I just love Easter. It’s usually the first time after Christmas we get a chance to spend a few days together with family and, unlike Christmas, there’s none of the prolonged build-up that makes everyone so frazzled. It’s the perfect opportunity to spend some time making goodies to enjoy over the weekend and to give to friends and neighbours. And it’s not all about Chocolate.
After the lean months of winter and the fast weeks of Lent we can look forward to springtime foraging for wild garlic, nettle tops and elderflowers. Lamb of course is associated with spring in many cultures, being the roast of choice to serve on Easter Sunday. Juicy spring lamb with spring greens and baby new potatoes or flageolet beans (yes, do try them), ladles of clear gravy with a hint of redcurrant jelly. Sophie Grigson partners her spring lamb with early forced rhubarb, now in the shops. This adds a hit of acidity and quite brave for us non-Mediterranean types. Personally I prefer to reserve it for ‘afters’ with a shortbread crumble topping served with lashings of creamy custard. Mmmh.
As a child I remember my mother making a dish called Paskha, (or Pashka as it is sometimes spelt) which is the traditional Russian Easter cheesecake, eaten with Kulich, a cake flavoured with saffron and vodka. She didn’t stretch to the Kulich, for which I am thankful. I considered sharing this recipe with you this month, until I looked again at the list of ingredients. It is a very rich, albeit a delicious dessert, made with curd cheese, egg yolks; heaps of butter and sugar, double cream, candied peel and blanched almonds. Set in a tall mould to drain, (in Russia they use a specially made wooden mould whereas my mother used a Tall Tom flower pot.) The cheesecake was decorated with fabulous gold almonds; angelica, cherries and peel. Can’t think why it’s called a cake, but its splendid as a spectacular centre-piece on Easter day. There are a number of different recipes on the internet, and to my surprise you can also order a plastic red Paskha mould from Poland!
I have no wish to further clog the lengthy arteries of my Donhead neighbours, so I have gone for a sticky, moreish cake, with a really good zesty lemon kick. It still has its fair share of calories but a great reward after a bracing afternoon walk with a cup of tea, any time of the year.
This cake can be made up to 3 days ahead, (I suggest without the icing) and stored in an airtight container. Don’t forget to hide the cake until you need it, or there may be nothing left for your special tea. I’ve also had a peep in the back room of Ludwell Stores and they have some wonderful chocolate eggs, rabbits and chicks, perfect for decorating this cake at Easter, or for those who need an excuse to buy some Easter chocolate for themselves. Happy Easter to you all. aif
Easter Lemon Cake …any time of the year this is good
Around £5.40, when all ingredients purchased at Ludwell Stores. (Excludes chocolate decorations.)
225g soft butter
350g plain flour
350g caster sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 lemons, zest of… (but buy 4!)
4 Large eggs
For the syrup
4 lemons – juice of..
6 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
for the icing decoration
6 tablespoons icing sugar
Handful mini-chocolate eggs; rabbits or chicks
20cm round, deep, loose-bottomed cake tin, lined with baking parchment
Preheat over to 180° C, fan 160° C, gas 4 - AGA (2 door) top oven, btm shelf with cold shelf above and watch it carefully
1. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl (with an electric hand whisk) until pale and fluffy.
2. Sift in the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt.
3. Stir in lemon zest and then the milk
4. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined
5. Tip mix into the tin and bake for 50 - 55 minutes or until firm to the touch
6. Leave to cool, in the tin for about an hour
To make the syrup
7. Blend the juice of the four lemons and icing sugar together in a small bowl
8. Prick the top of the cake all over with a skewer (going deep into the cake) and slowly spoon the syrup evenly over the top so that it sinks into the cake, (and not just dribble down the sides!)
9. Leave to cool completely and remove from the tin.
To make the icing
10. In another bowl, mix the icing sugar with a little water to make a thick but runny icing.
11. Pipe or drizzle the icing over the cake creating a ‘nest ‘ and scatter with mini eggs
12. Finish with a pretty yellow ribbon
A truly, truly scrumptious, fabulously sticky and moreish teatime treat.
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.