An Easter gathering is a chance to celebrate the arrival of spring in all its glory, and the ingredients I’m cooking with in the recipes here completely encapsulate the new season, from lamb to broad beans.
If you’re going to be cooking for a crowd over the bank holiday weekend, it makes sense to put together a few dishes that can be served at room temperature. That way you can get them ready in advance and keep them on the side until your roast is ready.
Asparagus with an egg vinaigrette (a really easy dressing with roughly chopped boiled egg) makes for a good seasonal starter or antipasti – you could bring it out at the same time as the courgette, pea and radish salad to start the meal, or team the latter with the roast artichokes and potatoes overleaf to eat alongside the meat, putting them in the middle of the table for people to help themselves.
Artichokes are fairly robust and can cook at the same time as the potatoes: I much prefer artichokes to be served simply like this, not puréed or drowned in lemon juice to the point where you lose the taste of the artichoke!
At some point in the meal, my family always has a pasta dish – and a rich pasta carbonara is an opportunity to cook with some beautiful eggs, with minimum preparation involved. Guanciale is the traditional fatty, flavoursome Italian dry-cured pork cheek cut to use for this (I source mine from Hannan Meats in Northern Ireland, but there are plenty of fantastic producers in the UK), although pancetta and bacon work well.
Pasta carbonara was a go-to in my late teenage years and in my early 20s: it’s such a well-loved dish, and with the combination of bacon and egg there’s nothing to stop you from enjoying it for either brunch or supper.
I’ve opted for roast lamb for the main event, because I’ve always associated it with Easter. It’s a strong tasting meat, particularly if you choose to cook hogget, which means it can take an equally punchy seasoning of anchovies, garlic, rosemary and Dijon mustard. A tender lamb shoulder is a slower roast than a (pinker) rack of lamb or leg, and can hold its own in the oven for a long time.
To finish, I’m sharing my recipe for plum jam crostata, a baked Italian tart that’s not too spongy, nor too crumbly. It’s perfect to enjoy as a dessert or throughout the day, with a dollop of mascarpone.
Easter is also a great excuse to indulge in the nostalgia of my favourite childhood chocolate – and at this time of year, I’m far more likely to opt for a Maltesers or a Cadbury’s Flake chocolate egg than 70pc Ecuadorian single estate chocolate!