Spring Holiday Recipes from Nigella Lawson British cookbook author Nigella Lawson celebrates springtime with special dishes for the holiday feasts of Easter and Passover. She discusses some of her favorite dishes for the season with Michele Norris.

Spring Holiday Recipes from Nigella Lawson

Spring Holiday Recipes from Nigella Lawson

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'Feast: Food to Celebrate Life'

Special chicken soup James Merrell/From 'Feast,' © 2004 by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion) hide caption

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James Merrell/From 'Feast,' © 2004 by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion)

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Hot cross buns James Merrell/From 'Feast,' © 2004 by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion) hide caption

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James Merrell/From 'Feast,' © 2004 by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion)

Easter egg nest cake James Merrell/From 'Feast,' © 2004 by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion) hide caption

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James Merrell/From 'Feast,' © 2004 by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion)

British cookbook author Nigella Lawson celebrates springtime with special dishes for the feasts of Easter and Passover.

It's a time of the year that awakens the senses and sparks a sense of culinary adventure, she says. Spring "does feel like the reaffirmation of life and nature," Lawson says. "And I think it's impossible not to be touched by that. And if you're someone who likes eating, it's impossible not to exploit that in the kitchen."

Lawson discusses some of her favorite dishes for the season with Michele Norris. Following are some of Lawson's recipes from her latest book, Feast: Food to Celebrate Life.


(Serves 6)


· 1 leg of lamb

· 1/3 cup olive oil

· 3 cloves garlic, bruised

· 6 scallions

· 2 bay leaves

· juice of 1 lemon

· small bunch mint, 1 1/2 oz including stalks, torn roughly makes 1 cup

· 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 1 cup water from recently boiled kettle

· 1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly, optional


Put the lamb in a large freezer bag, pour over the olive oil and then throw in the garlic, trimmed scallions and bay leaves, squeeze in the lemon juice and throw in the squeezed-out lemon halves too, then add the torn-up bunch of mint. Seal the bag and marinate in the fridge overnight.


Bring the lamb to room temperature before you even think of putting it in the oven, and preheat that to 425 degrees F when you take the lamb out of the fridge.


Pour the entire contents of the freezer bag into a roasting tin and roast for about 15 minutes a pound, or until the lamb is cooked a perfect, à point pink; you will just have to pierce it with the knife to see. Just before the lamb is due to come out of the oven, put the saffron strands in a measuring cup and pour over the hot water – from a recently boiled kettle – so that it can get on with steeping.


Remove the lamb to a wooden carving board to rest. Pick out the scallions and the lemon rinds, and then out the roasting pan on the stove over medium heat, and stir until it starts bubbling. I think most gravies are better with a little redcurrant jelly in them, but I don’t necessarily expect you to share that view. But if you want to go with me, stir in the jelly, and then the saffron in its water and add more water – tasting for seasoning as you go – as needed to let this bubble into a small amount of ungloopy gravy. I would more accurately call it a jus if I wouldn’t hate myself for it.


Carve the lamb on to a large warmed plate and strain the saffrony juices, stirring in any liquid first from the carving board, over the pink meat.


Author's Note

Read the sticky garlic potato recipe now so that you can coordinate your movements. And, to go with, I'd want no more than a bowl of green peas, turned in some butter with some blanched snow peas.


(Serves 6)


· 1 1/2 lbs little new potatoes

· 8 cloves garlic (more if you like)

· 1/2 cup olive or other vegetable oil


Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add some salt, add the potatoes and cook for 30 minutes. Drain, and put back into the dry pan.


Peel the garlic cloves by squishing with the flat of a knife so that they bruise slightly and the skin slips off. Put them in the dry pan with the potatoes, and then bash potatoes and garlic with the end of a rolling pin so they are cracked and split. You can do this ahead and leave them in the pan – though with the lid off, so that they don’t get watery – until you want to roast them.


