Here we go: pandemic Easter 2.0. Perhaps this year you will be able to gather in a safe small group, or maybe you are still hunkering down with your immediate family as you plan to celebrate an important day on the Christian calendar.
Either way, there are meals to plan and prepare to make the holiday feel special. And you can create a sumptuous feast without having to splurge financially. Beautiful. Satisfying. Holiday-ish. Here is a fresh and colourful Easter brunch that checks all of those boxes and serves four people for about £40.
The star of the show is a verdant cobb salad that makes the most of the produce that is popping up in the markets, asparagus and sugar snap peas in particular.
Think of this recipe as a template. Substitute chickpeas for the chicken for a vegetarian version, swap out the suggested vegetables for those you have on hand, and if you want to lean into a different salad dressing, go for it.
Take a moment to think about how well done you like your hard-cooked eggs on this egg-centric holiday – you can leave the yolks a little jammy (my favourite) or cook them all the way through. Either way, they are adorable nestled into the rows of good things topping this salad.
In saying that the cobb salad is the star of this meal, I may have spoken too fast. It’s hard to compete with a crispy, tender monkey bread. This one couldn’t be simpler, made from refrigerated biscuit dough, and pesto that you can make or buy. Cut the biscuits into pieces, toss with the pesto and melted butter and a handful of grated parmesan, pile it into a baking dish, and, oh my goodness, turn out that warm, pull-apart bread and put it in the centre of the table. Why don’t we all make monkey bread on a weekly basis? I don’t know.
Brunch doesn’t always include dessert, but it should. And on Easter, it must.
Frozen strawberries and sweetened whipped cream add up to one of the springiest and simplest desserts ever. You’ll know in short order how good this berry fool is when you hear the sound of spoons scraping against the cups, seeking the last swirls of this creamy, fluffy berry cloud.
Fresh berries on top (along with another dollop of whipped cream) gild that lily perfectly.
The £40 total assumes you have a few things in your kitchen already (such as salt, pepper, oil, vinegar and sugar). Drinks are additional, but iced tea or lemonade or maybe even a bottle of crisp white wine would be welcome.
Oh, and if you’re not celebrating Easter? Well, I think we all deserve a fine spring brunch nevertheless.
Spring Cobb salad with spring onion dressing
Active time: 40 minutes | Total time: 50 minutes
This version of the popular salad allows you to celebrate seasonal flavours and relies on cooked beetroots and chicken. If you prefer to make your own, see the notes below and plan more cooking time.
Make ahead: The eggs can be cooked and refrigerated, unpeeled, up to one week. The vegetables can be blanched and refrigerated for up to three days. The vinaigrette can be prepared, minus the spring onions, up to three days in advance; whisk in the spring onions just before serving.
For the salad:
1½ cups de-stringed and halved sugar snap peas
12 stalks asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1in pieces (about 1½ cups)
4 large eggs
6 cups spring lettuce mix
1½ cups cubed cooked chicken breast (see notes)
1½ cups cubed cooked golden or red beetroots (see notes)
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 small sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced
For the vinaigrette:
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ cup minced spring onions
1tbsp Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with ice water and set aside. Salt the boiling water generously, and add the peas and asparagus. Cook until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes, then, using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to the prepared ice bath (maintain the water at a boil). Let cool for 2 minutes, then transfer to a colander, drain and pat the vegetables dry. Add more ice to the ice bath.
Gently lower the eggs into the boiling water. Adjust the heat so that the water maintains a simmer. After 8 minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the eggs to the prepared ice bath. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then remove the eggs, crack and peel them, and halve them lengthwise.
Make the vinaigrette: in a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, spring onions and mustard until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper and whisk to incorporate.
In a large, shallow serving bowl, scatter the lettuce leaves. Arrange neat rows of the chicken, beetroots, peas, asparagus, goat cheese, onion and avocado over the lettuce. Tuck the halved eggs into the salad here and there. Serve with the vinaigrette on the side or drizzled over the salad.
To poach boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut the chicken in half or thirds crosswise, depending on how large the pieces are. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine 3 to 4 cups of water, the chicken and 1 tsp of kosher salt. Stir once or twice and slowly bring to barely a simmer – do not let the water come to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently cook until an instant-read thermometer reads 75C when inserted into the thickest pieces of chicken, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and let cool completely before dicing.
To roast beetroots, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 204C. Scrub the beetroots, and trim off any leaves and roots. Wrap each beetroot in a large piece of aluminium foil. Place the wrapped beetroots on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a knife slides easily into the beetroot right into the middle. Let the beetroots sit until they are cool enough to handle, then discard the foil and peel off the skins. Dice for the salad.
Pesto monkey bread
Active time: 20 minutes | Total time: 1 hour
Refrigerated biscuit dough makes this savoury monkey bread a breeze to put together. The mounds of dough are tossed with a buttery, herby parmesan and then baked until brown. Any shape pan can be used, but it should around 8in sq.
Storage notes: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
2tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2tbsp pesto (store-bought or homemade)
4tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
½tsp kosher salt
One can refrigerated biscuit dough
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 190C.
In a baking dish, combine the melted butter, pesto, 2tbsps of the parmesan and the salt.
Separate the dough into biscuits, and quarter each biscuit. Place the pieces in the baking pan with the butter mixture and, using your hands, toss to combine and coat the pieces well.
Arrange the dough pieces evenly in the pan. They will be piled on top of each other and touching, but make sure they are evenly distributed. Then, sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the dough pieces and cover with aluminium foil.
Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the inside is cooked through, with no doughy pockets (use a butter knife to check out the middle of one biscuit).
Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert the monkey bread onto the rack, then flip the bread carefully over again and transfer to a serving plate.
Serve warm, and let everyone pull the bread apart into hunks.
Strawberry fool with raspberries
Active time: 20 minutes | Total time: 50 minutes (with defrosting time)
This lush dessert belies the simplicity of its ingredients. It makes use of frozen berries, which often are less expensive than fresh berries, are convenient, available year-round and add structure. Top the fools with raspberries or any other favourite berry.
Make ahead: The strawberries need to defrost on the counter for 30 minutes before making the dessert. The fool can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours before serving.
284g frozen strawberries
100g granulated sugar, divided
1½tsp fresh lemon juice
240ml heavy cream
Fresh raspberries, for serving (optional)
Let the strawberries defrost on the counter for about 30 minutes. In a pitcher of a blender, combine the strawberries with 50g of sugar and the lemon juice and puree until everything is fairly smooth and well blended.
In a medium bowl, using a handheld mixer or a whisk, beat the cream with the remaining 50g of sugar just until it holds stiff peaks. Gently fold in the strawberry mixture, stopping when there are still faint streaks of pink and white.
Scoop the mixture into four cups or glasses, filling each most of the way. Serve, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Top each serving with raspberries, if desired.
Recipes from food writer Katie Workman, founder of the Mom 100 website.
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