Nigel Slater’s new recipes for Easter | Food

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Easter arrives and there is a definite change of step in this kitchen. The mood lightens, flavours are more gentle and the cooking becomes relaxed. Instead of a chicken stew thick with beans and herbs, the bird is simply roasted with tarragon and young potatoes barely bigger than a blackbird’s egg; the fish pies that have bolstered us all winter are replaced by pan-fried trout with a light, sharp cucumber sauce and baked potatoes are swapped for clouds of mash flecked with spring greens. On the pudding front, my reliable fruit cake is set aside for the lightness of a citrus sponge. Even the traditional baked cheesecake gets a spring makeover – the same ingredients but pressed between sheets of muslin instead of being baked and now used to fill tempting little tarts.

Lemon swiss roll

I had, I admit, almost forgotten the quiet pleasure of a slice of swiss roll, with its airy sponge and thick swirl of jam and cream. After something less sweet than the usual raspberry jam filling, I decided not only to swap the jam for a thick lemon curd but to speckle the cake with orange and lemon zest. The ratio of ingredients is pretty much verbatim from Felicity Cloake, but the method is very much that of a classic sponge.

Serves 6
eggs 4
caster sugar 150g
plain flour 130g
butter 50g, melted
orange zest of 1
lemon zest of 1

To fill
lemon curd 250g
double cream 200g

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Line a 30cm x 20cm swiss roll tin with baking parchment. Break the eggs into the bowl of a food mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the sugar and beat till thick, fluffy and well risen, a good 4-5 minutes at a moderately high speed. Remove the bowl from its stand, then, using a large metal spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the flour, melted butter and the orange and lemon zests. Do this tenderly but thoroughly, making sure to leave no visible flour.

Scrape the batter into the lined swiss roll tin, pushing it very gently into the corners. (Treating it roughly will lead to a sunken, rubbery cake.) Bake for about 12-15 minutes until it is pale gold and lightly risen. Place a piece of baking parchment on the work surface and sprinkle it lightly with caster sugar. Give it a couple of minutes to settle, then, while still warm, turn the cake out onto the sugared paper and carefully peel away the paper the cake was baked on. Starting at one of the short sides, roll up the sugared paper and swiss roll together and set aside to cool.

Lightly whip the cream. Unroll the cake, spread the lemon curd over the underside, then cover with the whipped cream. Carefully roll up from one of the short sides and transfer to a plate. Decorate with more caster sugar and, if you wish, some of the whipped cream and perhaps some of candied peel and crystalised violets or roses.

Trinxat





Catalan version of bubble and squeak in a black paella pan with bacon and chard in it



Trinxat, the Catalan version of bubble and squeak. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

This Catalan word means “chopped”, and this recipe, with cured pork, greens and garlic, is very much a Spanish version of bubble and squeak. It is what I will be eating on Easter Monday, together with slices of leftover roast from Sunday. Substantial enough as a main course, it really hits the spot if you have some leftover gravy or meat juices to trickle over it as you serve.

Serves 4
potatoes 1kg
butter 40g
spring onions 6
smoked bacon or pancetta 300g, in one piece
garlic 3 cloves
chard leaves 100g
olive oil 3 tbsp

Bring a deep pan of lightly salted water to the boil. Wash the potatoes and cut them into large chunks, leaving the skin intact. Cook the potatoes in the boiling water until tender, then drain. Add the butter to the potatoes and mash with a fork, ricer or potato masher.

Cut the spring onions in half lengthways, then in half again. Cut the bacon or pancetta into 3cm cubes. Peel and thinly slice the garlic cloves. Finely shred the chard leaves.

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the bacon and let it cook at a moderate pace, until the fat is golden. Add the spring onions, the garlic and lastly the chard leaves, cooking for a minute or two only.

Add the mashed potatoes to the pan, folding in the bacon and greens as you go. Continue cooking for a few minutes keeping the heat fairly high and letting the potatoes crisp slightly on the bottom of the pan, then scrape at the crust that will have formed underneath and fold it into the vegetables. Serve as is, or as an accompaniment.

Roast chicken, new potato and tarragon stuffing





Roast chicken, new potato and tarragon stuffing.



Roast chicken, new potato and tarragon stuffing. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

I don’t often stuff a roasting chicken. Frankly, there is not much room in the average bird. But if you are cooking a larger chicken this Easter it is worth remembering anything that goes inside will soak up its flavoursome juices as it cooks. Steamed mograbia, cooked chickpeas and butter beans will all happily act as flavour sponges, plumping up with buttery, herby roasting juices. Potatoes work well too, either small whole ones, or larger potatoes cut into cubes.