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and slip a roasting pan in to heat up at the same time. Once the oven’s hot, pour in the oil and let it, in turn, heat up for 10 minutes.


Carefully tip the potatoes and garlic into the hot oil and cook for 15 minutes. Turn the potatoes over and then give them another 15 minutes. You will thank me. Or you will if there’s any justice in the world.



(Serves 10-12)


For the Soup Base:

· 4 1/2 lbs chicken wings

· 2 leeks, roughly chopped

· 2 carrots, roughly chopped

· 1 onion, halved

· 2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped

· zest and juice of 2 lemons

· handful of parsley

· 2 tablespoons sea salt / 1 tablespoon table salt

· 2 bay leaves

· 1 teaspoon turmeric

· 1 tablespoon dried mint

· 1 teaspoon ground coriander

· 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

· 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

· 16 cups water


Put everything into a large saucepan, a very large saucepan, and bring to the boil. Then turn down the heat – skimming off any scum as you do so – and simmer gently for about 4 hours, partially covered.


When it has cooled, strain the soup through the muslin to make about 10 cups. When the soup’s cold, put it in the fridge overnight; the next day it will be easy to scrape all of the fat which has risen to the top and solidified.


For the Meatballs:

· 1 matzoh sheet, soaked in 1 cup water for 10 minutes, then wrung out

· 14 oz (2) skinless chicken breasts

· 2 scallions, finely chopped

· 1/4 cup parsley leaves

· 2 teaspoons dried mint

· 1 tablespoon sea salt / 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

· zest of one lemon

· 1/4 cup ground almonds

· 1 garlic clove, minced

· black pepper

· 1 egg


Put everything except the wrung-out matzoh sheet into a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add the matzoh sheet and pulse again until you have a finely chopped ground mixture. Tip into a bowl and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.


Now, this is when you do feel a bit like someone from the old days, spending hours hunched over as you roll meatball after meatball.


Line a baking sheet with the plastic wrap and have a bowl of cold water to hand. Take the ground meatball mixture out of the fridge and with wet hands form teaspoonfuls into tiny meatballs. You should get about 50 meatballs out of this mixture.


When you reheat the soup base you can add the meatballs and cook in the gently bubbling liquid for 7 minutes, or you can make the meatballs ahead and freeze them; drop them unthawed, into the soup and cook them for 10 minutes.


For Adding to the Soup:

· 2 cups shelled fava beans, fresh or frozen

· 4 zucchini (4 cups diced)

· bunch mint, chopped

· bunch parsley, chopped


Unless the fava beans are really young, you do not need to remove their skins too. If they’re fresh, shell them then blanch the beans in boiling water for a brief minute before plunging them into a bowl of icy cold water. The skins should slip off pretty easily. If you’re using frozen beans, just let them thaw and then press gently on each bean so that the inner vivid green pair of kidney-shaped beans pops out of the casing.


Have the beans ready and finely dice the zucchini. Once the soup is hot again and the meatballs are cooked in it, add both vegetables to the soup. Sprinkle some mint and parsley over the full tureen, with a little more of both on each bowl of soup as you pass it round.



(Makes 16)


For the Dough:

· 2/3 cup milk

· 1/2 stick butter

· zest of 1 orange

· 1 clove

· 2 cardamom pods

· 3 cups bread flour

· 1 package active dry yeast (1/4 oz)

· 3/4 cup mixed dried fruit

· 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

· 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

· 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

· 1 egg


For the Egg Wash:

· 1 egg, beaten with a little milk


For the Crosses on the Buns:

· 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

· 1/2 tablespoon superfine sugar

· 2 tablespoons water


For the Sugar Glaze:

· 1 tablespoon superfine sugar

· 1 tablespoon boiling water


Heat the milk, butter, orange zest, clove and cardamom pods in a saucepan until the butter melts, then leave to infuse. I have gone rather cardamom-mad recently, but this short, aromatic infusion gives a heavenly scent to the little fruited buns later.


