I’m so looking forward to this weekend! After a busy few weeks, it’s time to kick back and enjoy a lovely few days with the family. It’s Charlie’s birthday so we’re planning to head out on Sunday for brunch and I’m fully intending on spending Saturday baking hot cross buns and scoffing chocolate – let’s hope it stays nice and sunny! If you’re entertaining this weekend, I’ve got loads of recipes for you, including big roast dinners, delicious desserts, baking and – of course – hot cross buns! For this big Easter roundup, I’ve also picked a few of my favourite sweet treats, just in case you haven’t chosen your chocolate stash yet. Enjoy!
This weekend is one of my favourites of the whole year. The first weekend in December (or possibly the second, depending on timing) is tree decorating day. The men of the house go out and forage (okay, not exactly forage) for a Christmas tree, and we spend a lovely day with Christmas songs blasting, digging through all the decorations from the loft (they always bring back memories, don’t they?) and decorating the house. This year, as it’s the first year we’ve got our lovely new open kitchen/diner, I really wanted a kitchen Christmas tree and the boys did a fabulous job finding me the perfect one. To celebrate all this hygge activity (remember hygge? The Danish concept of warmth and family and cosiness), we decided to invite some lovely friends and – with a little help from Simply Beef and Lamb – found the perfect festive recipe: slow roasted lamb in sloe gin.
More and more recently, I’m finding we’re becoming a two-dinner family. The boys are both busy with college, and both have a part-time job, so it’s often just Mr E and I for dinner. If we’re dining a deux, I’m a bit prone to just grill salmon or bake chicken and serve it with rice and veggies, so I was delighted for a bit of inspiration in the form of these lovely little mini roasts. This one is pistachio and orange crusted lamb and it was so delicious, and it felt so decadent eating it midweek too – like a stay at home date night!
Last week, I was invited to London to join a few fellow foodies at an event hosted by lovely actor/food writer Fay Ripley and Simply Beef & Lamb. You might have seen adverts on the TV recently about midweek mini roasts, and Fay brought us all together to challenge us to create a fast mini roast that we would serve to our families.
Happy Easter! I hope the Easter Bunny made it to your house, and that you’re enjoying a quality long weekend with friends and family. Our own bunny visited and deposited some treats on my newly painted fireplace!
As far as I’m concerned, Easter is all about the roast lamb (and the hot cross buns, obviously). At English Towers we like ours fragrant, slow roasted and literally falling away from the bone. I’m a bit obsessed with Moroccan spices at the moment, and the earthy warmth of cumin, coriander and garlic go beautifully with the meltingly tender lamb. Ideally, I’d pair it with the startlingly un-Moroccan dauphinoise potatoes (I know, but I just like the combination) but the boys insist on roasties, so I’m outvoted.
You will need:
1 whole leg of lamb
For the spice paste:
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Bring your lamb leg out of the fridge about an hour before you want to start cooking, to bring it up to room temperature. Stab it all over with a sharp knife (this is very therapeutic), then when you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven on a high heat – as high as it will go – and get on with making the spice paste.
Grind the garlic cloves, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and lemon zest with a pestle and mortar, then when it’s basically a paste, add the lemon juice. Finish with a big slug of rapeseed oil. Place the lamb in a roasting tray and smooth over the spice paste.
Swish the 250ml of water around the mortar to pick up any leftover spice paste, then pour this liquid into the bottom of the roasting tray. Completely cover with foil, folding it right over the edges of the tray to make a tight seal.
As soon as you put the lamb in, reduce the temperature to 160 degrees C/gas 3, then just leave it alone for 3 1/2 to 4 hours (as long as it’s well sealed, it will keep moist). When it’s ready, reserve somewhere warm while you make the gravy.
Bung the roasting tray on the hob (you can pour off some of the fat if there’s a lot), then sprinkle over a tablespoonful of plain flour. Stir it around with a wooden spoon, then slowly add in 500ml stock, bubbling away and scraping at the bottom of the tin. Then you can transfer to a saucepan and reduce until the gravy has thickened slightly – season to taste, although it shouldn’t need it!
