Tag Archives: Easter

The alternative Easter egg – how to decorate them naturally with vegetables!

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Easter does not have to be all about the chocolate; vegetables have plenty of fun to offer too! A great way to get all the family involved, roll up your sleeves and work together to use any leftover veg to make pretty, naturally dyed Easter eggs.

You can colour ordinary hen’s eggs with vegetable dyes at home in your kitchen, as different veg produces different colours. They create more subtle tones than chemical colourants, but as they are harmless dyes, it means that you have the added fun of eating colourful boiled eggs afterwards on a picnic lunch. Especially popular with kids!

Here’s what you’ll need for each colour you want to create:

  • 1-2 teaspoons of white vinegar – this helps fix the dye to the egg shell.
  • Your chosen veg – see below for the colours each creates.
  • Eggs – try to use ones with the palest shells you can find, as they will show the colour more.

Natural dye sources:

  • Blue/lilac – red cabbage (boil the chopped cabbage in water for 30 mins first)
  • Pink – beetroot (boil the chopped beetroot in water for 30 mins first)
  • Green – spinach
  • Deep orange/terracotta – brown onion skins

There are many more colours you can create from natural materials; look online for more ideas. Just make sure that whatever you use is safe to eat first if you are planning to eat them, as egg shells are porous and will absorb the colourant.

Method:

  1. Gently wash your eggs, then place in a single layer in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Add a teaspoon or so of white vinegar along with your natural dye; the more dye material you use, the more intense the colour. Some veg will need boiling first (see dye list), in which case you add the eggs and the vinegar at the end of the boiling time. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Remove the eggs and put to one side to cool and dry; an egg box works well as a drying rack. If you want a darker colour, remove the eggs from the liquid, strain the dye through a coffee filter and cover the eggs with the natural dye once more. You can leave them overnight if you like, but either way make sure they go into the fridge if you are planning on eating them (and consume within 24 hours of boiling).
  3. Repeat the same process for any additional colours you want. You can give the eggs more of a glossy finish by rubbing them with vegetable oil, and using wax or crayons to draw shapes or patterns before dyeing them can make your eggs even prettier. You can also layer dyes to create different colours – much of the fun is in experimenting and seeing how the eggs turn out.

Note (optional): Bear in mind that what you use to dye the shell can sometimes flavour the egg itself a little, so you may prefer to ‘blow’ the eggs first to empty the raw egg out. This also means that you can keep your coloured eggs.

To do this: First wash the egg gently but thoroughly in warm water. Next, slowly make a small hole with a clean sewing needle at the pointed end of the shell, taking care not to crack the egg. Make a second hole at the opposite end, about double the size of the first. Use a knitting needle or similar to pierce the yolk of the egg via the larger hole, then, gently holding the egg between forefinger and thumb over a small bowl, blow through the smaller hole to get all the raw egg out and put aside for an omelette of spot of baking. Rinse the emptied shell thoroughly in cold water and use as above.

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Kirsty’s cooking blog: egg hunting, lamb recipes for Easter & best lemon curd & chocolate tart

My Easter Sunday will be spent taking part in our family’s chocolate egg hunt around the garden (tempest and ice-storm permitting). This highly competitive and occasionally combative sport might look a little odd to the outside eye, as we have more pensioners than pre-schoolers on the starting line these days. But traditions must be preserved and scores must be settled, so it seems set to continue for a few years yet.

How do you spend your Easter?
Without getting into a debate about what the festival means, I hope you get some time to share a meal (or egg hunt) with family and friends. Our Easter hampers have sold out, so many of you will be cooking our roast leg of lamb.

We’ve given you two ways to cook it – slow-roast or traditional, with home-made mint sauce. 

to prepare the lamb for both cooking methods:

ImageCut several slits in the skin of the lamb, just large enough to poke in a clove of garlic and a small piece of rosemary in each. Season the lamb well with salt and pepper.

ingredients

1.8kg leg of lamb
small sprigs of rosemary
a few garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to season

for slow roast lamb

Preheat the oven to 150C. Place the prepared lamb in a snug fitting roasting pan and cover with foil. Roast for 3 ½ hours, basting every 30 mins. Remove the foil and roast for another 30 mins to brown the skin a little.
Slow roasting doesn’t require the meat to be rested at the end as it will be very tender and will shred apart with a fork. It will shrink up as it cooks, so if you’re serving more than 6 or want leftovers, you might want to stick to the traditional roasting method.