Measure the flour, yeast and dried fruit into a bowl and add the spices. When the infused milk has reached blood temperature take out the clove and cardamom pods, and beat in the egg. Pour this liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients.


Knead the dough either by hand or with a machine with a dough hook; if it is too dry add a little more warm milk or water. Keep kneading until you have silky elastic dough, but bear in mind that the dried fruit will stop this from being exactly satin-smooth. Form into a ball and place in a buttered bowl covered with plastic wrap, and leave to rise overnight in the fridge.


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.


Punch the dough down, and knead it again until it is smooth elastic. Divide into 16 balls and shape into smooth round buns. I wouldn’t start worrying unduly about their size: just halve the dough, and keep halving until it’s in eight pieces, and use that piece of dough to make two buns. Or just keep the dough as it is, and pinch off pieces slightly larger than a ping-pong ball and hope you end up with 16 or thereabouts. Not that it matters.


Sit the buns on a parchment paper of Silpat-lined baking sheet. Make sure they are quite snug together but not touching. Using the back of an ordinary eating knife, score the tops of the buns with the imprint of a cross. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave to prove again for about 45 minutes – they should have risen and almost joined up.


Brush the buns with the egg wash, and then mix the flour, sugar and water into a smooth, thick, paste. Using a teaspoon, dribble two lines over the bins in the indent of the cross, and then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

When the hot cross buns come out of the oven, mix the sugar and boiling water together for the glaze, and brush each hot bun to make them sweet and shiny.


Author's Note

You could ignore my instructions to leave the dough in the fridge to rise slowly overnight and instead leave the dough to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a warmish place in the kitchen, but I always find it easier to go the overnight route, plus I think it gives a better taste and texture.



(Serves 8-10, but I make it if there are just 4 of us, frankly)


For the Cake:

· 8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

· 1 stick unsalted softened butter

· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

· 6 eggs: 2 whole; 4 separated

· 1/3 cup plus ½ cup superfine sugar: 1/3 cup for the yolk mixture; ½ cup for the whites


For the Topping:

· 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

· 1 cup heavy cream

· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

· 1 cup of robin’s eggs or other small sugar-coated pretty little East eggs


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper or, better still, Silpat but do not grease the sides of the pan.


Melt the 8oz chocolate with the butter in either a double boiler or a microwave and then set aside to cool slightly.


Whisk the 4 egg whites until firm, then gradually add the 1/2 cup of sugar and whisk until the whites are holding their shape and peak gleamingly – but not stiff.


Remove this bowl (if you're using a standard mixer, as I do, though a hand-held job would do fine) and set aside while you whisk, in another bowl, the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with the 1/3 cup of sugar and the vanilla extract, and then gently fold in the chocolate mixture. Lighten the mixture with some of the egg whites – just dollop a large spoonful in and stir briskly—and then fold in the rest of the whisked whites gently, in about three goes.


Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is risen and cracked and the center is no longer wobbly on the surface. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack; the middle will sink as it cools and the sides splinter. You want this to look like a cake with a crater in it, so do not panic at the vision of imperfection in front of you. That's one of the reasons this cake is so unstressful to make.


To finish the cake, carefully remove it from the pan and place it on a plate or cake-stand, not worrying if bits fall off here and there. Put them back in a loose fashion.


Melt the chocolate for the topping and leave it to cool a little. Whip the cream until it is firming up and aerated but still soft, and then add the vanilla and fold in the melted chocolate. Fill the crater of the cake with the chocolaty cream, easing it to cool a little. Whip the cream until it is firming up and aerated but still soft, and then add the vanilla and fold in the melted chocolate. Fill the crater of the cake with the chocolaty cream, easing it out gently towards the edges of the cake with a rubber spatula, and then arrange the little sugar Easter eggs on top.


From Feast by Nigella Lawson. Copyright (c) 2004 by Nigella Lawson. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold.