Keep things simple with my one-pan spring lamb, sophisticated scallop starter and a retro custard dessert
For Easter this year, I’m aiming for a slightly more simplified menu that removes the need for hours of preparation. The starter and main course are easy to cook, with fresh spring flavours, while the dessert takes a little more time but is a true slice of nostalgia.
My wife, Sofie, brings plenty of her native Swedish Easter traditions to our festivities and in the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, the house is filled with branches adorned with hanging eggs and colourful feathers. Strangely enough, the Swedes dress their children as witches with brooms around this time of year and do their trick-or-treating for eggs now rather than at Halloween.
When it comes to the Sunday feast, for us it’s typically a leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, potatoes Dauphinoise or Boulangère, crispy roast potatoes and steamed greens with plenty of butter.
If you fancy a simple starter to kick things off, the recipe here for scallops with green peas and asparagus is an ideal celebration of the season — creamy, tender scallops and sweet peas and asparagus tied together with salty Parmesan and gloriously nutty brown butter. It’s an easy pan-fried starter that can be made while the rest of the feast rests.
While we tend to stick to the classics around this time of year, if you fancy a simplified version of the main event, I have a great recipe for a one-pan version that’s perfect for midweek but still impressive enough to serve to a table of friends and family.
For dessert, when it comes to entertaining, I always suggest something you can make well in advance of guests arriving — the lemon custard slices here do require a little effort but, once done, they are ready to serve.
I have always had a fondness for a custard slice: wobbly vanilla-studded custard sandwiched between flaky golden puff pastry and sweet icing to finish... what’s not to love?
Cook time 20 minutes. Serves 4
350g frozen peas
2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs of mint, leaves picked
1 tbsp olive oil
A bunch of asparagus, trimmed
12 fat king scallops, with or without roe
25g unsalted butter
20g Parmesan cheese, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Cook the peas in a saucepan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then drain, reserving 100ml of the cooking water. Blitz two-thirds of the peas with half the extra-virgin olive oil, the reserved cooking water and almost all of the mint leaves. Season and set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sear the asparagus until lightly charred and just cooked. Set aside with the non-blitzed peas and keep warm.
3. Pat the scallops dry with kitchen paper. Add the butter to the hot pan and when it starts to bubble, add the scallops and sear them for 1-2 minutes on each side, spooning the brown butter over the top after you turn them.
4. Put a splodge of pea purée on to four plates, top with the charred asparagus and peas and the golden scallops. Drizzle with the remaining extra-virgin olive oil and scatter with Parmesan shavings and the reserved mint leaves.
Cook time 25 minutes. Serves 4
1 tbsp olive oil
8 lamb leg steaks
250g new potatoes, halved
350-400ml fresh chicken stock
20g unsalted butter
3 baby gem lettuces, quartered
150g frozen peas
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Season the lamb with salt and pepper and brown all over until just cooked, then remove to a plate and set aside.
2. Add the potatoes to the pan and pour in the stock so it just covers the potatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Remove the lid and add the butter, baby gem and peas. Fry in the buttery juices for 2-3 minutes, then add the vinegar and mustard. Return the lamb to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes more to warm through. Serve sprinkled with the parsley.
Cook time 50 minutes + chilling time. Serves 8
1 x 375g sheet ready rolled puff pastry
For the custard filling
1 gelatine sheet
3 large egg yolks
150g caster sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 tbsp custard powder
250ml double cream
For the icing
250g icing sugar, sieved
4 tbsp milk
½ tsp vanilla bean paste
Yellow food colouring
1. Preheat oven to 200C/fan 180C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment and set aside. Double-line a 20cm/8in square high-sided baking tin with cling film and set aside.
2. Prepare the pastry layers by rolling out the puff pastry and placing on the prepared baking sheet. Place a second baking tray on top — this will allow the pastry to rise slightly and bake evenly.
3. Place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Transfer the cooked pastry to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. For the custard filling, place the gelatine sheet in a small bowl of cold water and allow to soften while you prepare the custard.
5. In a saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, caster sugar, lemon zest, vanilla bean paste, cornflour and custard powder. Slowly whisk in the milk and double cream until smooth and then place over a medium-high heat and bring to a steady simmer. Whisk continuously until the custard thickens — this can happen quite quickly once the mixture comes to a steady simmer. Keep an eye on it and stir regularly to prevent it from catching at the bottom. It should be quite thick and spreadable.
6. Remove the custard from the heat and squeeze any excess water from the gelatine sheet before mixing vigorously through the custard until it’s well combined and completely dissolved. Allow the custard to cool completely with a sheet of cling film placed on the surface to prevent a skin forming.
7. Using a serrated knife, cut the puff pastry sheet in half and then trim the edges of both halves to just slightly smaller than the 20cm/8in square tin. Place one sheet into the prepared tin and spread over the custard as evenly as you can.
8. Using the knife again, carefully cut the second square into eight rectangles, each measuring 10cm x 5cm/4in x 2in. Arrange them evenly across the top of the custard and press down gently to ensure the pastry sticks to it. Cover and place in the fridge to chill for up to 4 hours or overnight.
9. An hour before serving, remove the tin from the fridge and make the icing. In a small bowl, mix the icing sugar gradually with the milk and vanilla bean paste until a smooth, pourable paste forms. Remove 2 tablespoons of the mixture to another small bowl and stir in a little yellow food colouring until well combined. Spread the white icing over the pastry. Drizzle with the yellow icing and then drag a toothpick or skewer to swirl and decorate. Chill for 1 hour to allow the icing to set before removing from the tin, cutting into slices and serving.