Serves 4
small potatoes 750g
lemon 1
olive oil 4 tbsp
butter 50g, melted
tarragon 3 tbsp, chopped
garlic 4 cloves
chicken 2-2.5kg

Peel the potatoes; they will soak up the roasting juices better without their skin. Bring a pan of water to the boil, salt it, then add the potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes till they are approaching tenderness.

Drain the potatoes and put them in a bowl together with the juice of the lemon, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, the melted butter, chopped tarragon and plenty of salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes gently so they are covered with the dressing.

Put the chicken in a roasting tin then stuff the cavity with as many of the potatoes as you can, tucking those that remain around the bird. Pour the remaining olive oil over the chicken, season it, add the garlic cloves to the pan, then roast for 1 hour 20 minutes, until the skin is puffed and golden and the juices run clear when the thickest part of the flesh is pierced with a skewer. If it’s not cooked, put it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

Rest for about 20 minutes before carving. Serve with the roast potatoes, garlic and stuffing.

Trout with cucumber and cornichons





Trout with cucumber and cornichons.



Trout with cucumber and cornichons. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

The addition of pickle juice puts a spring in the step of this gently flavoured fish dish. If you lack the necessary juice, use white wine vinegar in its place. A few small potatoes, steamed or cooked in boiling water, would go well here.

Serves 2
butter 40g
trout fillets 4
cucumber 325g
cornichons 12
double cream 150ml
pickle juice 1 tbsp, from the cornichon jar
dill, chopped 1 tbsp

Melt 30g of the butter in a shallow pan. Choose one that doesn’t stick. Season the trout then lay it skin side down in the butter and let it cook for 4 minutes, spooning the frothing butter over the fish as it cooks. Turn the fish over and continue cooking for a further couple of minutes. Remove to a warm plate. Grate the cucumber coarsely then add to the pan. Halve the cornichons lengthways then add them to the cucumber. Cook for a minute or two then pour in the cream and let it bubble briefly before adding the pickle juice. Scatter the dill over, turning the cucumber as it cooks, then, when it is hot, check the seasoning, adding salt, pepper and more pickle juice as you wish.

Curd cheese and almond tarts





Curd cheese and almond tarts.



Curd cheese and almond tarts. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

I love the softness of pashka, the Russian Easter cake, with its notes of almond and vanilla. I made a version of it this week, with both cream cheese and ricotta, initially to spread on toasted brioche, then realised how good it would be as a filling for crisp pastry tartlets.

Makes 24
full fat cream cheese 400g
ricotta 250g
egg yolks 4
caster sugar 150g
double cream 150ml
vanilla extract
golden sultanas 90g
candied peel 50g
crystalised rose petals 20g
orange zest of 1 small
lemon zest of 1
flaked almonds 50g
ground almonds 90g

For the pastry
butter 150g
plain flour 200g
ground almonds 100g
caster sugar 2 tbsp
egg yolk 1
water 2 tbsp

Put the cream cheese and ricotta in a mixing bowl. Put the egg yolks and caster sugar in a food mixer and beat till thick and pale. Pour the cream into a saucepan and bring to boiling point. Pour the cream into the eggs and sugar, beating continuously. Pour the egg custard into the saucepan in which you heated the cream and warm, gently and stirring regularly, until the mixture is hot, but far from boiling. Stir regularly, adding the vanilla extract, a drop or two should be enough, as you go.

Stir the sultanas, candied peel, rose petals, finely grated orange and lemon zest and the flaked and ground almonds into the cream cheese. When the custard is hot, pour it into the cream cheese and ricotta and fold everything gently together with a large spoon or rubber spatula. Mix lightly but thoroughly.

Line a large sieve with muslin or a new J-cloth, then suspend it over a bowl. Scrape the cream cheese mixture into the lined sieve, fold the overhanging fabric over the top and refrigerate overnight.

To make the pastry, dice the butter then rub into the flour either with your fingertips or using a food processor. Add the ground almonds, sugar and the egg yolk, lightly beaten, then the water and bring to a soft but rollable dough. Turn out onto a floured board, pat into a thick cylinder shape then wrap in greaseproof paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Roll the pastry thinly then, using a 7cm diameter pastry cutter, make 24 discs of pastry. Line tart tins with the pastry discs, taking care to gently push the pastry right into the corners of the cases, and bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is dry to the touch. Remove from the oven, leave for five minutes, then carefully lift the pastry cases out of the tin. Transfer to a cooling rack and set aside.

To complete the tarts, scoop large spoonfuls of the mixture into the empty tart shells and place on a serving plate.

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