Life Food & Drink

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Donal Skehan gives Irish ingredients a twist

Top chef creates three recipes for a cracking Easter lunch

Donal Skehan

My Easter menu is a wonderful combination of exciting new tastes, the most vibrant Irish ingredients and rich and indulgent flavours.

When you are creating a celebration menu, I think it's important to simplify the starters. My beetroot hummus served with homemade flatbreads is perfect as it is easy to make ahead but, if you prefer, you can cheat by using shop bought flatbreads. Best of all, this dish can be placed on the table as soon as guests arrive, making an informal starter, which they can dig into with relish.

The taste of Irish lamb is something quite unique and we have plenty of inspiring farmers producing some of the highest quality meat, including Achill Mountain Lamb, Connemara Hill Lamb and Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb, whose cuts are all well worth sourcing.

Although it has become traditional to eat lamb at Easter, it is a meat that can be enjoyed in summer also. For me, Easter Sunday lunch is not complete without roast Irish lamb, and this year I'm giving mine an Irish twist by using wild garlic, which can easily be found in forests and woodland areas.

There are two varieties that grow in Ireland; one has tall leaves with a three-cornered stem and the other grows lower to the ground with broad leaves. Both are easily identifiable by their distinct garlic scent. Treat them as you would a salad leaf, washing and drying before use.

However, if the prospect of foraging in the wild doesn't get you excited, you can now find wild garlic in selected food stores.

For a show-stopping Easter dessert, I do feel a big dirty chocolate cake is in order and I'll be making my mud cake with hazelnuts. It's gluten free and uses ground almonds to bind the batter, which results in a dense and gooey centre. I top it with a smooth and glossy glaze, which sets quite beautifully and makes the perfect cake for an Easter display.

Whether you try one or all of these recipes, they are sure to make life easier, and more enjoyable, this Easter Sunday.

Roast Lamb with Wild Garlic Pesto, Lettuce and Peas

Weekender Lamb .jpg
Donal's lamb with wild garlic.

In springtime, wild garlic appears all across Ireland in shaded woodland areas. In this recipe, I use the unique garlic taste in a pesto served alongside sweet slices of lamb leg.

An easy side dish to serve alongside the roast lamb is braised baby gem lettuce with peas in white wine and thyme. If you wanted to make it more indulgent, you could add a little cream to the cooking |liquid at the end of the cooking time.

Serves 6


1 leg of lamb, on the bone (roughly 2½ kg to serve 6-8)

A large handful of wild garlic leaves, finely chopped

Zest of ½ lemon, finely grated

3 sprigs of rosemary, leaves finely chopped

3 tbsp of rapeseed oil

Sea salt and ground black pepper

For the wild garlic pesto

100g of wild garlic, washed and dried

50g of pine nuts

75g of parmesan or mature Coolea cheese, grated

350ml of extra virgin olive oil or Irish rapeseed oil

For the braised baby gem and peas

1 tbsp of butter

100g of smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped

Zest of ½ lemon

75ml of white wine

A few thyme sprigs

50ml of chicken stock

200g of frozen peas

6 spring onions, trimmed and sliced in half

6 baby gem lettuce, sliced in half


Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the lamb in a large roasting dish. Mix the wild garlic, lemon zest, rosemary and rapeseed oil in a small bowl. Massage the lamb leg with the paste all over and then season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Place in the oven to roast for 15 minutes per 500g (1lb) for medium rare or longer if you prefer your meat more well done. Remove from the oven and rest under tin foil before serving in thin slices.

For the pesto

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or pestle and mortar and blitz until smooth. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Set aside.

For the braised baby gems and peas

Melt the butter in a large high sided |frying pan. Fry the bacon until sizzling and crisp. Pour in the wine and allow to sizzle for about 30 seconds before adding the thyme sprigs, lemon zest and chicken stock.

