to look for those with a darkish brown top with a clear, shiny glaze and a clear white cross with lots of currants poking out of the sides’.
Another flavour closely associated with Easter is chocolate. Centuries ago, the first eggs given at Easter were birds’ eggs, painted in bright colours to give them further meaning as a gift.
As chocolate became more widespread in the 20th century, a chocolate version of the traditional painted egg was developed.
The size of the chocolate egg has grown over the years and is now more likely to be the size of an ostrich egg – and bigger!
So ensure you get down to your local market this weekend – or before – and stock up on a few of these traditional Easter treats…
Looking to make the perfect Easter lunch all the family can enjoy? Or tempted to try out a traditional recipe with a twist? Using the season’s best – and indigenous – ingredients, James Tanner, chef and owner of Bidborough-based gastropub The Kentish Hare, provides his top Easter recipes for you to savour
Easter Spring Lamb leg with lemon, garlic and rosemary
What you need:
1 leg of lamb
6 cloves of peeled garlic
Lemon, garlic and rosemary mix
1 head of peeled garlic
1 bunch of rosemary
2 whole lemons
30g sea salt
300ml lamb stock
300ml red wine
What you do:
Pre-heat oven to 200°C, gas mark 6, take lamb leg, make 6 small deep incisions randomly over leg. Stuff each hole with the 6 gloves of garlic.
With a food processor, blend together the head of peeled garlic, rosemary and lemons, and then next add the sea salt.
Take paste and rub all over lamb leg, cut the two lemons in half and sit lamb leg on a baking tray on top of the lemons, cover with foil and allow 20 minutes per 500g cooking time.
Turn once in cooking process, then rest for at least 20 minutes after cooking time, take baking tray that the lamb was cooking in, heat on stove top, add red wine, reduce by half, then add lamb stock and reduce by half again, then pass through a fine sieve.
Slice lamb and serve with roast potatoes, honey roast parsnips, thyme buttered Savoy cabbage and Yorkshire puddings.
Honey and pecan hot cross bun bread and butter pudding
What you need:
5 hot cross buns cut in half
50g unsalted butter (softened)
1 vanilla pod
450ml double cream
8 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
(plus some extra)
What you do:
Butter the buns. Split the vanilla pod and put in a saucepan with cream, milk and syrup and bring to the boil.
Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Allow cream to cool slightly then strain on to eggs. Mix well.
Arrange in a 1.5 litre pudding dish in 3 layers, sprinkling nuts and fruit between. Pour over the custard mix, lightly pressing the bread to help soak in. Leave to stand for 20 minutes before cooking to ensure that the buns absorbs all the custard.
Put dish in roasting tray ¾ filled with warm water and bake for 20-30 minutes at 180o°C, until pudding begins to set.
Remove and sprinkle liberally with caster sugar and glaze under a grill (or with a blow torch) to a golden finish. Serve with clotted cream!
Or why not try this Baked Brioche?
This is an impressive pudding for relatively little work. The sweet and buttery brioche works well with the tangy blackberries. The dark purple juices should bleed into the pudding to create a pretty, marbled effect
What you need:
4 brioche rolls or 1⁄2 of a 400g brioche loaf
50g butter, softened
300g fresh blackberries
125ml single cream
375ml full-fat milk
75g caster sugar
2 tablespoons raw (unrefined) sugar
vanilla ice cream, to serve (optional)
What you do:
Slice the brioche to give you 6-8 thin slices. Lightly butter the slices on one side and arrange them in the bottom of a medium baking dish, overlapping them slightly. Put half the blackberries on top. Repeat with the remaining brioche slices and blackberries.
Put the cream, eggs, milk and caster sugar in a bowl or jug and beat to combine. Pour the mixture over the brioche in the baking dish. Cover with foil and let sit for 30 minutes to allow the brioche to absorb the liquid. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the top of the pudding and bake it in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes until the top of the pudding is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, if liked.
Fine wines for Easter
To get things off to a sparkling start this Easter, treat yourself to a bottle of Hush Heath’s Balfour Brut Rosé (£35.99 available in Waitrose or at www.hushheath.com). This is the Staplehurst vineyard’s flagship wine, which they have been producing since 2001. Made from the classic Champagne blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes, it’s an elegant offering that will be ideal as an aperitif or accompaniment to the roast lamb and buttery brioche pud.
Another wine that perfectly partners a hearty roast lamb or rib of beef is a classic burgundy, and the silky smooth Domaine Antonin Guyon, Côte de Beaune Village (£22.60, www.friarwood.com) ticks all the boxes thanks to its ruby red colour and well-balanced blend of violet and strawberry notes.
If white’s your tipple of choice, then why not sample a refreshing glass of Martisor Pinot Grigio (£7.49, Waitrose)? This wine from Romania boasts a lemony hue with delicate aromas of melon, fig and peach for good measure, making it great for springtime drinking.