Celebrate the business end of Easter with these recipes for slow-roasted shoulder of honeyed lamb and then a self-saucing lemon pudding with rosemary cream to follow. Hot Cross Bun Pudding should finish the Bank Holiday in style.
What could be better as the centrepiece of the Easter Sunday feast than a nice bit of hare? Nothing wrong with going a little bit off the beaten track and it would work well as a nod to the goddess Eostre’s pal and our festival’s supposed pagan roots. Luckily I realised in the nick of time that absolutely nobody wants to spend this day eating what is basically the Easter Bunny. And so I have retreated to a traditional lamb roast. Common sense prevails – and a few children’s tears are spared.
This lamb is slow-roasted for over five hours. That has a number of things going for it: 1) the meat becomes amazingly tender and will barely need carving; 2) it’s a very laid-back way of cooking with none of the christmas stress of trying to do too many things at once; and 3) the cook will have bags of time to take part in the general egg-hunting / ruining-your-appetite-by-eating-lots-of-chocolate-before-dinner fun.
Slow-roasted shoulder of honeyed lamb (serves 6)
- a large shoulder of lamb
- 3tbsps runny honey
- 10g butter, softened
- a squeeze of lemon
- 2-3tbsps thyme leaves
- 3 shallots, peeled and halved
- 3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- 200ml dry cider
- 1/2tsp arrowroot (optional, it’s to thicken the gravy)
- lots of kitchen foil
Preheat the oven to 180C
- You will need a truly ginormous piece of tin foil – enough to wrap up the lamb in a foil tent. Start off by laying the foil in a roasting tin that will fit the lamb.
- Use the point of a sharp knife to make slashes into the meat. Mix the honey, butter, thyme and lemon into a sloppy paste with some salt. Gently rub it all over the meat.
- Sit the lamb in its roasting tin and strew around it the shallots and garlic. Pour the cider around (but not over) the meat. If you pour it over the meat you will just wash away the lovely honey etc that you’ve so tenderly massaged in. Wrap the foil up and around, creating a sort of hood for the steam to circulate within. Tightly seal the foil’s edges.
- Roast like this for half an hour before turning the temperature down to 140C and leaving it to slowly-roast for another four-and-a-half to five hours. Baste with the honeyed cider juices about halfway through.
- The lamb is done when it is almost falling off the bone with tenderness. Take it out of the tin and wrap it snuggly in foil to keep it warm until serving. The pans’s juices now need to go through a sieve into a saucepan to get rid of the garlic etc. With this way of slow-roasting you don’t get the sticky stuff on the bottom of the roasting tin that is usually used in gravy, so don’t worry about missing out on that. Let the juices sit for 5 minutes or so before skimming off the fat that will have risen to the surface. Make your gravy by bubbling the juices on a high-heat to reduce it. You could add in some stock or more cider if you like. If you want to thicken it up, add half a teaspoon of arrowroot (better than flour as you can’t taste it at all). Check for seasoning.
Now you have your slow-roasted lamb and its honey and cider gravy. With whatever veg and spud accompaniments rock your family’s boat, the only other thing you need is some fresh mint sauce. Making it is even quicker than wrestling with a jar lid that doesn’t want to come off and man-oh-man it is better than the bought stuff.
2 healthy and bushy bunches of fresh mint, the leaves only
- 4tbsp white sugar
- 2tbsp boiling water
- 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
Directions: Finely chop the mint. Heat in a saucepan the vinegar, water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Pour that over the mint and stir. Bob’s your uncle.
Lemon Pudding with Rosemary Cream (serves 6)
The last thing anyone needs after a big lamb roast – and before getting back to the Easter Eggs – is a heavy dessert. The lightness and zesty-ness of this lemon pudding should be a welcome respite for the palate. As it bakes the pudding creates its own lemon curd-like sauce – very very tasty. The saffron, rosemary and lemon mean it’s also packed with religious, festive and springtime symbolism.
- 500ml full fat milk
- a big pinch of saffron threads 400ml double cream
- 2 big sprigs of rosemary
- 200g caster sugar
- 100g unsalted butter, softened
- 100g self-raising flour, sieved
- 2 lemons
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 3 tbsps flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease a 2l ovenproof dish.
- Prepare the cream by putting one of the sprigs of rosemary into it. Now forget about that until it’s time to serve. Warm the milk with the saffron threads – but don’t let it boil – then leave the milk to cool and infuse whilst you carry on.
- Beat together the sugar and butter with the rind of the lemons. Then beat in the egg yolks.
- Strain the milk to remove the saffron threads. Add in stages to the butter/sugar mix the flour, juice from both lemons and the saffron-infused milk. Stir it all together well as you go.
- Beat the egg-whites until stiff and then fold them into the pudding mix. Be careful not to kill all the air you have whisked-up. The mixture will now look a bit curdled but fear not, that is good.
- Pour it all into the dish and then sit that in a large roasting tray. Create a bain-marie by pouring boiling water into the tray until it comes halfway up the sides of the pudding. This helps the pudding cook evenly. Scatter the almonds over the top of your pudd and now it goes into the oven for 45-50 minutes. Check at 30 minutes to make sure it isn’t getting too browned. If it is, put a circle of tin foil over the top.
- Serve with rosemary cream: take the rosemary sprig out that has been sitting in the cream for a while. Finely chop the leaves of the other rosemary sprig and stir them into the cream once you have whipped it.
Easter’s equivalent of Boxing Day is surely meant to be the kind of day where all you have to worry about is taking it easy. This version of bread and butter pudding – based on Nigel Slater’s ‘Marmalade Panettone Pudding’- is perfect fuel for that kind of endeavour. An added bonus is that it uses up the hot cross buns that you are possibly by now slightly sick of the sight of. The sweet custard and the spicy, fruity bread really do the trick together.
Hot Cross Bun Pudding (serves 6)
- 400g hot cross buns
- 4tbsps thin-cut or rindless orange marmalade
- 4 large eggs
- 300ml full fat milk
- 300ml single cream vanilla extract
- Slice the hot cross buns diagonally. Three or four slices from each bun.
- Warm half of the marmalade in a small saucepan. Arrange half of the bun slices in a greased 1.5-2 litre ovenproof dish and then spread over the softened marmalade.
- Mix together the milk and the cream. Whisk in the eggs and a couple of drops of vanilla extract. Pour half of this mixture over the hot cross buns. Now leave it all for a while to let the bun slices really soak up the sweet liquid. An hour or more if you can. Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Add the rest of the sliced buns to the bowl and repeat what you did with the marmalade. Pour over the rest of the milk etc and squish the buns down so that they are immersed in it. Bake in the oven for approx 40 minutes. When done it’ll be golden on top and have a pleasing wobble but the middle must look set.
Ice-cream or cream go well with this. Not custard as it is already pretty custard-y.
And there it is. Easter weekend, sorted. And, of course, if you can manage it, there’s always those Easter eggs to wrap the long weekend up. After all, on Tuesday it’s back to the grindstone.