AN EASTER FEAST

On our restaurant’s Facebook page this week we asked people to choose between a Lemon Meringue Pie and a Raspberry and White Chocolate Pavlova with Lemon and Mint. We were inundated with comments! I was going to pick the winning dessert and share the recipe today in this blog for my Easter feast but there were that many entrants and that many persuasive arguments for both desserts that I am going to share both. I’m also sharing a beautiful recipe for Irish Spring Lamb too. So I hope everyone enjoys Easter and has some fantastic family time and of course enjoys some wonderful food too!

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Roast Leg of Spring Lamb with Boulangère Potatoes

This dish is hassle free – perfect for a dinner party or Sunday lunch.

INGREDIENTS
Serves 6
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
knob of butter
3 onions, thinly sliced
1.5kg (3lb) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
400ml (14fl oz) chicken stock
1.75kg (4lb) leg of lamb
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
wilted spinach to serve

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6).
To make the boulangère potatoes, heat the oil in a frying pan with the butter and sauté the onions for 3–4 minutes over a medium heat, until softened but not coloured. Season to taste. Layer the potatoes, onions and thyme leaves in a large roasting tin large enough to fit the leg of lamb. Season each layer as you go and finish with an attractive overlapping layer of the potatoes. Pour over the stock and set to one side.
Using a sharp knife, make small incisions all over the lamb and press a garlic slice and a tiny sprig of the rosemary into each one. Weigh the joint and allow 20 minutes per 450g (1lb) plus 20 minutes (add a further 20 minutes for well done), then place the lamb carefully on top of the potatoes in the roasting tin. Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4) and roast for 1 hour 20 minutes for a leg of lamb this size (1.75kg (4lb)).
Transfer the leg of lamb to a carving platter and cover loosely with foil, then leave to rest for 15 minutes, keeping the boulangère potatoes warm.
To serve, carve the lamb into slices and arrange on warmed serving plates with the boulangère potatoes and wilted spinach.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Pavlova with Lemon and Mint

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This is a variation of a recipe handed down to me by my mother, Vera. Mum was a great cook, and at one stage ran the restaurant as well as cooking for a family of nine. She loved to cook this dessert at family get-togethers. You can enjoy this all year around, using whatever fruits are in season. Feel free to make it the day before, but don’t fill it until you are nearly ready to serve. A good pavlova should have a gooey, sticky centre, almost like a marshmallow.

INGREDIENTS
Serves 6–8
Pavlova:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature pinch of salt
225g (8oz) caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp vanilla extract
Filling:
400ml (14fl oz) cream
50g (2oz) icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla pod, split in half and seeds
scraped out
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
250g (9oz) raspberries
fresh mint sprigs, to decorate
white chocolate curls  to decorate

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F/gas mark 2). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw on a 23cm (9in) circle. Flip the paper over so that the pencil doesn’t transfer to the bottom of the pavlova.
Make the meringue in a large, clean, dry bowl. Whisk the egg whites and salt into stiff peaks. Slowly add the sugar, a third at a time, whisking well between each addition, until the mixture is stiffened and shiny. Sprinkle in the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract, then fold in gently with a metal spoon.
Pile the meringue onto the paper circle and make a deep hollow in the centre. Put in the oven and reduce the heat to 120°C (250°F/gas mark ½). Bake for 1 ½ hours, until pale brown but a little soft in the centre. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and allow to cool completely.
To make the filling, whip the cream in a bowl with the icing sugar, vanilla seeds and lemon rind until thickened and just holding its shape.
To serve, peel the parchment paper off the pavlova and carefully transfer to a serving plate or cake stand. Pile on the whipped cream and arrange the raspberries on top, then decorate with the mint sprigs and white chocolate curls. Serve straight to the table in all its glory.

Lemon Meringue Pie

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As this pastry is so short, it’s in danger of breaking up when you are trying to roll it out. If this happens, try coarsely grating it directly into the tin and then quickly pressing the pastry up the sides and into the shape of the tin. No one will ever know the difference!

INGREDIENTS

Serves 6–8
Pastry:
175g (6oz) plain flour, extra for dusting
100g (4oz) butter, chilled and diced, extra for greasing
50g (2oz) caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
½ tbsp cream
Filling:
finely grated rind and juice of 3 lemons
4 tbsp cornflour
175g (6oz) caster sugar
50g (2oz) butter, softened
4 egg yolks
Meringue:
3 egg whites
150g (5oz) caster sugar
whipped cream, to serve

METHOD
To make the pastry, place the flour, butter, sugar and salt into a food processor and blend for 20 seconds. Add the egg yolk and cream and blend again until the dough just comes together. Do not overwork or the pastry will be tough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1 hour.
Thinly roll out the pastry into a buttered 20cm (8in) fluted loose-bottomed flan tin that’s about 3cm (1 ¼in) deep. Trim the edges and prick the base with a fork, then chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6).
Line the pastry case with tin foil or non-stick parchment paper and a thin layer of baking beans. Bake for 15–20 minutes, until golden. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4). Remove the pastry case from the oven and carefully remove the foil and beans, then return to the oven for 3–5 minutes, until lightly golden.
Meanwhile, to make the filling, place the lemon rind and 400ml (14fl oz) of water in a pan  and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes. Strain out and discard the lemon rind and then stir in the lemon juice. Blend the cornflour with a little of the lemon liquid to form a smooth paste, then add to the pan with the sugar and stir well. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Reduce the heat and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until combined. Leave to cool a little and then beat in the egg yolks. Return to a low heat and cook for another 6–8 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Pour into the pastry case and leave to cool completely.
Once cool, make the meringue. Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk into soft peaks, then gradually whisk in the sugar a spoonful at a time to make a stiff, glossy meringue. Spoon on top of the filling, spreading it out to make sure it makes a good seal with the pastry edge. Swirl the top of the meringue with the tip of a knife and bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden and crisp on top. Leave to cool slightly and then carefully remove the tart from the tin and leave to cool for up to 2 hours – any longer and the meringue will start to weep.
To serve, cut the lemon meringue pie into slices and arrange on serving plates with dollops of whipped cream.

 

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