A Traditional Easter dinner
So the lovely spring warmth is beginning to slowly purge the persistent cold that has inhabited your joints and bones throughout the long cold winter. As your brain begins to thaw, you suddenly realise that your partner has invited all your friends around for a traditional Easter dinner next month!
“And just what is the traditional Easter dinner?” You might ask.
No matter whether you are cooking for a few friends, or a large group, entertaining can be daunting enough without having to spend hours looking up ideas for dinner. And if you’re not exactly Jamie Oliver when it comes to whipping up exciting culinary delights, fear not, a traditional Easter dinner need not be so complicated.
Like the vast majority of holiday feasts, much of the food consumed at Easter is local seasonal fare, such as: ham, boiled eggs, roast pork or lamb. Other, more savoury delights come in the form of Hot Cross Buns, and Simnel Cake.
So here are a few simple Easter dinner ideas:
Breakfast or starter:
Ham and Eggs: Okay, so in modern times most of us are used to having that cute, if rather odd, tradition of the Easter Bunny bringing us chocolate eggs. Obviously, the Easter holiday period has been a time of celebration since ancient times. Therefore this more contemporary, if mildly sinful, custom has been derived from the ancient tradition of eating boiled eggs.
Since the dawn of time eggs have been a symbol of life, fertility and new beginnings. The early Christians saw the egg as the sealed tomb of Christ, from which he will be reborn; the empty shell symbolising his rebirth. In Mesopotamia, the Christians painted the eggs red, to represent the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. This tradition perpetuated over the coming centuries and evolved into a custom of painting boiled eggs with a variety of bright colours, more to symbolise the brightness of spring.
Naturally, being a common breakfast food, these have been served up for Easter breakfasts since time immeasurable. Painting the eggs yourself is the most enjoyable way. But if you are feeling lazy, or just don’t possess the artistic flair, you can always nip to your nearest supermarket and buy some ready-painted eggs, and plop them all in a nice big cooking pot, especially if you are planning a healthy alternative to the tradition that all children love: the Easter egg hunt.
Ham: Meat that had not been consumed over the winter was typically cured and consumed around springtime. Therefore, cured ham from leftover pork was pretty much in abundance come Easter. Being the perfect accompaniment to eggs, cured ham is often served up for breakfast or for a starter to a meal. Although, cured ham can be eaten cold, if you are feeling a little tickle of adventurousness, you could always roast a nice juicy, but healthy, joint of ham in a dish or flat tray.
The main course:
While a starter of eggs and ham may present a mildly interesting diversion for your guests, amid the occasional soft belches of delight and mutterings of “hmmm, delicious!” someone will likely utter, “What’s the main dish?”
Roast lamb is a typical choice in many countries, as the holiday falls in spring. The tradition predates the Easter holiday to the first Jewish Passover. A nice juicy stuffed leg of lamb is often served up with side dishes such as roast potatoes, spring cabbage and vegetables. Of course you may feel free to add your own little spice of inspiration to this dish, so feel free to experiment with a variety of herbs and spices.
Hot Cross Buns and Simnal Cake for dessert:
What would a holiday be without a little baking? While normally eaten on Good Friday with lashings of warm butter, Hot Cross Buns can also be served up at the dessert stage of the meal. According to legend, these small wheat buns were originally baked in honour of Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of fertility and springtime. The word Easter is actually a derivation of Eostre, in case you’re interested. The round bun is a symbol of the moon, and the cross is symbolic of its four quarters. As the pagans were slowly Christianised they converted the Hot Cross Bun into a similarly Christian tradition, with the cross, naturally, symbolising the crucifix.
“But what are they?” I hear you ask. The Hot Cross Bun is a sweet and spicy mix of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sultanas or currants. They are surprisingly easy to make and Hot Cross Bun recipes are bountiful throughout the Internet.
The Forbidden Fruit: Simnal Cake
Easter comes after the 40-day fasting of Lent. So it goes without saying really that you might feel the irresistible urge to stuff your face with pretty much everything that has been denied you during this time. Being rich with fruit, spices and marzipan, the Simnal Cake, represents all the face-stuffing you could wish for, in one mouth-watering portion.
So you see whipping up a traditional Easter Dinner is not as overwhelming as it first appears. And by sticking to the traditions, pretty much everyone around your table will leave with loosened belts and, over a symphony of groaning bellies, will shuffle slowly out the door graciously thanking their host for a delightful Easter meal.