How to Cook Traditional for Easter Weekend

Easter is coming around in two weeks and for people around the world is a time filled with traditions, both religious and personal.  While the current Easter traditions are tied in with Christianity, there are some traditions that even date back to Pagan times where the period was a celebration of the coming of spring at the equinox.  So, if you are planning to cook for family, friends or just for yourself, here are some tips on how to cook traditional for Easter weekend.

Easter + eggs

One of the most solid traditions around Easter surrounds eggs including painting them, hanging them on trees and eating them.  While the modern tradition is to substitute the real deal for chocolate ones (a very pleasant tradition, I must say) the historic association between eggs and Easter came with boiled eggs.

Eggs are a symbol of fertility and new life and are connected with the tomb of Jesus for those of a Christian faith.  Easter egg hunts, Easter egg rolling, these have all become ways to involve eggs in the event but something as simple as a hard-boiled egg for breakfast is a way to cook traditional but keep it really simple.

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns have a symbol of the cross on the top and so are associated with the crucifixion.  Back in Tudor times, fruit was a limited commodity for most people so the chance to eat a simple bun with fruit in it was reserved for times such as Easter.  Another tradition around the buns is that they should be cooked on Good Friday and if you split one in half with a friend, it wouldn’t go mouldy for a whole year – not sure that idea is up to modern food standards of course!

Simnel cake

Simnel cake is a type of fruit cake with layers of either marzipan or almond paste that is toasted and eaten during the Easter period.  It has been around since the medieval times and would be made on the middle Sunday of Lent, at which time the 40 days fast would be eased to enjoy the cake and the day would also be known as Simnel Sunday.  The cake is usually decorated with eleven or twelve marzipan balls to commemorate the apostles though in Victorian times it was decorated with preserved fruits and flowers.

By James Petts from London, England (Simnel cake) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Roast lamb

If you are looking to cook traditional for Easter weekend and want to serve a Sunday roast, then lamb is definitely the meat to opt for.  Roast lamb is a firm Easter tradition and can also be surprisingly easy to cook.  Before cooking, weight the lamb to get an idea of how long to cook it for.  Examples include:

  • Joints, leg, shoulder, breast, shank and lamb rack – 25 minutes per 450 g + 25 minutes for medium, 30 minutes per 450g + 30 minutes for well done
  • Lamb loin, chump, cutlets 2cm thickness – 25 – 30 minutes

When placing it in the roasting dish, make sure any fat is to the top so that it melts down over the meat and bastes it naturally.  Use a medium heat setting on the oven to let it cool thoroughly and follow the guide times above.  Have a temperature probe handy and make sure the meat is around 70-75 degrees for medium cook and 75-80 degrees for well done.  Finally, once the cooking has finished, leave the meat for 5-10 minutes before trying to cut it to allow juices to distribute evenly.

To add a little extra flavour to the dish, make some garlic and rosemary butter to cook the meat with.  Take three large garlic cloves, 20 grammes softened butter and 4-5 stalks of rosemary plus a little extra to garnish.  Grate the garlic and add to the butter, strip the rosemary leaves and add to the butter then salt and pepper to taste.  Make incisions into the meat to around a fingertip’s depth and smooth the butter into the cuts.  Add a sprig of rosemary to the top to finish.

To add an extra dimension to your traditional Easter roast, make sure you add carrots to the list of vegetables – they are associated with Easter and the Easter bunny!

Easter traditions from around the world

Just because you want to cook traditional at Easter weekend, doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to British dishes and traditions.  Instead, why not try something associated with the festival from around the world?

Capirotada – Mexico

Capirotada is a dish similar to bread pudding that can use bread soaked in a mulled syrup made with sugar and spices that then has nuts, seeds, dried and fresh fruit added to it.  Aged cheese is sometimes added and some regions add meat to it.

Chervil soup – Germany

German Easter tradition involves eating green foods on the Thursday before Easter, known as Green Thursday and one easy dish for this is chervil soup.  This is a simple soup made with butter, shallots, celery, stock and the herb chervil along with egg yolks and double cream.

Colomba di Pasqua – Italy

This dish is an Easter cake that is similar to two other traditional Italian desserts, panettone and pandoro.  It uses flour, eggs, sugar and natural yeast with butter and candied peel.  It is shaped like a dove and topped with pearl sugar and almonds.  Modern versions sometimes used chocolate as a topping.

Mammi – Finland

Mammi is a traditional Easter dessert known as memma in Sweden.  It is made from water, rye flour and malted rye, seasoned salt and dried, powdered Seville orange zest.  It takes a long time to make and is chilled for three or four days before serving with cream, milk or occasionally vanilla sauce.

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Mammi Cake

Pashka – Russia

Pashka is a pyramid shaped dessert made with cheese and is often decorated with religious symbols and letters including the three bar cross and the Cyrillic letters XB.  The desserts use butter, eggs, heavy cream, raisins, almonds, vanilla and spices as well as candied fruits, depending on the area it is served.  Cooked it is like an egg custard and it can also be eaten raw.

Tsoureki – Greece

Tsoureki is a dish served in Greece as well as countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Romania.  It is a sweet, egg-enriched bread with braided strands of dough that can also be made in savoury versions.  It is like brioche and is stringy and chewy yet moist and fluffy.

Conclusion

There are so many ways to cook traditional for Easter weekend that you can always find something to suit your tastes and cooking ability.  From British traditions to something from around the world, it is a great chance to enjoy a traditional and tasty meal together.