Easter lamb

Michele Guinness takes inspiration from a recent visit to South Africa for an Easter feast

Easter is without doubt my favourite festival - the culmination of all the promises God made to the human beings he had created with such love, and now, urgently needed to redeem.

Standing on Mount Moriah, knife in hand, ready to give up his son, Isaac, Abraham discovered that God himself would provide a lamb for the sacrifice. When the Angel of Death visited their oppressors in Egypt, the children of Israel were spared because of the lamb’s blood daubed on the doorposts. Isaiah, the prophet, saw one “led like a lamb to the slaughter”.

The Jews don’t eat lamb at the Passover. Everyone finds that a surprise, but the sacrificial lamb is symbolised by the Aficomen, a piece of unleavened bread that is broken and hidden at the beginning of the meal, then has to be found by the children in a kind of Passover treasure hunt and bought back by the father. It is shared and eaten just before the Cup of Redemption is drunk, and therefore has real Messianic significance. Tradition dictates that it should be pierced, and matza, of course, does have tiny holes in it. It was probably at that moment that Jesus instituted what has become the Communion Service.

Nonetheless, I like the symbolic significance of having lamb on Easter Day. I was treated to this particular version in South Africa when we there last August, and was so taken with it that I asked if I could have the recipe for Easter.

It needs to be cooked as slowly as possible, so aga or slow cookers are ideal - especially for people who want to be in church on Easter morning. I just have to turn my vicious fan oven down to almost nothing.

I’ve combined it with a delicious, caramelised South African pudding, of Dutch origin, that stays well clear of chocolate, on the assumption there will be plenty of the latter in egg shape after the meal.

It also seems apt somehow to remember South Africa on Easter Day. If ever a nation is struggling to rise from the ashes of poverty, division and despair, it is.

Lamb Henry

Serves 6

6 lamb loin pieces - around 300g (12oz) each (Ask your butcher to make them as lean as possible).
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 teaspoons French mustard
3 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
300ml (10 fl oz) red meat stock (using cubes)
200ml (7 fl oz) red wine
100ml ( 3 fl oz) sherry
garlic to taste
4-5 sprigs rosemary and mint, finely chopped.
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon cornflour.

Preheat oven to Gas mark 1/130C. (110C for a fan oven)
Cut the fat off the lamb and brown on both sides quickly in a large heavy-based frying pan. Transfer to an oven-proof casserole and add the remaining ingredients, except the flour. Cover and bake on a very low heat for 3 hours or so. Remove the loins from the sauce. Pour the sauce into a bowl, and skim off the fat (either with a skimming jug, or by allowing it to cool in the fridge overnight and taking the solidified fat off the top). Put the loins back in the casserole and keep in the fridge. Mix the plain flour and cornflour with a little red wine until it forms a paste, then add the skimmed sauce and cook until it thickens, whisking to ensure there are no lumps Check the thickened sauce for consistency and taste, adding more redcurrant jelly, wine, stock or seasoning as necessary, pour over the loins, cover, cook again very slowly for around one hour and serve.
Will freeze for up to three months.

Malva Pudding

Serves 6

1 egg
200 g (8oz) sugar
1 tblsp apricot jam
150g (6oz) SR flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt
20g (just under 1oz) butter
1 tsp white vinegar
250ml (8 fl oz) milk

125 ml (4-5 fl oz) single cream
100 ml (3 fl oz) milk
150g (6oz) demerara sugar
100 ml (3 fl oz) hot water
100g (4oz) butter

To make the pudding:
Beat the egg and sugar well in a mixer and add the apricot jam
Melt the butter and the vinegar together, and cool slightly, then add the liquid, including the milk, to the egg mixture, alternating with the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda.
Beat well, then bake in a greased dish at 180 (150 fan oven), gas mark 4 for around 45 - 55 minutes.

To make the sauce:
Melt all the ingredients together and pour over the pudding as soon as it is removed from the oven. The sauce will be runny and there will be a lot of it, but don’t let that put you off.
Serve with custard or ice cream.