Rise and shine: Yotam Ottolenghi's Easter recipes (2024)

The levels of symbolism and ritual that surround Easter food can be confusing. I'm never sure whether we're meant to exclude Judas or include Jesus in the marzipan-ball topping of a simnel cake, or whether Easter really is the best time to eat spring lamb. Hot-cross buns, fish-shaped loaves, breads full of eggs and butter after the abstinence of Lent, or egg-washed and decorated with spring flowers or clover leaves: all encourage us to mark "new beginnings" at the Easter feast.

So this week there's the Italian Easter classic torta pasqualina, and slow-roasted lamb, but then acomplete break with tradition –asweet treat that the Dutch eat at Sinterklaas on 5 December. That's because, to my mind, a marzipan-filled kind-of biscuit ticks an awful lot of Easter boxes.

Torta pasqualina

This savoury pie is often made using several layers of filo pastry, but I like the robustness of puff. The pie keeps well, so it's a great dish to have in the fridge over the Easter weekend. If you can't get chard, use spinach or another green. Serves six to eight.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and roughlychopped
1kg Swiss chard, stalks removed and roughly chopped, leaves cut into 1cm slices
3 sticks celery, trimmed and finelysliced
15g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
20g dill, roughly chopped
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
250g ricotta
100g mature cheddar, grated
9 eggs
Salt and black pepper
500g all-butter puff pastry
Plain flour, for dusting

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Put a large sauté pan for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat. Add the oil and onion, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onion is soft and starting to colour. Add the chard stalks and celery, cover and cook for five minutes. Stir in the chard leaves and cook for five minutes more, until the leaves have wilted and the stalks and celery have softened. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a little.

Line a colander with a clean tea towel or muslin and pour in the contents of the pan. Draw the sides of the towel around the filling and squeeze out the juice: you want the mixture to be as dry as possible. Transfer the contents of the towel toa bowl and add the herbs, spices, cheeses, three eggs, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Cut a third off the pastry and set aside. Roll out the remaining pastry on a lightly floured work surface into a 30cm square that's 2.5mm thick. Transfer to a 20cm-wide spring-form cake tin with 7cm high sides. Press the pastry into the edges of the tin and trim off most of the overhang. Roll the remaining pastry into a 25cm square lid and set aside.

Tip the chard mixture into the cake tin and use a spoon to create five egg-sized holes. Break an egg into each hole, then lay the lid on top. Trim the edges, then pinch the lid and base together to make sure it's secure. (If you like, use the excess pastry to make festive decorations for the top.)

Whisk the remaining egg, brush it over the lid, then prick a few times with a fork. Bake for 45 minutes, until cooked and golden brown. Leave to cool for half an hour, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Six-hour lamb and a bottle of wine

Rise and shine: Yotam Ottolenghi's Easter recipes (1)

The best kind of festive cooking – stress-free and impact-high. Once in the oven, your work ispretty much done, such is the magic of slow-cooking. Serves six.

2.2kg lamb shoulder on the bone
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1 ½ tbsp coarse sea salt
4 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed and left whole
3 small turnips, peeled, trimmed and halved
2 medium onions, peeled, trimmed and halved
1 small celeriac, peeled, trimmed and cut into 8 wedges
2 large vivaldi potatoes (or other waxy variety), peeled and quartered
2 whole heads garlic, cut in half horizontally
15g fresh thyme sprigs
750ml dry white wine

Heat the oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 2½. Put the lamb in a 30cm x 40cm roasting tray. Mix together the olive oil, fennel and salt, then use your hands to rub this all over the lamb. Spread the vegetables, garlic and thyme around the lamb, then pour the wine over everything.

Cover tightly with foil and roast for an hour. Turn down the heat to 140C/285F/gas mark 1 and cook for afurther five hours, spooning the juices over the meat and vegetables every hour or so; make sure you seal the foil tightly over the tray each time you return it to the oven. After six hours, the lamb will be falling off the bone and the vegetables will be soft and caramelised; even so, you could easily leave it in there for another hour, as this will only enhance the flavour. Remove from the oven, lift off the foil and serve atonce, making sure to spoon some of the tray juices over each portion.

Gevulde speculaas

You'll have more spice mixture thanyou need for these biscuits, butit will keep well in a sealed jar. Not until 5 December, perhaps, but certainly long enough to use in other biscuits over the coming weeks; it's also lovely with stewed cherries or plums. Ithank Hennie Franssen, who translates my books into Dutch, for this marvellous recipe. Serves eight.

For the spice mix
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground aniseed
¾ tsp ground white pepper
¾ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves

For the dough
120g unsalted butter, softened
100g soft golden sugar
1-2 tbsp full-fat milk
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
180g plain flour, plus extra to dust

For the almond paste
200g blanched and peeled almonds
150g caster sugar
1 egg
2 tsp lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
60g mixed candied peel

To decorate
50g blanched almonds
1 egg, lightly beaten

Mix together all the ingredients for the spice mix and set aside.

For the dough, put 100g of the butter in a large bowl with the sugar and a tablespoon of milk. Beat until smooth, then add the bicarbonate, four teaspoons of the spice mix, the flour and one-third of a teaspoon of salt. Mix to a firm, elastic dough, adding more milk only if needed. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate.

For the almond paste, put the nutsin a food processor and blitz fora minute: you don't want them completely smooth. Add the sugar, egg and lemon juice, and blitz again, until slightly smoother but still grainy. Add the lemon zest and candied peel and blitz once or twice, just to mix through. The paste should be sticky and softer than the dough, but still hold its shape. Transfer to a small bowl.

Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to a 20cm x 40cm rectangle that's 0.5cm thick. You will need to keep dusting with flour to prevent it from sticking. Transfer it to a 40cm x 30cm parchment-lined baking tray. Melt the remaining 20g of butter and brush two-thirds of it over the dough. Spoon a 6cm-wide sausage of almond paste lengthways down the centre of the dough from top to bottom, and brush this with the remaining butter. Lift the lefthand side of the dough over the paste, then bring in the righthand side on top so that the two sides slightly overlap. Press gently to secure, then carefully turn the whole thing over so the seal is at the bottom, a bit like a giant sausage roll. Brush evenly and lightly with beaten egg, arrange the whole almonds on top and brushagain with egg.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the dough begins to colour and the almonds are golden. Don't be alarmed when the roll flattens out: that's meant to happen. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.

Follow Yotam on Twitter.

Rise and shine: Yotam Ottolenghi's Easter recipes (2024)


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