Instead of carving, it’s really best to just pull this apart, discarding the really fatty bits, then sharing out the lovely, soft, wonderfully scented chunks of lamb.
To complement our lamb, we went with a smooth Lindeman’s Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon, filled with blackcurrant flavours
If you’re lucky enough to have some left over, try making a pilaf (this one’s chicken but easily adjusted to accommodate leftover roasted lamb. Heaven.
So this week I was lucky enough to be invited up to Asda House in Leeds for a meat masterclass just in time for Easter, with the amazing (and rather Sean Bean-like) Jim Viggars, 30 year Asda veteran and the supermarket’s Head of Meat Quality.
We started with drinks and nibbles (well, Laura and I actually started by trying to check in to the wrong hotel – turns out there are two Hiltons in Leeds city centre – but that’s another story). I was impressed by the red wines on offer, both from Asda’s Wine Selection: a rather delicious Argentinian Malbec and a beautiful, deep purple Marques del Norte Rioja, both full of fruit and perfect with roasted meat. Next, it was in to Asda House’s very impressive new demonstration kitchens for a full-on masterclass on lamb:
Jim talked us through Asda’s buying process – what they look for in lambs, how old they should be, their quality standards and how they support farmers, etc, before going on to demonstrate a fabulous recipe for a leg of lamb: criss crossed, spiked with shards of garlic, and – preferably – slow roasted with loads of rosemary. You can buy this leg of lamb in store this Easter for a tenner, which we thought was really good value. We had a little prep competition – here’s my (ahem) prize-winning leg:
Jim also taught us how to prepare a French cut rack of lamb. Asda trim the bones of these slightly as they add weight but nothing else of benefit, which I thought was a nice touch to keep costs down. Here’s Laura demonstrating how to cut between the bones, complete with her chainmail glove and EVIL boning knife (I managed to cut myself twice, even with the chainmail):
Jim also hefted a lump of beef the size of which you’ve never seen before in your life onto the demonstration area, and showed us how you would divide it into different cuts. I didn’t take any notes, being somewhat hindered by chainmail, a slab of lamb, and a very sharp knife, but you’ll have to take my word for the fact that Asda are thinking creatively and providing meat cut in different ways that prove better value AND quality. They’ve also removed a lot of their products which they thought weren’t giving good value and/or quality for whatever reason. We were impressed.
Next it was into the demo kitchen to visit Head Inspiration Chef, Mark Richmond, who talked us through cooking the ultimate Easter roast. Mark had some really clever ideas, including pre-prepping shallots and garlic in oil to make for a easy base for loads of different sauces. Mark used this base with chopped fresh green herbs and – interestingly – a sprinkle of lavender, which was surprisingly delicious. He also showed us some easy vegetable dishes to complement the roast lamb, including a luscious carrot and squash mash made with fresh carrot juice instead of water, really bringing out the sweet carrot flavour of the dish. He also showed us a delicious dauphinoise potato dish and a delicious roast cauliflower with a tomato sauce. After all this concentration, we were well ready to sit down and feast upon all the scrummy stuff that Mark had shown us.
Indeed, instead of hitting the town as planned, we ended up waddling back to the hotel and conking out. The sign of a good evening, I’d say.
Massive thanks to Asda for looking after us and for the ENORMOUS delivery of meat I received the next day! Click here for more information on Asda’s butcher’s selection.
Click here for my recipe for slow roasted garlicky leg of lamb with rosemary potatoes. Perfect for Easter!
Lamb is one of our favourite Sunday lunches. I think with lamb chops, they’re nice when they’re tender and pink in the middle. With a leg of lamb, though, especially at this time of year, we all prefer it slowly cooked and really falling off the bone. I serve mine with rosemary potatoes and some of my apple and mint chutney. Delicious. Ooh, or you might also consider my Moroccan spiced version if you fancy a change.