Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week for many Christians around the world. Easter Sunday, which immediately follows Holy Week, is the great feast day of the Christian liturgical year: on this day the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated.
In Canada, there are as many different traditional Easter dishes as there are ethnic peoples! You’ll have time to gather ingredients for the following recipes should you wish to try some. The first is a wonderful rack of lamb with a sweet, herbaceous crust. Lamb is a popular Easter option for many people and this mint-crusted rack of lamb is perfect for the occasion. Secondly, ham is one of the easiest mains to prepare for a large group, as there’s no trussing, stuffing or tricky carving involved. This recipe yields many servings, so freeze any leftovers to toss into pastas, stir-fries and casseroles in the weeks to come. For a change, try the potato dish which combines russets and sweet potatoes and let’s not forget to bake hot cross buns this week.
Mint Crusted Rack of Lamb
1 cup fresh mint leaves
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1-1/2 Tbsp. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 (1-1/4 pound) racks of lamb, trimmed
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with foil. Cook mint leaves in pot of boiling water for about 10 seconds. Transfer mint leaves to bowl of ice water; soak 30 seconds, drain and squeeze dry.
Combine blanched mint with garlic, olive oil, bread crumbs, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a food processor or blender. Blend for 20 to 30 seconds until fine and crumbly. Transfer mint mixture to a large bowl; stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, set aside.
Combine 1/4 cup Dijon mustard and 2 teaspoons honey in a small bowl, set aside.
Combine extra-virgin olive oil, rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons honey, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and black pepper in a jar with a lid. Shake vinaigrette vigorously until combined, about 30 seconds. Set vinaigrette aside.
Slice 1/2 to 1-inch slits between each bone of the lamb racks to assure the meat roasts evenly. Season each rack with salt and black pepper on all sides. Heat vegetable oil in skillet over high heat. Brown each lamb rack for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer lamb racks to the foil-lined baking sheet. Brush each rack with mustard and honey mixture. Sprinkle mint mixture over the top and sides of each rack.
Bake in preheated oven until browned on top and medium rare in centre, about 20 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into centre should read 125 to 130 F (52 to 54 C). Remove from oven and allow lamb to rest 10 minutes before serving, drizzled with honey mustard vinaigrette.
3-1/2 cups (875 mL) pineapple juice
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) packed brown sugar
1 piece (3 inches/8 cm) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
6.5 kg fully cooked, smoked bone-in ham
In saucepan, stir together 2 cups of the pineapple juice, the brown sugar and two-thirds of the ginger; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until glaze is reduced by half and thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly, about 20 minutes.
While pineapple glaze is simmering, pour remaining pineapple juice and 1 cup water into roasting pan; sprinkle in remaining ginger.
Place ham, fat side up, on greased rack in roasting pan. Cover tightly with foil; roast on bottom rack in 325 F oven until instant-read thermometer inserted in centre reads 130 F, about 4 hours. Uncover ham; peel off and discard outer skin. Trim fat layer to 1⁄4-inch thickness. Using paring knife, diagonally score remaining fat to make diamond pattern on ham. Brush half of the pineapple glaze over ham.
Roast, uncovered, in 375 F oven, brushing with remaining glaze several times throughout (reheat glaze to loosen, if necessary), until glaze is caramelized and golden and instant-read thermometer inserted in centre reads 140 F, about 30 minutes. Remove ham to cutting board; cover loosely with foil. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Crunchy Parmesan-topped Double Potato Mash
Five russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cloves garlic
Four sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
Crunchy Parmesan Topping:
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp. butter, melted
In large pot of boiling lightly salted water, cook russet potatoes and garlic just until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add sweet potatoes; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and return to pot.
Mash with milk, chives, butter, salt and pepper. Spread in lightly greased 13- x 9-inch (3 L) baking dish.
Make-ahead: Cover with foil; refrigerate up to 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature 1-1/2 hours; bake, covered, in 425 F oven until warmed through, about 40 minutes.
Crunchy Parmesan Topping: Stir together bread crumbs, Parmesan, chives and butter; sprinkle over potato mixture. Broil until golden brown, about 1 minute.
Grandma’s Favourite Hot Cross Buns
4 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
3 cups warm 2% milk (110° to 115°)
2 cups canola oil
8 large eggs
4 large eggs, separated
1-1/3 cups sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
13 to 15 cups all-purpose flour
2-2/3 cups raisins
2 teaspoons water
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 to 5 tablespoons 2% milk
In a very large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add oil, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon, salt, cardamom, yeast mixture and 10 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough. Stir in raisins.
Turn onto floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-1/4 hours. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
Divide into 72 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place two inches apart in four greased 15x10x1-inch baking pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F.
Combine egg whites and water; brush over tops. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Icing: combine confectioners’ sugar, butter and enough milk to achieve desired consistency. Pipe a cross on top of each bun. Yield: 6 dozen.
Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.