Add the peas to the liquid and then nuzzle in the spring onions and baby gem lettuce. Cover with a lid and cook for about 5-8 minutes until the lettuce is just braised. Serve with slices of the warm lamb.


Beetroot Hummus with Homemade Flatbreads

Weekend Beetroot Hummus-1.jpg
Beetroot hummus.

Choosing recipes which are easy to prepare, can be made ahead and taste fantastic is an important part of a successful celebration feast. The humble beetroot can be |transformed into something quite unusual with tastes from the Middle East and served as a dip with |homemade flatbreads.

Serves 6


For the beetroot hummus

5 beetroot, cooked, plus extra chopped, to serve with hummus

1 garlic clove, roughly chopped

2 tsp of ground cumin

2 tbsp of pomegranate molasses, plus extra to drizzle

1 tbsp of tahini

Juice of 1 lemon

Sea salt and ground black pepper

2 tbsp of sesame seeds, toasted, to serve

For the flatbreads

500g bread flour, plus extra for dusting

2 x 7.5g sachet of easy blend dried yeast

1 tsp of sea salt, plus extra to sprinkle

350ml of tepid water

1 tbsp of honey

1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling

2 tbsp of nigella seeds or poppy seeds

1 egg, lightly beaten

Dried polenta, to sprinkle


For the beetroot hummus

Blitz all the ingredients, except for the sesame seeds, together in a food processor until smooth. Season with sea salt and black pepper and add a little more lemon juice to taste if required. Spoon into a serving bowl. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses, chopped beetroot and sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.

For the flatbreads

In a large bowl, combine the flour, easy blend yeast, salt and seeds. Make a well in the flour and pour in the water, honey and olive oil. Using your fingertips, slowly bring the flour in from the sides and continue to mix until a rough dough forms.

Turn the dough out on a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add a little extra flour until it becomes smooth. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel or cling film and set aside in a warm spot for about 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Punch the dough down on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 8-12 pieces and roll out into rounds as thinly as possible. Sprinkle polenta onto a baking sheet or pizza stone which has been preheated in the oven and place a flatbread on it. Brush with a little beaten egg and bake in the oven for 5-8 minutes or until puffed up and golden. Repeat with the remaining dough and keep warm. Add chopped betroot to the beetroot hummus to dip and serve.

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Mud Pie

Weekend Chocolate Hazelnut Mud Pie_3.jpg
Donal Skehan's delicious hazelnut mud pie.

A deep dark chocolate cake is the |perfect dessert to celebrate Easter with. This one is unique in that it doesn't require flour to bind it and instead relies on ground almonds, which makes it gluten free and also results in a rich, moist finish. With a glossy chocolate glaze and a topping of toasted hazelnuts this cake will be a true show-stopper this Easter.

Serves 8


For the Mud Pie

225g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped

125g butter, diced

175g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g ground almonds

6 large eggs, separated

For the chocolate glaze

100g of good quality dark chocolate

30g of butter

50g of icing sugar, sifted

75ml of double cream

75g of hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped


Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4 and line a 20cm diameter spring-form tin with baking parchment. For the mud pie, melt the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl sitting over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the sugar, vanilla extract and ground almonds with a spatula.

Stir through the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing after each addition, until you have a thick batter. Put the egg whites in a standing food mixer (or use an electric hand-held mixer in a bowl) and whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the egg whites to the chocolate batter and fold through gently until just combined.

 Pour the chocolate batter into the prepared cake tin and place in the oven to bake for about 35 minutes until it is firm but with a slight wobble. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to sit on a wire rack to cool in its tin, before removing the tin to cool completely.

For the chocolate glaze

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl sat over a pan of just simmering water. When melted, remove from the heat, whisk in the icing sugar and the cream.

Allow to cool until the mixture becomes thick enough to leave a figure of eight on the surface. Pour over the chocolate mud pie and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Leave to set before slicing and serving.

Weekend Magazine

Editors Choice

Also in Life