ArchiveApril 17, 2022

Easter Sunday

Happy Easter to you all.

Hope you are having a joyful holiday with all your family and friends.  If you have children around the house, there will probably be Easter eggs everywhere.  I have to say, I’m nostalgic for the days when I nibbled my one precious Easter egg slowly, enjoying every little morsel over several days.  I even kept the packaging and smoothed out the shiny, silver foil carefully with my fingers to bring into school to make a collage at art class.  Can you imagine…

Well, I’m going to dedicate this week’s column to using up leftovers from the Easter feast.  Do you have some lamb?  Spring lamb is delicious cold, provided it’s not refrigerated, I just cover the entire dish carefully with a tea-towel and keep it in a cool place.  My favourite way to enjoy morsels of leftover lamb is in white bread sandwiches with lots of butter, thinly sliced lamb, a few crisp slices of cucumber, a slick of apple and mint jelly and a few little flakes of sea salt – a delicious combination.  We use the handmade Family Pan we make in the Ballymaloe Bread Shed which tastes like a pan loaf used to taste like before the Chorley Wood method for bakeries became the norm. 

If you have more cold lamb, how about making a nice, big dish of my Moussaka for tomorrow’s supper.  Season it up well and use lots of chopped marjoram or oregano.  It reheats and freezes brilliantly and if anything, it even improves.  The only accompaniment needed is a green salad of Spring leaves and soft herbs. 

I adore devilled eggs.  If, like me you have hens, you’ll notice that they have got their ‘mojo’ back now that Spring has arrived and have gone into overdrive recently.  So, if you have a glut of eggs, they’ll pair deliciously with a few scraps of smoked salmon or mackerel and a little cucumber pickle to make a gorgeous little starter or a light lunch plate.

Now how about all that chocolate, collect up all the bits of Easter egg.  There are lots of ways to use us all those morsels.  Add it to scones or muffins as you might chocolate chips.  Alternatively, melt them in cream to make a chocolate ganache, which can be slathered over a chocolate cake, drizzled over vanilla ice-cream or whipped up into a Rum or Grand Marnier laced mousse.  It may also work well when melted or grated into your favourite chocolate cake but do reduce the sugar in the recipe because most Easter eggs are made from inexpensive chocolate that tends to be super sweet.

It’s also fun to make an Easter rocky road by adding a terrifying, combination of mini marshmallows, coarsely chopped speckled eggs, broken digestive biscuits and some Crunchie or honeycomb.  I love to add a few raisins and some whole, toasted nuts to the melted chocolate – a little freshly chopped mint adds extra zing and cuts the sweetness somewhat.

Leftover hot cross buns made a totally delicious bread and butter pudding.  Chop up frozen hot cross buns into chunks and add to chocolate chip cookies for a brilliant riff on the original.

Some chopped chocolate can be added to that too or you could pop a hot cross bun back into the oven to reheat, split it in half, add a dollop of chocolate ganache and a scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream or just a dollop of Jersey cream – a decadent treat with the extra feel-good factor of using up leftovers deliciously.

Slow Roast Shoulder of Spring Lamb with Wild Garlic Aioli and Fresh Mint Chutney

When wild garlic is not in season, double the quantity of parsley, it will still be delicious… 

Serves 8-10

1 whole shoulder of Spring lamb on the bone, weighing approximately 3.6kg (8lb)

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Wild Garlic Aioli

Homemade Mayo

1-4 cloves of garlic, depending on size

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

2 teaspoons chopped wild garlic leaves (Allium ursinum)

4 -6 tablespoons lamb cooking juices

Fresh Mint Chutney

1 large cooking apple (we use Grenadier or Bramley Seedling), peeled and cored

a large handful of fresh mint leaves, Spearmint or Bowles mint

50g (2oz) onions

20-50g (1-2oz) castor sugar (depending on tartness of apple)

salt and cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Place the lamb shoulder in a wide roasting tin or oven tray with the skin side up. Score the skin to encourage the fat to run out during the cooking and to crisp up the skin. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Place in a roasting tin, transfer to the oven and roast for 30 minutes before turning the temperature down to 160°C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for a further 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is soft and succulent and will lift off the bones… 

Meanwhile make the aioli.

Note:  the crushed garlic may be mixed into the mayonnaise for the aioli.   Finally add the chopped parsley and wild garlic.  Taste for seasoning and correct if necessary.

This sauce cannot be finished until we have the juices from the cooked lamb.

Next make the fresh mint chutney.

Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor, season with salt and a little cayenne pepper.  Cover and keep cool. 

To test if the lamb is cooked to a melting tenderness, pull the shank bone and it and some of the meat should come away easily from the bone.

When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven. There will be plenty of fatty cooking juices. Strain these through a sieve into a bowl. Keep the lamb warm in the oven with the temperature reduced to 100°C/200°F/Gas Mark 1/4.

When the fat has risen to the surface of the lamb cooking juices, skim carefully and thoroughly with a spoon.

Thin out the garlic mayonnaise with 4-6 tablespoons of the degreased juice to achieve a consistency similar to softly whipped cream or in other words the mayonnaise should now just lightly coat the back of a spoon. Taste and correct the seasoning. 

Bring the remaining juices to a simmer and taste and correct seasoning.

To serve the lamb, a tongs or serving fork and spoon are the best implements to remove the meat from the bones.  Prise largish pieces off the bones and serve on hot plates with some of the hot cooking juices, Wild Garlic Aioli and the Fresh Mint Chutney drizzled over the top… 

Greek Moussaka

Serves 8

This Greek peasant recipe, served in almost every taverna in Greece is one of the best ways to use up leftover lamb.  There are many variations on the theme, some include a layer of cooked potato slices and raisins. I’m sure it’s not my imagination, but I sometimes feel that moussaka is even better on the second day.

350g (12oz) aubergines

350g (12oz) courgettes

1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes (use at this time of year) but very ripe fresh tomatoes are best in summer

1 tablespoon olive oil plus extra for frying

1 onion, finely chopped (include some green part of spring onion if you have it)

1 large garlic clove, crushed

450g (1lb) cooked minced lamb

1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or thyme

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

1 bay leaf

pinch of grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons plain white flour

salt and freshly ground pepper

50g (2oz) raisins, plumped up in hot water while you prepare the other ingredients (optional)

For the topping

45g (1 1/2 oz) butter

45g (1 1/2 oz) plain white flour

600ml (1 pint) whole milk

1 bay leaf

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons cream

110g (4oz) grated Gruyère or mature Cheddar cheese or a mixture

salt and freshly ground pepper

earthenware dish 25.5 x 21.5cm (10 x 8 1/2 inch)

Slice the aubergines and courgettes into 1cm (1/2 inch) slices, score the flesh lightly with a sharp tip of a knife, sprinkle with salt.  Leave for half an hour. Roughly chop the tinned tomatoes. Peel and chop the fresh tomatoes finely if using. Keep the juices.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat, add the onions and garlic and cover and sweat for 4 minutes. Add the meat, herbs, bay leaf and nutmeg to the onions. Stir in the flour, cook for 1 minute then pour in the tomatoes and their juice. Bring to the boil, stirring, and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Season well.

Dab the aubergines dry with kitchen paper. Heat a pan-grill over a fairly high heat.  Brush both sides of the aubergines generously with extra virgin olive oil, cook until richly coloured on each side. Brush both sides of the courgettes with olive oil, pan-grill until richly coloured on each side. As the courgettes are ready, transfer into the bottom of a shallow casserole. Tip the meat mixture onto the courgettes, sprinkle with the drained raisins if using, then lay the fried aubergines on top. See that the top is as flat as possible.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour. Cook, stirring for 1 minute, then draw off the heat, add the milk slowly, whisking out the lumps as you go. Add the bay leaf. Return the pan to the heat and stir until boiling. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 2 minutes until thickened.  Whisk the egg yolk with the cream in a medium sized bowl. Pour the sauce on to this mixture whisking all the time. Add half the cheese and pour over the aubergines in the casserole. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and bake for 30-35 minutes in the preheated oven until completely reheated and nicely browned on top.  Serve with a good green salad.

