Easter has long been my favourite of the holidays. The herald of spring feels to me much more of an appropriate start to the year than gloomy January. The promise of newness is all over the place and, to me, it makes much more sense for this time of year to be about new beginnings. There is a sense of optimism about Easter which, even me and my glass-half-full ways can’t claim is around in January.
Easter is special, too – it’s the one rare time apart from Christmas that we all have four days off all together. Families gather, but without the pressure of present-giving of Christmas, without the decorating and fussing, and without the traditions which tie us to celebrating in a certain way.
When it comes to food, Easter is more fluid, too. Sure there is chocolate, Simnel cake and, for some, a leg of lamb, but none of us is tied to these traditions in the same way we might be to turkey or mince pies. Most of us, though, have the pleasure of full houses, mouths to feed and a little more time on our hands to make a nice dinner.
Easter is more fluid than Christmas. Sure there is chocolate, Simnel cake and, for some, a leg of lamb, but none of us is tied to these traditions in the same way we might be to turkey or mince pies
This time of year also holds a lot of promise in the kitchen. Tender little peas and their shoots, the very first slim asparagus and fuzzy-coated pods of broad beans and slender baby leeks are all filling the baskets of greengrocers and firmly letting us know there is more green ahead. In these spring months, too, I wander into the Greek shops that punctuate the part of East London I live in. I adore their Easter breads and cakes and, most of all, the cheese- and sultana-stuffed "flaoune" (Cypriot pastries).
All these inspire my Easter feasts. This year, I’m making this pie. Tissue-thin filo pastry wraps around spring greens and squash. I serve it with quickly blanched peas, broad beans and asparagus, dressed generously while still hot with good olive oil and lots of lemon zest, and left to cool to room temperature before serving. To make it more of a meal, I serve a lemony potato and fennel bake on the side.
Frying pan squash and cavolo pie
This is a cheat’s pie that uses a frying pan instead of a tart tin. Unlike most tarts, it’s actually very easy, as the filling requires little more then some quick frying, stoning and crumbling.
- 2 red onions
- Coconut or olive oil
- 450g butternut squash
- 1⁄2 a bunch of fresh thyme
- 200g pack of filo pastry
- 2 free-range or organic eggs
- 100g pecorino or Parmesan cheese (I use a vegetarian one)
- Olive oil
- 200g spring greens
- 1 unwaxed lemon
- 100g goats' cheese
- 100g black olives, destoned (I use kalamata)
- Preheat your oven to 220ºC/fan 200ºC/gas mark 7 and get all your ingredients together. You’ll need a 24cm frying pan.
- Heat a saucepan on a low heat while you finely chop your onions, then turn the heat up to medium, add a little coconut oil and cook the onions for five minutes, until soft and sweet.
- While the onions are cooking, peel and roughly dice the squash. Add it to the onions along with the thyme leaves and cook for five to 10 minutes, until the mixture is dry.
- Meanwhile, unwrap the sheets of filo and lay them over your frying pan, leaving a little overlap round the edges (you’ll fold this in later). Keep laying the filo in the pan until you have a good sturdy three- to four-sheet layer all over – you may need to patch it together bit by bit if you have small sheets.
- Once the squash has had five minutes, scoop it into a bowl. Crack in the eggs and grate in the pecorino or Parmesan. Season with freshly ground black pepper and mix well.
- Drizzle the pastry with a little olive oil, then use a pastry brush to persuade the oil all over the pastry. Spoon the butternut mixture into the pan and put on a medium heat.
- Working quickly, shred the spring greens and toss them with the juice and zest of the lemon and a little oil. Scatter it on top of the butternut and push down a little into the mixture, then dot the goats' cheese and destoned olives on top.
- Fold the excess filo back over the filling to form a wavy edge. Place on the bottom of the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Take out, cut into six generous slices.
Potato, lemon and fennel bake
SERVES 6 (WITH LEFTOVERS)
- 800g of smallish potatoes in their skins
- 2 heads of fennel cut into thin wedges
- 4 cloves of garlic in their skins
- 4 preserved lemons, cut in half
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC/gas mark 4. In your biggest pan, blanch the potatoes in boiling salted until almost cooked, then add the fennel for a couple of minutes. Drain well and place in a large baking tray, add the whole garlic cloves and the preserved lemons and season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
- Toss together and break up some of the potatoes – the craggy bits will be the most delicious when they are cooked.
- Place in the preheated oven for one hour until golden and crisp.
Frying pan squash and cavolo pie recipe taken from Anna's book A Modern Way To Eat, Fourth Estate Books.
Anna Jones @We_Are_Food
Anna Jones has just been appointed Ambassador for The BOOM (Best of Organic Market) Awards, the UK's organic food awards from The Soil Association. For your chance to vote for your favourite organic product click here. Nominations are open until Friday 15th April at 4.00pm.