Feast day: Mark Hix cooks an Easter meal with a difference

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Indy Lifestyle Online

If you haven't worked out what you're having tomorrow, here's a slightly different Easter feast.

Easter is, of course, a time for families to get together and celebrate, but with so many great ingredients at this time of year, it's actually a wonderful opportunity for the grown-ups to have an Easter dinner party.

During this season, we are blessed with great seasonal eggs, spring lamb, asparagus, spring vegetables – perfect for a simple dinner or lunch party. And I rather like the idea of a sharing kind of meal at Easter time.

Guinea fowl egg and asparagus salad

Serves 4

Guinea fowl eggs are about the size of a bantam egg, which is two-thirds the size of a hen's egg. Pheasant eggs are a similar size, but a bit of a pain to peel.

4 guinea fowl eggs
250g asparagus with the woody ends removed
A couple of handfuls of small tasty salad leaves and herbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing

¾tbsp sherry vinegar
3tbsp walnut oil

Bring a pan of water to the boil, carefully lower in the guinea fowl eggs and soft boil for 3 minutes, then run under the cold tap for a few minutes until they are cool enough to handle. Carefully shell them and put to one side. Cook the asparagus in boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes, or until tender, then drain.

To serve, whisk the sherry vinegar and walnut oil together and season to taste. Cut the asparagus into 3 on the angle and arrange on serving plates with the leaves. Place the guinea fowl egg in the centre and spoon over the dressing.

Roast saddle of lamb with wild garlic sauce

Serves 4-6

A whole lamb saddle is probably the most expensive cut on the lamb but it does make an impressive whole joint to carve at the table. A whole saddle traditionally comes with the rump, which makes carving a little trickier, but as lamb rumps are a popular item these days, with lots of restaurants having them on their menus, your butcher may well cut the rump off for you.

You can either roast and serve your saddle on the bone, or as I've done here, get your butcher to bone and roll it and pop the kidneys back inside when he ties it up. This way it's really simple to carve and you won't need to go on a carving course beforehand.

1 saddle of lamb weighing about 1.5kg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable or corn oil for brushing
1 whole garlic bulb, roughly chopped
A handful of rosemary

For the wild garlic sauce

A handful of wild garlic leaves, washed and dried
150-200ml rapeseed oil
2tsp Tewksbury or Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all the sauce ingredients in a liquidiser and blend to a spooning-consistency purée, adding more rapeseed oil if necessary; season. This will keep in an air-tight container for a couple of months.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Criss-cross the fat of the lamb with a knife. Place a roasting tray in the oven for 10 minutes, season the saddle with salt and pepper and place in the roasting tray. Cook for 30 minutes, then turn it over, scatter over the garlic and rosemary; cook for 30 minutes more, keeping it nice and pink. Leave to rest for 10-12 minutes, then carve into 1cm-thick slices. Serve the wild garlic sauce separately.

Creamed spring leeks with Cheddar

Serves 4-6

Young leeks pulled from the garden at this time of the year are perfect served with lamb dishes such as the one above.

300g young leeks
A couple of good knobs of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200-250ml double cream
120g grated mature Cheddar

Cut the leeks in half lengthways, then shred and wash well in cold water and drain. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and cook the leeks for 3-4 minutes with a lid on until they begin to soften. Season and add the cream; simmer with the lid off until it thickens and binds the leeks. Stir in the cheese until it's melted. You can serve it like this or place in an ovenproof dish and lightly brown under the grill.

Shards of bitter chocolate with candied orange and pistachio

Serves 4-6

This is great to place on the table at the end of a dinner party as an alternative dessert. You can just break it up into large, rough shapes and serve it in a bowl or on a tray.

500g dark chocolate, chopped
60g pistachio nuts, lightly toasted
60g candied orange peel, chopped
50g 100% Venezuelan black chocolate, coarsely grated (optional)

Place the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted. Line a flat baking tray with silicone or greaseproof paper and pour on the chocolate, scraping the bowl with a spatula, and spreading the chocolate to about cm-thick.

Don't worry about having neat edges. Scatter the orange, pistachio and Venezuelan black chocolate all over and leave to set in the fridge. You can place it in the freezer if you wish. To serve, break the chocolate into large, rough shards.