traditional roast lamb

Preheat the oven to 220C. Put the prepared lamb in a roasting tin and put in the oven. Roast for 20 mins, then turn the heat down to 190C and roast for 50 mins for medium-rare lamb, or longer if you like it more well done.
Traditional roast lamb should be wrapped in foil and kept in a warm place for 20-30 mins before carving to let the juices settle and tenderise the meat.

for the gravy

Once the lamb is removed from the pan, skim off most of the fat from the remaining juices. Place the pan on the hob (make sure it’s a flameproof pan, or decant the juices into one) and stir in 2 tbsp plain flour. Stir for a couple of mins to cook the flour. Add a good glass of red wine and 1 tsp redcurrant jelly. Stir for 1 min, then add 300ml stock. Simmer for a few mins.

for the mint sauce

Put a large handful of chopped fresh mint leaves in a heatproof bowl with 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp boiling water. Leave to cool, then stir in 2 tbsp white wine vinegar. Leave to steep for an hour or so if you can.

for my lemon curd & chocolate tart

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If you’re not tucking into our homemade Bakewell tart on Easter Sunday, or have inadvertently eaten it already (easily done), I hope you try making our lemon curd and chocolate tart, to see the recipe click here. It was one of the most popular things I’ve ever brought into the farm office for staff to taste test. 
There’s no requirement to make pastry, and the curd is easy to make; just remember to keep the heat low so it doesn’t curdle. Pop any leftover curd in the fridge and spread on a thick piece of toast for an indulgent breakfast or afternoon treat. Better than a chocolate egg (and I may not find any).

Lamb is to Easter what turkey is to Christmas but why?

Despite being a relatively recent import from the Americas, at least Christmas turkey marks the culmination of a natural ‘season fitting’ yearly cycle. Paschal, Passover, ‘lamb of god’ significance is something of an anachronism and doesn’t really fit in with farming reality. However there’s nothing wrong with a bit of pagan ritual to remind us of our past – especially when it tastes so good.

Most flocks of ewes naturally lamb in late winter/spring and take four months plus to grow, meaning that eating new season lamb at Easter definitely doesn’t fit into any rationally conceived farming calendar – even less so this year with Easter in March. However, like sheep, farmers are an adaptable breed and if you want to eat lamb at the time they would normally be born, then lamb you shall have – albeit outside of the natural lambing cycle.

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Officially, a lamb becomes a sheep when it grows four teeth (after about a year). With culinary trends happily favouring slightly older, more flavoursome lamb (approx. 9 months – 1 year old), many of our farmers are able to lamb later, in mid-summer, for the Easter market. This means a lamb which is a little older, but season fitting. Carefully managed, separating slow-growing triplets from faster-growing singleton and twin lambs, means many of these older lambs are at their prime now.

Our Easter lambs are all Devonian, born and bred from Peter Howlett at Moorhuish Farm, Brixham, David Camp near Totnes and Nigel Eggins on the River Tamar. All are three of our top farmers that we have worked with ever since we started offering meatboxes at Riverford. The Camps are an old Devon farming family with fathers, uncles and cousins all over the place – their lambs grow just over the hill from Riverford in Totnes, and on a big strip of National Trust land overlooking Hope Cove on the coast.

Born in late spring/summer last year and raised traditionally, our lamb may be a little older than the 4-month old slightly forced, mainly indoor reared, ‘sucked lamb’ available. This makes for a happier, healthier lamb that is older but much, much tastier.  Chefs love their milky, sucked lambs as a vehicle for their sauces but, for a roast, older is definitely better.

Here are a few ideas for your Easter lamb:

The classic roast lamb with rosemary and garlic: Takes a lot of beating but for flavour and easy cooking, slow roasted shoulder is equally good – particularly when the lamb can share the oven with a dish of potato dauphinoise or gratin while you relax or build up an appetite.  If there is just the two of you, or you really want to push the boat, out try a rack or two. For guaranteed foodie brownie points rack of lamb can’t be beaten – half an hour in the oven, sliced into cutlets and artfully arranged and we’re all queuing up for Masterchef.

Given the seasonal scarcity of fresh greens, a flageolet bean cassoulet with a few carrots mixed in is the ideal Easter accompaniment for roast lamb. Again it can be done in advance so Easter lunch can be as easy as you want to make it.  Just leave room for a chocolate egg or two.

Thanks for reading.

Ben Watson

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