We all love to think of Easter in terms of hot cross buns, hunting for eggs and oversized chocolate bunnies, but for many of us Easter also marks the start of cold-weather cooking.
Summer baking – think pavlovas, fruit tarts and biscuits – starts to give way to rich cakes, cupcakes and winter puddings. Fresh salads and light seafood dishes are replaced by roast dinners and thick, rib-sticking stews.
Falling as it does on the cusp between seasons, Easter is also a time when you can get the best of both worlds. Matching strong elements from winter cooking with the lighter hand of the summer kitchen is the perfect way to approach autumn.
Try this delicious lamb dish with fresh greens and milk gravy for a lighter take on the traditional roast dinner, or these fresh cupcakes, moist with dried fruit, enlivened by cinnamon and freshened with curls of candied carrot.
ROASTED LAMB SHOULDER AND GARLIC MILK GRAVY
Soft roasted garlic gives this simple milk gravy an earthy boost, while fresh rocket and lemon take care of the high notes.
• 1.5kg boneless lamb shoulder, rolled
• salt and white pepper, to season
• 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
• 2 whole garlic bulbs, tops trimmed
• ⅓ cup (50g) plain flour
• 3 cups (750ml) milk
• rocket leaves, to serve
• lemon wedges, to serve
Heat your oven to 190°C. Season the lamb very well with salt and white pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large, ovenproof roasting pan over high heat. Sear the lamb until browned on all sides. Add the garlic to the pan and roast in the oven for 45 minutes (for medium-rare) or until cooked to your liking, then remove the lamb and set aside to rest on a rack for 15 minutes while you prepare the gravy.
Spoon off excess fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins into the pan and mash as much as possible. Place over medium heat and scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually pour in the milk, stirring until thickened and combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Slice the lamb and serve with the gravy, rocket leaves, lemon wedges and a drizzle of fruity olive oil.
CARROT CUPCAKES WITH CANDIED CARROT AND DILL
I remember a friend once asked me if carrot cake was made with real vegetables. There’s no mistaking the carrot in these
Carrot cupcakes with candied carrot and dill. Photo: William Meppem
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 2½ cups grated carrot (about 3 carrots)
• 3 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 cup light olive oil
• 1 cup almond meal
• 1 cup plain flour
• 2 tsp baking powder
• ¾ cup brown sugar
• 3 tsp ground cinnamon
• ½ cup raisins
• ¾ cup walnuts, chopped
• 1 cup caster sugar
• 2 carrots, spiralised or cut into thin matchsticks
• 250g cream cheese, at room temperature
• 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
• ½ cup icing sugar, sifted
• 12 small sprigs of dill
Heat your oven to 170°C. Combine the wet ingredients in a large bowl, then fold in the remaining ingredients until just combined. Divide the mixture among a 12-hole muffin pan. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
For the candied carrot, combine the sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then add the carrot and simmer for 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the carrot and gently spread out onto a lined tray to cool.
For the icing, beat the cream cheese, lemon rind and icing sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Ice the cupcakes with a spatula, then garnish with candied carrot and sprigs of dill.
Adam’s tip For a more indulgent Easter cupcake, wrap the candied carrot topping into a nest and add a small chocolate egg or two (or three) to the centre.