Friday, April 13, 2012

Lazy Easter Monday Lunch

Easter is generally a pretty busy time for my friends and sometimes it is for my family too, so this year I invited a few friends and my cousins over for a lazy Easter Monday lunch. As it was school holidays, I didn't have to worry about going to work the next day so having guests arriving from 1.30 to eat at 2.00 / 2.30 or so wasn't really a big concern as I had the next day off.

Miniature roses coming out.

To help with timing, I set the table the night before as this gave me more time to ensure the glass and cutlery was polished, the appropriate service ware was out of the cupboard and sparkling and that the napery was ironed.

I decided that because 'new life' is what we celebrate at Easter, I would decorate the table with flowers, light, eggs and bright colours. I also wanted to use some of the napery I had stored away including a lovely vintage table runner from my Nan and a crystal vase from my Nanna. I found some lovely miniature roses at Taste for the Love of Cooking on James St at New Farm to fill the vases. They smelled divine and the off white colour matched my vintage runner. The egg shells used inside the votives for the tea light candles were the ones left from careful cracking during my Easter baking session - it was nice to give them another life. I rinsed them out and dried them on the window sill before the day so that they wouldn't attract ants and flies. The rest of my rather pink napery was from Wheel and Barrow and the collection of napkins that I made for my birthday about five / six years ago when I had a pink, white and turquoise theme. The butterflies on the wall above the table were also from this party. They live on my wall permanently but recently they had a little migration into the dining room set and the living room set (really it is just one big room).

With the candles lit.
For the main course, I prepared an orange and spice rubbed boned leg of lamb stuffed with figs, prunes, dates, onion and celery leaves. The side dishes were crispy roasted rosemary potatoes and pumpkin, minted peas and honey glazed carrots. The lamb recipe was from the April issue of Good Food magazine and had a lovely blend of smoked paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg. This was toasted in a frying pan with garlic and lots of orange zest.  Some of the spice mix was then added to the filling mixture which was cooked in a saucepan with some brandy added at the end. The majority of the spice mixture was blended when cool with the orange juice ot make a paste to rub over the outside of the lamb and the inside before the stuffing was added. The lamb was basted with more orange juice as it cooked in the oven on a bed of rosemary.

My brother did some roast potatoes at Christmas time that were just perfectly crispy and crunchy on the outside but soft and creamy on the inside. He told me his trick was to bring them to the boil on the stove top, drain them and rough them up with a fork before tossing them in olive oil with garlic and herbs. He then roasts them in the oven at 180C for 1 hour. My oven is a bit special so I put mine in and started roasting them as the lamb was finishing cooking so that I could finish cooking the potatoes as the lamb rested. I blitzed my potatoes and pumpkin at 240C in my slowish gas oven for 25 mins while my lamb rested. The potatoes were lovely and crisp on the outside when they were done and the pumpkin caramelized to just the right point. I was so happy as I have never managed such perfect roasted vegetables for the number of visitors I had on Easter Monday before! I now refer to these as Nathan's potatoes.

The honey glazed carrots were Dutch carrots, peeled and simmered in one part honey to two parts butter to four parts water.

The meal worked really nicely together according to my guests and my youngest guest enjoyed the carrots, the lamb (without stuffing) and the roasted potatoes the most. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph the main course which I served in vegetable dishes and on large platters for people to pass around the table.

Being Easter, I decided that a rich chocolate dessert was called for. The latest issue of delicious magazine featured two recipes that caught my eye, one was a no-bake chocolate cheesecake recipe and the other was a peanut butter chocolate tart. I thougth the chocolate peanut butter tart on its own would be a bit much but a small taste would ge good. As such I halved the recipe and then made it up as little tartlets which I could cut in half and use as a decoration when plating the dessert. I also gave my guests the option of whether or not they wanted the peanut butter tartlet decoration as I know that some of my friends and family aren't fussed on peanut paste (unlike me who loves it).

I made the large cheesecake as the major component of my dessert for the day. It was very, very simple to make and I think the light texture of the end product was achieved as it was made on ricotta and mascarpone with some coffee flavoured liqueur and 70% cocoa dark chocolate finely chopped. Next time I would like to see if adding a small amount of gelatin would aid the setting process as it was a little soft when I sent to serve it, despite being refrigerated overnight.

To plate up the dish I painted each plate with a small amount of melted chocolate, I topped this with a wedge of cheesecake and then put the half peanut butter tartlet on for decoration. I put a small amount of roasted almond praline from my Easter treats (which I had crushed to dust in the food processor) in the base of an egg cup and topped it with vanilla bean ice cream. I also put some of the dust on the plates. Finally I put some chocolate curls on top of each.

The tidy version - the cheesecake is under the chocolate curls.
The messy version with more of the cheesecake showing.

My guests seemed very happy with their dessert too! DiDee May xo


  1. Thanks so much for leaving us such a lovely comment - it made our day!

    Love your Easter table - so very pretty!

  2. Pretty table and lovely dessert. The ice cream in egg cups is a great idea!