Traditional Easter meal serves up lamb

Serving lamb at Easter became a custom long before the birth of Christianity.

According to the Exodus story in the Bible, Jews painted their doorposts with lamb’s blood so God would pass over their homes.

Egypt was suffering from many plagues including the death of all first-born sons. Later, the Jews who converted to Christianity continued to serve lamb at Easter.

Lamb is also one of the first meats available after the winter. In rural areas of Italy and throughout much of Europe, families are busy slow-roasting whole lambs outside over an open fire.

Slow roast leg of lamb

  • 5 lb. leg of lamb, bone in 2 kg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil 22 mL
  • 1 whole garlic head, unpeeled, cut in half horizontally
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2-4 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 c. beef stock 750 mL
  • 2 c. water 500 mL
  • 1/4 c. flour 60 mL
  • 1 c. water 250 mL
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 335 F (170 C)
Place garlic, onion and rosemary in a metal roasting pan.
Generously season the lamb on all sides with salt and pepper and rub it in. Place it so it mostly sits on the garlic and onion.
Sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Rub it in. Drizzle lamb with olive oil. Pour stock and water around the lamb. Cover with foil. Place in the oven and roast for four to five hours.
Remove from the oven. Remove foil. Turn lamb over. Check to ensure the meat is tender. If not, return, covered, to oven. If it is tender then return it to the oven uncovered for a further 45 minutes or until well browned.

Remove lamb, spoon over pan juices generously. Transfer to serving platter, cover loosely with foil while you make the gravy.
To make the gravy, use a large spoon to skim off some fat from the surface of the liquid. Place pan on the stove on medium high. Whisk in flour and bring to a boil.
Use a whisk to mix it in. Then whisk in 1/2 to 1 cup (125-250 mL) of water, until it reaches a gravy consistency. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Strain gravy into a bowl, pressing to get as much liquid as possible. Pour gravy into jug.
To serve, the meat is tender so you will only need tongs to tear the meat off. Serve with gravy.

Balsamic glazed cipollini onions

  • 1 lb. white cipollini or pearl onions 500 g
  • 1/2 c. good quality balsamic vinegar 125 mL
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil 15 mL

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the onions. Parboil them for one minute.
Drain and immediately chill in ice water to stop the cooking.

When they have cooled enough to handle, slip the onions out of their skins by cutting off the root end. Peel all onions and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a pan. Add onions and balsamic vinegar.
Cook until soft and glazed.

Lemon mint bulgur salad

  • Juice of one large lemon
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced in 1/4” (6 mm) pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided 2 mL
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil 30 mL
  • 3/4 c. bulgur 175 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water 375 mL
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 small, sweet bell pepper, diced into 1/4” (6 mm) pieces
  • 1 diced tomato
  • 1 stalk celery, diced into 1/4” (6 mm) pieces
  • 1/4 c. chopped pitted Kalamata olives 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. golden raisins 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. feta, crumbled 60 mL
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 c. fresh mint leaves, torn 60 mL
  • salt and pepper

In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt and 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) pepper and let stand while you pull together the rest of the dish.
Cook the bulgur in a non-stick pan over medium to high heat. Add olive oil and bulgur to the pan. Stir continuously and saute for two to three minutes, or until it becomes golden brown. This will give it a nice nutty flavour.
Add the water, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Put pan back on the heat until the water boils, then remove it. Cover and set aside for about 10 minutes, or until the bulgur has soaked up all the liquid.
Add the red pepper to the onion mixture along with the celery, olives, feta, drained chickpeas and raisins. Toss well. Taste for lemon and salt and pepper. Serve the salad cool or at room temperature, but not stone cold.

Crispy sheet pan potatoes

  • 2 lb. potatoes 1 kg
  • 1/4 c. olive oil 60 mL
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • dried rosemary, oregano and thyme

Peel potatoes. Slice in the food processor using the slicing blade, or slice as thinly as possible with a large knife. Place in cold water until needed. Drain thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs, to taste. Spread potato slices out on a sheet pan so they don’t overlap very much. Bake at 375 F (190 C) until edges are crispy, about 35 minutes.

Shepherd’s pie

This is a great way to use the lamb dinner leftovers. Substitute coarsely chopped roast lamb for the ground meat. Add any vegetables you have. The topping can be potatoes mashed with carrots, parsnips or squash.

  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil 15 mL
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 lb. ground lamb 500 g
  • 1 c. beef or chicken stock 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh or dry rosemary 5 mL
  • 1 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley 15 mL
  • 1 c. frozen peas 250 mL
  • 2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks 1 kg
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter 90 mL
  • 1/2 c. milk 125 mL
  • Kosher salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, then add the onion, carrot, and meat. Cook until browned, eight to 10 minutes.
Drain the fat and add the broth, tomato paste, and herbs. Simmer until the juices thicken, about 10 minutes, then add the peas.
Pour the mixture into a 1 1/2 quart (1.5 L) baking dish. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
Mash the potatoes with the butter, milk and salt.
Spread them over the meat mixture, then decoratively crosshatch the top with a fork.
Bake until golden, 30 to 35 minutes.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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