Easter ...

...hunting for chocolate eggs, pyjamas, new books, lamb roast, a change of season (except in Singapore!), hot cross buns, Cadbury Crème Eggs, Ribidy Rabbit (the stuffed toy my brother received for his first Easter from my Nanna, they became inseparable friends!) , family gatherings and chocolate,  chocolate, CHOCOLATE!

This year with Flick and family in town we decided to host a long and lazy Easter lunch at our apartment. 

Flick and Mike were in charge of making the bread, a traditional cheese laden Easter bread - Pane con Formaggio ...

Andrew was in charge of the "man" section of the menu - the meat! An anchovy lamb roast with garlic and rosemary, slow cooked for four hours ... 

The smells drifting through the house were excruciatingly good and four hours later perfection emerged...

I was in charge of dressing the table ... (and Andrew, pants are optional on weekends but when you have guests coming you are well advised to be wearing some, he wasn't easy to convince!)

and making the sides, blanched asparagus with lemon butter and my much loved roast potato salad with parmesan dressing...

and lastly the kids were in charge of finding the chocolate eggs hidden all over the apartment and consuming as many of them as possible before being told off by Mum and Dad!

Full of lunch and chocolate we retired for a spot of relaxing and some Easter viewing ...

Thank you to my beautiful friends for making this Easter such a special occasion. I hope all of you out there had as  much fun as we did!

Recipes from our scrumptious feast are below for your cooking pleasure ...

Pane con Formaggio - traditional Easter cheese bread
Adapted slightly from my bread, the revolutionary no-work, no-knead method, Jim Lahey

It is wise to taste the cheese you buy to use in this recipe, if it seems quite salty (likely in aged cheeses) reduce the salt in the recipe by half.

400g of bread flour
200g of pecorino Toscano, Asiago, or aged Fontina, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
6g of table salt
3g of active or other dry yeast
2g freshly ground black pepper
300g of cool (12-18 °C) water
wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour for dusting

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cheese, salt, yeast , and pepper. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix the ingredients until you have a wet and sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and place it somewhere warm or at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough has more than doubled in size. This should take between 12 to 18 hours, the longer you can leave it the better the result will be!

After the first rise has finished generously dust a work surface with flour, scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece and then using lightly floured hands lift the edges of the dough into the centre. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.

Place a kitchen towel on your work surface and generously dust it with flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with flour. Fold the ends of the towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it has almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back leave it to rise for a further 15 minutes.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 250°C with a rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and place a covered heavy based pot in the center of the rack. I use my Le Creuset (red, of course!).

Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the kitchen towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. Careful not to burn yourself on the pot! Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep chestnut colour, but be careful not to burn it. This should take between 15 to 30 minutes. Use a heat proof spatula or pot holders to gently lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly, listening as it sings! [put a paragraph from the book on bread that sings]

Andrew's Anchovy Lamb Roast with Garlic and Rosemary
This recipe is in Andrew's own words, unedited, apparently 'many' is a legitimate measure when cooking ...

2.5-3.00kg bone in lamb leg
2x 50g tins of anchovies
Many garlic cloves
A large handful of rosemary sprigs
Lemon or orange rind
Large glugg of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Set your oven to 65°C.

Cut sinew and other dodgy looking bits off the lamb leg. Leave the fat, fat = flavour!

Blow torch it.**

Finely chop the garlic, rosemary, anchovies and rind, combine in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Using your hands rub the mixture all over the lamb leg, into all of the grooves. It should feel awkward, like you should buy the lamb dinner or something ...

Stab the leg all over with a small pairing knife in an orderly fashion.

Into each stab hole, stuff a 1/3 of a clove of garlic and a small stalk of rosemary.

Insert meat thermometer probes to the lamb and place it in the oven. Cook for as long as possible on a low heat until the internal temperature of the lamb is to your liking per the following scale:
60°C = medium rare
65°C = medium
70°C = well done

** I thought I would elaborate on this point a little! Before cooking meat Andrew likes to seal in the flavours and juices by using a blowtorch to brown the outsides. You can use a standard kitchen torch set (like those that are used for creme brulee), or you can do as Andrew has and visit your local hard ware store to purchase a more industrial variety! Which ever you choose please employ caution as it can be dangerous.

Blanched Asparagus with Lemon Butter
12-15 stalks of large thick asparagus
40g of butter
1 lemon

Trim the woody ends off your asparagus. Bring a pot of water to the boil on the stove and add the asparagus, blanching them. Depending on the size and thickness of the stalks this could take 2 to 5 minutes. For thin stalks the process will be relatively quick, for the thick asparagus this can take up to 5 minutes.

Drain the water and return the asparagus to the pot. Add the butter and squeeze over the juice from the lemon. Stir gently and then plate up. Serve immediately.

Yields 6-8 servings depending on how many asparagus stalks you include.

Roast Potato Salad with Parmesan Dressing
Adapted from Donna Hay magazine, issue 18

1kg of potatoes (preferably kipfler if you can get them)
¼ cup whole egg mayonnaise
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2tbs white wine vinegar
½ cup chopped mint leaves
½ cup chopped parsley leaves
¼ cup chopped green onions
Baby spinach leaves
Salt and pepper

I like to make the dressing the day before to give the flavours time to infuse thoroughly, making for a sharper taste. Combine the mayonnaise, parmesan, white wine vinegar, mint leaves, parsley leaves and green onions in a plastic container and stir well. Seal the container and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. If you prefer a stronger, sharper taste you can use an aged cheddar instead of the parmesan.

Set your oven to 200°C. Place the potatoes in a baking dish with 1tbs of olive oil and season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Roast for 40 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

On a serving platter spread a thin layer of baby spinach leaves, scatter some of the potatoes over the top and then drizzle some of the dressing over. Repeat so as to build a salad that is essentially layered.
Serve immediately.

Using a layered affect is perfect for situations of "self serve" at group gatherings, ensuring all of your guests get a little of each of the ingredients used in the dish.

Yields: 6-8 servings depending on each serving size.