Moussaka can be made up in large quantities ahead of time, cooled quickly and frozen after it has been closely covered with parchment paper.


In Autumn, if using fresh tomatoes at the end of the season, it may be necessary to use about 65ml (2 1/2fl oz) of stock to make the mince juicy enough.

Devilled Eggs with Smoked Salmon, Cucumber Pickle and Watercress

Smoked mackerel, trout or eel also works well here instead of the smoked salmon.

Serves 8

Devilled Eggs

4 free-range eggs

3-4 tablespoons homemade Mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chives

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

110g (4oz) smoked Irish salmon

Cucumber Pickle (see recipe)


watercress or flat parsley or chervil

First make the cucumber pickle (see recipe).

For the egg mayonnaise, hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes in boiling salted water, drain and put immediately into a bowl of cold water. (Eggs with a black ring around the yolk have been overcooked).

When cold, shell, slice in half lengthways and sieve the yolks into a bowl. Mix the sieved yolk with mayonnaise, add chopped chives and salt and pepper to taste. Fill into a piping bag and pipe into the whites. Garnish with a chive or a sprig of parsley or chervil.

To assemble

Slice the smoked salmon into 3mm (1/8 inch) thick slices straight down onto the skin, arrange 3 or 4 pieces on one side of the plate, place the stuffed egg beside it and then add some cucumber pickle to the plate. Garnish with a sprig of watercress or flat parsley or chervil and we like to serve it with Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread.

Egg Sandwiches

Coarsely chop the peeled eggs, season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, mix with mayonnaise and finely chopped chives. Add a little smoked paprika if you fancy.

Cucumber Pickle

You won’t need all of this, but it keeps well and is a brilliant store cupboard standby.

Serves 10-12

1kg (2 1/4lb) thinly sliced unpeeled cucumber

3 small onions thinly sliced

200g (7oz) sugar

2 level tablespoons salt

225ml (8fl oz) cider vinegar

Combine the cucumber and onion sliced in a large bowl.  Mix the sugar, salt and vinegar together and pour over cucumbers.  Place in a tightly covered container in refrigerator and leave for at least 4-5 hours or overnight before using. 

Keeps well for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Ganache

A brilliant multi-purpose recipe.  Use as a sauce over ice-cream, to ice a chocolate cake or allow to cool and whisk up into a mousse for feather-light chocolate truffles.

225g (8oz) plain chocolate, chopped – we use 52% (Valrhona or Callebaut) but one could use up leftover chocolate

175ml (6fl oz) cream

1-2 teaspoons rum or orange liqueur (optional)

Put the chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the cream to the boil, pour over the chocolate, add the booze if using.  Leave for 8-10 minutes or until cool.  Pour over ice-cream as a sauce or use to ice a cake.

For chocolate truffles, whisk the chocolate and cream together gently until it reaches really soft peaks – careful not to over whisk or it will be too stiff to roll and may turn into chocolate butter. Roll into balls and coat with cocoa or praline to make delicious little chocolate truffles. 

An After Easter Rocky Road

Scary stuff but addictive – an inspired way to use up leftovers!

This recipe is not carved in stone so use what you have access to…

Makes 24-36 depending on size

125g (4 1/2oz) unsalted butter

300g (10oz) chocolate

300g (10oz) mini marshmallows

110g (4oz) cherries, cut in half or a mixture of cherries and Crunchie

110g (4oz) raisins

110g (4oz) hazelnuts (toasted and skinned)

110g (4oz) biscuits, chopped or broken

150g (5oz) mini speckled eggs – leave 75g (3oz) whole and cut the remaining in halves.

23cm (9 inch) square tin (5cm/2 inch depth) lined with silicone paper

Melt the butter and chocolate gently in a Pyrex bowl sitting over a saucepan of tepid water, allow to cool but while still liquid stir in the marshmallow, halved cherries, Crunchies (if using), raisins, hazelnuts, biscuits and mini speckled eggs. Toss gently to coat in the melted chocolate. Pour into a lined tin and allow to set for 2 hours or over overnight.

Cut into 4 x 7.5cm (1 1/2 x 3 inch) squares or whatever you fancy.


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