Somehow roasts seem to offer the perfect solution for what to serve on Easter Day, especially this year, when Easter falls early and the weather is unlikely to be warm enough to want cold food for the occasion.
Culinary fashion dictates that lamb should be roasted until still pink. But I do so much prefer lamb to be cooked until it almost falls off the bone, as is the case with my suggested French trimmed racks of lamb, with their oatmeal and walnut crust. The fat roasts down into the meat, and the lamb is so tender and soft, and utterly delicious, with its crispy crust of melted fat and walnuts and oatmeal.
The roast pork loin on its bed of celeriac and cooking apples needs a couple of hours in the oven, but no gravy is necessary what with the delicious pork juices mingled with the vegetables and apples forming a delectable sauce accompaniment.
And the fillet steaks have a seasoning rubbed into either side of the meat before searing. I like to serve a horseradish Hollandaise with the carved steaks.
Roast lamb racks with walnut and oatmeal crust
Ask your butcher for mature lamb racks – I allow two chops per person with three to four over.
For the crust:
6oz/170g pinhead oatmeal
6oz/170g walnuts, bashed with the end of a rolling pin to coarse crumbs
1 teaspoon flaky salt about 20 grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Lay a sheet of baking parchment in a roasting tin. Put the lamb racks on to this.
In a bowl, mix together the ingredients for the crust, mixing well, then distribute this evenly between the racks of lamb, spreading it over the surface of the fat on each rack. Roast in a hot oven, 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes, then continue roasting in a low moderate heat, 300F/150C/Gas Mark 3 for a further 1¼ hours.
Some of the crust will fall into the fat which melts from the racks into the roasting tin. When you serve the carved racks, spoon this crust over each serving.
I like to serve steamed leeks and carrots in a creamy parsley sauce with the lamb, and roast potatoes.
Roast loin of pork with apples, thyme and celeriac
A piece of loin of pork weighing about 4lb/1.8kg, with one chop per person and two over, the bones sliced off but replaced. I think that roasting the pork on the bones gives better flavour, but lifting the roasted pork from the bones makes slicing to serve, after roasting, so much easier.
1½ lb/675g celeriac, weighed when the skin is sliced off and the celeriac cut into 1½ in/3cm chunks
4 cooking apples quartered, cored, peeled and chopped – these fall to a soft mush as they cook
2 fat cloves of garlic, skinned and finely sliced
1 teaspoon salt
about 25 grinds of black pepper
½ teaspoon thyme leaves
Put the loin of pork, on its bones, into a roasting tin and roast in a hot temperature, 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes. Then take the roasting tin out of the oven and add the prepared celeriac, apples, thyme, sliced garlic, salt and black pepper to the roasting tin, mixing all together well. Put the loin and its bones on top of the celeriac and apples, and continue to roast at the same temperature for a further 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300F/150C/Gas Mark 3 and roast for a further 1½ hours.
Let the pork stand for 15 minutes, then lift the roast loin off the bones, discard the bones and slice the pork. Serve it with the celeriac and apple mixture spooned beside each serving of pork loin.
I like well mashed potatoes and a green vegetable, such as Brussels sprouts or kale, with this.
Seasoned seared steaks with horseradish Hollandaise
The cut of steak you buy is your choice; fillet is the most expensive, but boned rib, while less tender has better flavour. I allow 6oz/170g per steak per person.
6 steaks, weighing about 6oz/170g
For the seasoning rub
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
½ teaspoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon paprika – NOT cayenne
2 fat cloves of garlic, skinned and chopped finely
4 tablespoons olive oil
Put the above ingredients into a deep bowl and crush all together, using the end of a rolling pin. Put the steaks into a wide dish and rub either side of each steak with the above mixture. Leave for three to four hours in a cool place, ideally a larder. If in a fridge, loosely cover the surface of the dish with clingfilm, to prevent the garlic from the mixture imparting its flavour to other fridge occupants.
To cook, pre-heat a wide sauté pan till extremely hot. Lift each steak into the pan, and sear for 40-60 seconds before turning them over. Sear on the other side for the same time. How long the steaks sear depends on how rare you like to eat your meat – sear for less time if you prefer very rare beef.
For the horseradish Hollandaise sauce:
It is a myth that Hollandaise sauce must be made at the last moment before serving. It will keep warm perfectly for three to four hours, providing that, once it is made, it is kept in a Thermos flask. Reducing the wine vinegar with the flavourings makes all the difference to the depth of taste of the sauce. You can store excess flavoured reduced vinegar in a screw-topped jar in the fridge for use at a later date. I think this is much more delicious than any sauce Béarnaise – but part of the reason for that is that I dislike tarragon intensely, and it’s an inevitable ingredient in Béarnaise.
4 large egg yolks
8oz/225g butter, cut into 8 bits
2-3 tablespoons of the reduced vinegar, heated (see below)
1 rounded teaspoon horseradish – I usually buy Colman’s
To make a batch of vinegar
1 pint/570ml red wine vinegar
2 slices of raw onion, some celery leaves, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, bashed to release their flavour
crushed parsley stalks, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt
Put the vinegar into a small saucepan with the rest of the ingredients and gently simmer until the vinegar is reduced by half in amount. Cool, then strain into a jar, discarding the contents of the sieve.
To make the sauce, put the yolks into a bowl which fits snugly on top of a saucepan containing simmering water. Beat the yolks with a flat whisk and, as the bowl heats, add the bits of butter, one at a time, and stir/whisk the melting butter into the yolks.
Halfway through the process, add the warmed flavoured vinegar, and then continue with the bits of butter. When all is incorporated and the sauce is thick and glossy, taste and add more vinegar if you think it is needed.
Carefully lift the bowl off the pan, taking care not to scald your arm with the steam, and stir in the horseradish. Pour the sauce into a small Thermos to keep warm until you are ready to serve it, in a warmed bowl, with the seared steaks.
Crispy roast potatoes and shallots, and steamed purple sprouting broccoli make, for me, the perfect accompaniments to the steaks and their luscious sauce.