You can't be a scrooge at Easter: it's spring! it's hope! it's chocolate eggs!
Fri, 5 April, 2019
Whether it is a religious celebration or just a spring bank holiday for you, or it means nothing at all, it’s hard not to feel cheerful at this time of year. The religious theme of resurrection, the imagery of little chicks, lambs and eggs are derived from pagan celebrations of spring perceived as the birth of new life, new hope, new food after the darkness of winter.
It’s a moveable feast – the principle of calculating when it will fall in a given year is a piece of knowledge that escapes me again right after it’s acquired. Equinox, full moon, Sunday is all I ever remember* and of course they HAD TO make matters even more complicated by splitting the catholic church into Roman and Eastern Orthodox in the 11th century, with each using a different calendar to compute their Easter and thus celebrating it on completely different dates.
Traditions vary; Protestants optimistically focus on the resurrection side of the story while Catholics naturally wallow in the grimness of crucifixion. Still, everybody does eggs: decorated, painted, real or chocolate; hunt for them or hang them on the trees; bake them whole in festive breads or have egg-fights. Eating the eggs is an afterthought.
Easter brunch is the main feast, with hams or lamb roasts (whole lambs on the spit in Greece!), Easter soups, vegetable tarts and frittatas, and egg salads. This year I might do cider braised gammon or finally try the famous recipe for cooking ham in Coca-Cola. If it’s lamb I go for, slow roasted shoulder is an easy option while the roasted leg of lamb a real treat and everybody’s favourite.
There will be new potatoes to have on the side and quite probably new English asparagus. All because Easter is so shockingly late this year that we’re not only going to have new season lamb for the brunch but might also score some strawberries for dessert.
As is fitting, the sweets and the breads are not less important. I will do what I do every year: bake several batches of hot cross buns and one imposing colomba di pasqua, dove-shaped Italian Easter cake. There are cookies that I discovered quite late on: English Sedgemoor biscuits and Greek koulourakia. There’s Simnel cake which can be baked with or without yeast but always with marzipan.
And chocolate eggs. Hunting for them is the best part of Easter Sunday, obviously, but it will be twice as good if you try making DIY chocolate eggs. Buy the moulds and get the little ones to mess around with melted chocolate – if that’s not fun I don’t know what could be…
*if you insist: apparently it’s the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, 21st March. But this is the idiot’s guide to Easter; serious Church people have formulae that make things like Google algorithms seem pre-school stuff.