Passion play: Mark Hix celebrates Easter with a traditional feast

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We tend to celebrate Easter with bucketfuls of chocolate eggs – but we often forget about the Easter feast. So this week I've been cooking up delicious Easter lunch recipes, including spring lamb (often slaughtered in Mediterranean countries to mark the start of the festivities), wild rabbit, real eggs (not of the chocolate variety) and even ricciarelli – little Tuscan biscuits which go down a treat with coffee.

Triple roast of spring lamb

Serves about 8

If you are thinking of doing a spring lamb roast, why not serve three different cuts so your guests can appreciate the flavours from different parts of the animal?

1 shoulder of spring lamb
1 eight-bone best end of spring lamb
1 leg of spring lamb, boned and tied
A little vegetable oil for frying
4 heads of new season garlic
A handful of rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Season the shoulder of lamb, heat a heavy frying pan with a little vegetable oil and brown the lamb on all sides on a high heat, then place in a roasting tray. Do the same with the leg and best end of lamb but put to one side. Halve the heads of garlic and place in the roasting tray, then scatter the rosemary over. Slow roast the shoulder for 2 hours (removing the garlic after 45 minutes), basting every so often; then remove from the oven, cover with foil and keep warm.

Turn the oven up for about 10 minutes until it reaches 200C/gas mark 6. Place the leg of lamb in the same roasting tray and cook for 30 minutes, basting every so often. Then place the best end in the tray with the fat down and cook for another 15-20 minutes, keeping the leg and best end nice and pink.

It's difficult to put an exact time on the best end and leg, as your spring lamb is going to vary in size somewhat, but the idea is really to keep them just pink.

Serve the three joints either carved and on a serving dish with the garlic, or if you have a large wooden carving board you could place the joints on the board and let your guests carve for themselves.

Fried duck egg with rabbit offal and spring leeks

Serves 4

With all the excitement about chocolate eggs, serving the real thing often gets forgotten at Easter, but it can be quite fun serving interesting dishes with hen, duck or goose eggs for an Easter dinner party. I've suggested using the offal from the wild rabbit recipe shown below, but you could use chicken or duck livers or, if you prefer, simply go veggie and stick to the spring leeks.

4 duck eggs
The hearts and livers from 4 wild rabbits, cleaned (or about 150g chicken or duck livers)
12-16 baby spring leeks, trimmed and washed
Olive oil for frying
60g butter
1tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the spring leeks in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, then drain. Cut them in half and put to one side. Lightly fry the 4 duck eggs in the olive oil, seasoning the white as they are cooking, and at the same time get another frying pan hot, season the offal, add the butter to the pan and cook for just a couple of minutes on a medium heat, keeping them nice and pink, and then toss the leeks in the pan with the parsley.

Transfer the eggs to warmed serving plates and spoon around the offal, leeks and butter.


Makes about 20-25 biscuits

These are those delicious little biscuits that you commonly see piled up in cafés in Italy, especially in Siena.

It would be a good recipe for the kids to have a go at making over Easter. I'm all for the children getting more involved in cooking, so I thought you might like to know about Write It!, the writing competition for young people run by the Guild of Food Writers, now looking for entries for the 2010 competition.

The competition is open to any young person under the age of 18 on 31 August 2009. For further details about how to enter, visit

300g whole almonds
225g caster sugar
The zest of half a lemon
The whites from 2 large eggs
A few drops of good-quality vanilla extract
A few drops of almond extract
Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Place the almonds on a tray and roast them for about 15 minutes or so, turning them every so often, until they are golden but not too brown. Leave to cool.

Put the almonds in a small food processor with half of the caster sugar and the lemon zest and blend as finely as you can get them.

Clean a mixing bowl or the bowl of a mixing machine with boiling water to remove any traces of grease. Using either an electric hand-held whisk, or the mixing machine, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff, then add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff again. Fold in the ground almond mixture with the vanilla extract and almond extract.

Line a baking tray with silicone paper or baking parchment, dampen your hands with a little water, take about half a dessertspoon of the mixture at a time and roll into balls and flatten lightly until they are about 1-1cm thick; or alternatively, pipe them in a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Place the biscuits on the baking tray about 3cm apart.

Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until golden. Allow to cool on the tray, then remove and dust with icing sugar.

Wild rabbit in green sauce

Serves 4

Wild rabbits have such a good flavour but they rarely get used today, which is a great shame, because there are so many of them and they need to be culled.

Try to buy wild rabbits instead of the ones that are reared for the table, as they don't have an awful lot of flavour compared to the wild variety.

The back legs and shoulders from 4 wild rabbits
40g flour plus more for dusting
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
6 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped
60g butter
100ml white wine
2tsp Dijon mustard
1 litres chicken stock, or a good quality chicken-stock cube dissolved in that amount of hot water
3tbsp double cream
A handful of parsley leaves
A handful of wild garlic leaves

Halve the rabbit legs at the joint and then lightly season and flour the legs and shoulders with a tablespoon of the flour. Heat a little vegetable oil in a frying pan and lightly fry them for 2 minutes on each side without colouring them too much.

In a heavy-based saucepan, gently cook the shallots in the butter for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the rest of the flour and stir well. Gradually add the white wine, stirring well to avoid any lumps forming, then add the mustard and chicken stock. Bring to the boil, add the rabbit legs and lightly season.

Simmer gently, covered with a lid, for about an hour or so, or until the rabbit is tender. The sauce should be quite thick and of a coating consistency; if not, simply pour the sauce off into a separate pan and simmer it until it has thickened.

Put the parsley and wild garlic in a blender with a ladle of the rabbit sauce and blend until smooth; then stir back into the rabbit.

Bring back to the boil, add the double cream, and simmer for a few minutes and re-season if necessary.

Serve with mashed potato or maybe creamed polenta or a leafy vegetable such as spinach or greens.