Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter is one of my favourite times of the year, and a great time to catch up with friends and indulge little ones. With a slight chill in the air, I like to put on warming autumn feasts for dinner with friends. In my book Food, Fashion, Friends there are a number of recipes perfect for this time of year that will have everyone coming back for more.

For a casual option, especially good for a small group happy to eat while lounging around an open fire, this Herbed Pecorino Macaroni is a childhood comfort food favourite given a grown-up spin…

Herbed Pecorino Macaroni

300g macaroni
625 ml (2 1/2 cup) milk
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
3 peppercorns
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
40 g (1 1/2 cup) grated parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped chevril, plus extra to garnish
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
20 g goat's cheese

Cook the macaroni in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water util al dente.
combine the milk, bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns in a small saucepan and bring just to the boil.  Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to infuse for 30 minutes. Discard teh herbs.Preheat the overn to 180c. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, sprinkle over the flour and cook, stirring contiunously, for 1-2minutes, or until the flour starts to brown.  Slowly whisk in the infused milk until well combined. Continue to stir for 4-6 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Stir in teh macaroni, pecorino, chevril and nutmeg.
Spoon the macaroni into six 250 ml (1 cup) capacity dishes and crumble over teh goat's cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and turns golden.  Serve garnished with chervil. (serves 6)

For something more substantial, this Roast Pork Rack with Whole Baked Apples is perfect paired with Brussels Sprout Salad with Pancetta. If only our parents had had this Brussels sprout recipe when we were young.

Roast Pork Rack With Whole Baked Apples

1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon seasalt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2kg pork rack (8bones), scored
2 red onions, peeled and cut in half across the middle
1 bulb of garlic, cut in half across the middle
30g butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 granny smith apples
200ml white wine
120ml veal stock

Preheat the oven to 200 (degrees). Grind the fennel and salt in a mortar and pestle. Rub the oil into the pork skin and then the salt mixture. Place the onion and garlic in a large roasting tin and sit the pork on top. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the skin is brown and crisp. Reduce the heat to 180 (degrees) and cook for a further 20 minutes.
Combine the butterand cinnamon in a small bowl. Use a small sharp knife to score the apples around the centre - this will stop them exploding. place them around the pork in the roasting tin. Pour the butter mixture over the apples and cook for 20-25 minutes or untill the apples are softand the juices from the pork run clear when the meat is pierced with a skewer. Remove the apples and pork from the tin and cover with foil to keep warm.
Place the roasting tin over two burners and scrape with a wooden spoon to release the good bits stuck to the bottom. Pour inthe white wine and boil for 1-2 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Strain the liquid into a saucepan, add the stock and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes while you carve the pork.

Serve the pork with the cinnamon-butter apples, brussel sprout salad and pumpkin wedges (see recipes opposite), with the white-wine sauce poured over the top. (Serves 6)

If you don’t want to just buy into the whole chocolate egg scenario for the littlies but still want to give them a treat that will satisfy their visual needs as much as their sweet teeth, these Marshmallow Biscuits can be made in an egg shape and decorated at your whim.

Marshmallow Biscuits

150g marshmallows
1 tablespoon boiling water
15 milk arrowroot or other sweet biscuits
assorted sprinkles to decorate

Place the marshmallows and boiling water in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch). Heat, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until melted. Using a metal spatula, spread the melted marshmallow over the top of the biscuits. Decorate with sprinkles, to serve

And for adults who still enjoy a sweet treat, you can similarly make these Minted Dark Chocolate Truffles and just roll into an egg shape so you can get that Easter feeling.

Minted Dark Chocolate Truffles

1 bunch of mint
110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar, plus 1 tablespoon extra
250ml (1cup) cream
500g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
1 egg white, lightly whisked

Dry the mint well with a paper towel. Place the mint (reserving about 8-10 leaves to garnish) and the sugar into a food processor and blend for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture resembles fine green sugar. Leave uncovered to dry.
Heat the cream in a large saucepan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Continue to stir untill the mixture is thick and well combined. (if the chocolate has not completely melted, return the pan to the stove over a gentle heat and stir to combine.) Transfer the mixture to a bowl and chill in the fridge for 2 hours. Line two trays with baking paper. Dip the reserved mint leaves into the egg white, then transfer to one of the trays and dust with the extra sugar. Leave to set for 20 minutes.
Remove the chocolate mixture from the fridge and, working quickly, take out 1 tablespoon at a time and use the palm of your hand to form a ball. Place on the other prepared tray. Dust the truffles with the mint sugar and roll untill well coated. Allow to set for 10 minutes, then serve on a plate, garnished with the sugared mint leaves. (serves 24)

Happy Easter - I hope you enjoy it with your loved ones.