A big Happy Jebus day to you all! First off let’s get the chocolate thing over and done with:
Holy hell that’s a lot of chocolate. Easter Sunday is a favourite holiday of mine (as opposed to Not So Good Friday, which is the most boring day of the year, bar none), as it allows my sister (older by three years) and I to regress back to childhood completely. If my whole family happens to be together, as we were this year, we demand an Easter egg hunt. With clues. Cryptic clues! My father outdid himself this year with clues that had us tramping up to our ankles in dead leaves where we found a dead bird, some very old roof tiles, a few spiders, some Easter eggs, and god knows what else. This year the regression also involved us running around with capes on making superhero noises. Don’t ask. The joy of simultaneously getting older and younger means that we get to do all this with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck in hand. Sophisticated immaturity.
But Easter of course means so much more than bitchloads of treats; it also means terrific food all round, and enough time to cook it. Good Friday meant fish.
I’m not religious at all, and neither is my family, and yet somehow we still eat fish on Good Friday despite sister being a non-fish eater. But at least we do it in style – a whole salmon and enough vegetables to feed the vegetarian Uncle and Aunt who called in last minute. We like having them over for dinner, if not to harangue with hilarious vegetarian jokes, than at least to slavishly eat meat in front of them, sighing with ecstasy with each bite. Unfortunately for our sadistic senses of humour, the vegetables were by far the best part of Friday. Sadly the fish was overcooked – much to my father’s chagrin – it spent far too long resting as I lovingly threw together beetroot, lentil, goats cheese and candied pecan salad, crispy roast potatoes, green beans with garlic and almonds, and brussels sprouts with balsamic and pangrittato. The brussels were pretty much the bomb – braised down with lots of butter and balsamic, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs. Anyone who says they don’t like brussels sprouts needs to try this version.
Then of course there’s the baking!
Mixed peel is really not my cup of tea, nor my sister’s who prefers the ‘kiddie’ hot cross buns with either chocolate or nothing inside. I have lost my ultimate recipe from a few years ago that had apricots and lots of cardamom in them, but found an apple and cinnamon version in April’s Gourmet Traveller that I adapted. It includes both dried apple and cooked apple, and I amped up the spices considerably. Pretty damn good toasted with Monsieur Truffe’s raspberry jam, or with the unexpected but happy by-product of leaving the glaze to sit overnight:
Apple and cinnamon jam!
Easter Sunday dinner is goat, and Monday is some sort of Balinese duck. Part two of Easter coming very soon!
Balsamic Braised Brussels
I’d usually start with some good pancetta to get the fat going, but as I mentioned before – vegetarians. That being said I did use lamb stock…
Brussels sprouts, trimmed and washed, and sliced in half or quarters depending on size
2 shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ – ½ cup stock, chicken, veal or vegetable, or whatever mild stock you have on hand
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Toss breadcrumbs with plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in oven until golden and crunchy.
Heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add brussels and cook until slightly browned. Add shallots and garlic and cook until soft. Season with sea salt. Add balsamic and stock and cook until the liquid has evaporated and the sprouts are cooked through, caramelised and glazed with the stock. Season to taste and serve topped with breadcrumbs.
325 g raw caster sugar
1 lemon, ½ juiced, ½ cut into thin slices
2 granny smith apples, unpeeled, cored and diced
1 cinnamon quill
750 g plain flour
100 g sultanas
100 g dried apple
14 g dried yeast
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
380 ml milk
100 g butter
Combine 260 g sugar and 375 ml water in a saucepan, add lemon juice and stir over medium heart until sugar has dissolved. Add lemon slices, diced apple and cinnamon quill. Bring to a simmer and cook until lemon and apple are soft and translucent. Strain, reserving syrup and fruit separately. Dice lemon slices (remove any pips) and combine with apple.
In a large bowl combine 700 g flour, dried fruit, cooked fruit, yeast, cinnamon, allspice, remaining sugar and a good pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre Combine milk and butter in a saucepan over low heat until butter has melted, then whisk in egg. Add milk mixture to flour and stir to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic – about 10 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and stand in a warm place to prove for about 40 minutes.
Knock back dough, divide into balls and knead each one into a smooth ball. Arrange dough on one or two trays lined with baking paper, with about 2 cm space between each to expand. Cover with a tea towel and prove again for about another 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 220°C. Combine remaining flour and 70 ml water and stir to a smooth paste. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe a cross shape onto each bun. Bake for about 8 minutes, reduce oven to 200°C and bake until golden and buns sound hollow when tapped on the underside.
Heat reserved syrup in a small saucepan and simmer until thick and syrupy. Brush thickly over hot buns and cool on a wire rack.