A pull-out-all-the-stops feast with your nearest and dearest is what weekends were made for. Read on for inspiration on how to make yours even more delicious this year
Words: Heather Taylor
Let the good times be-gin
Greet guests with a refreshing gin cocktail imbued with herbal flavours. Muddle fresh mint and tarragon with lemon slices in a large pitcher, then top up with gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, ice and soda water. Finish with English fizz and serve in tumblers over ice.
Start your celebrations with a fizz cocktail that’s as delicious as it is pretty. Spoon one hibiscus flower (available from lakeland.co.uk) into the bottom of a champagne flute with a little of the syrup from the jar – the hibiscus flowers have a subtle rose and raspberry flavour. Top up with champagne, cremant or English sparkling wine.
Zest is best
Enliven diners’ palettes with a welcome drink that’s bursting with zesty flavours. Mix the juice from five pink grapefruits with the juice of a lemon in a large jug. Add ice and vodka, then top up with soda water and garnish with grapefruit slices.
For a fuss-free starter, create a Scandi-inspired sharing platter with good sourdough bread, crème fraîche with capers and a little dill, lemon wedges, six-minute boiled eggs and thinly sliced Scottish smoked salmon, then let everyone dig in.
Spread the loaf
Soda bread requires no kneading or rising time, so it’s quick, but will still fill the house with a wonderful aroma. Try adding a handful of chopped wild garlic leaves to the dough for an aromatic flavour and flecked green colour. Serve with tangy mature cheddar and plenty of good butter.
British crab is at its best right now, and it makes an elegant starter paired with peppery watercress and bitter chicory leaves. Dress with a vinaigrette of lemon juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil and chives, then finish with a few toasted pumpkin seeds.
Meat & Fish
Go for Greek
Instead of classic roast lamb, try making Greek kleftiko: a leg of lamb sealed in a greaseproof paper parcel then slow-cooked with herbs, garlic, lemon, cinnamon and potatoes until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender, aromatic and irresistible.
Take it slow
A shoulder of lamb is worth taking your time over. Make a sweet and sticky marinade with pomegranate molasses, orange juice and zest, oregano, toasted cumin seeds and garlic, thinned with a cup of water. Place the lamb in a roasting tray on top of a thinly sliced onion, then pour over the glaze and leave to marinate overnight. The next day, cook for three hours, covered in foil, then remove the foil for the final 30 minutes.
Fish for compliments
If you don’t fancy lamb, try a slow-roasted fillet of salmon – simply drizzle over a generous amount of rapeseed oil and throw in thinly sliced lemons and plenty of herbs, then bake for around 30 minutes, until the fish is tender and flaky.
Tart it up
A crisp-edged tart topped with seasonal spring vegetables is a great meat-free option. Top a sheet of puff pastry with par-boiled new potatoes, gruyere and asparagus with fresh mint or cheddar, ricotta and purple sprouting broccoli, then bake on a preheated baking sheet until golden and bubbling.
Try a terrine
A vegetarian terrine makes an elegant addition to Easter lunch, and can be prepped in advance. Layer thinly sliced, cooked beetroot in a clingfilm-lined loaf tin with softly whipped goats cheese, dill and toasted walnuts before leaving to set.
For a punchy addition to roast lamb, char asparagus, leeks and spring onions in a griddle pan then dress with lemon juice and oil.
Try making a savoury crumble to serve alongside your roast. Roast thickly sliced veg, such as carrots, leeks or parsnips, with a sprinkling of thyme until softened, then stir in a tub of crème fraiche and a tin of white beans. Make a crumble topping by rubbing together oats, butter and flour with a little lemon zest and Parmesan. Scatter over the roasted veg and return to the oven until golden and crispy.
Enjoy buttery British Jersey royals during their short-but-sweet season. Be sure to clean them carefully and not remove too much skin, since this holds much of the flavour. They’re delicious simply boiled and dressed with a herby butter spiked with mint, parsley and basil, or served as a warm potato salad with crème fraîche, chopped shallots and fresh chives.
Sauces and extras
Mint sauce is a must with lamb, and homemade is definitely best. Try adding a few finely chopped capers, fresh parsley and a little lemon juice to the usual mint and vinegar combination for added vibrancy.
The spice is right
It’s not traditional, but a bowl of chimichurri on the table works surprisingly well with a rich roast dinner. There are many variations on the exact recipe for this Argentinian-style condiment, but the basic ingredients include coriander, green chillies, parsley, garlic, oregano and oil, bashed in a pestle and mortar.
Love your leftovers
Use surplus Easter egg chocolate to make an indulgent cheesecake. Melt milk chocolate and stir through whipped cream and mascarpone, then make a base from crushed bourbon biscuits and melted butter. Top with the creamy mixture, then go mad with the decorations – think candy-coloured mini eggs, chocolate shards, and white chocolate buttons.
Instead of the traditional pavlova, whip up a selection of meringues in different flavours (and pastel hues) by adding freeze-dried raspberries, cocoa powder or ground pistachios to the meringue mix before baking. Then create a DIY Eton mess station with whipped cream, lemon curd, fresh fruit and chopped roasted nuts.
A trifle tasty
An indulgent hot cross bun trifle makes a star dessert. Arrange torn, toasted hot cross buns in a glass trifle dish and pour over Cointreau, then layer with roasted rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, custard and mascarpone, finishing with whipped cream and toasted almonds and pistachios.