Tuesday 12 December 2017

Donal Skehan: Time to indulge

Donal Skehan has a perfect, sumptuous family feast to end your Lenten fast


Donal Skehan

When I was growing up, Easter Sunday lunch was always one of the big eating events of the year for my family. Surprising really, given the amount of chocolate that was sneakily scoffed before the big meal!

There was never a doubt in our house that a big leg of roast lamb would be present. I loved being in the kitchen when I was younger, and one of the jobs I was given on Easter morning was to push little slices of garlic and sprigs of rosemary into the lamb, which I did with great pride.

The day wouldn't have been complete without my mom fussing over the cooking times, with lots of hardcore sums to calculate when to put it in the oven.

Along with the centrepiece of lamb, the accompaniments were essential, and my creamy, cheesy cauliflower and broccoli bake always goes down a storm.

In later years, I got promoted to desserts after impressing with a few efforts at Christmas. As an ode to the day that was in it, I kept the theme strictly to chocolate and eggs.

As a young fella growing up with an obsession with food, a crush on a certain domestic goddess meant that my regular Easter cake was adapted from Nigella Lawson's fantastic chocolate cloud cake, with the addition of espresso powder to emphasise the flavour of the chocolate.

I hope the recipes here inspire you to cook up a mega Easter meal for your family, if you're not too tired from the egg hunts!


Most meats really benefit from the roasting process and lamb is no different. When it is in season, it needs very little work to bring out the really fantastic natural flavours of the meat. Roasting it with the classic combination of rosemary and garlic is the only way to go.

You get delicious results, with a kitchen filled with amazing aromas. I like to roast lamb on the bone, but you can adapt with whatever cut you can get your hands on. Serves six to eight.


1 leg of lamb

A few cloves garlic, sliced into thick


A few sprigs fresh rosemary

A generous sprinkle of sea salt and

black pepper

250ml/8½fl oz lamb stock (or use beef

or vegetable if you are stuck)


Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Place the lamb in a large roasting tray and, using the point of a sharp knife, make holes all over the lamb about 2-3cm apart. Insert some rosemary and a spike of garlic in each hole.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and season generously with sea salt and ground black pepper. Place in the oven and, depending on the weight of the leg, roast for approximately 25-30 minutes per pound for medium-rare. Alternatively, check the lamb with a meat thermometer — 60-65°C/140-150°F for medium-rare. Remove the cooked lamb from the pan and allow to rest for 10- 15 minutes on a serving dish.

Tip the juices to one corner of the pan and spoon off the fat on top. Place the pan on the hob and add the stock. Bring to the boil and make sure you whisk all the caramelised meat juices from the base and sides of the tray. You can add a little roux (equal amounts of butter and flour) while it comes to the boil if you want a thicker sauce. Decant to a small gravy jug. Serve slices of lamb with a little of the gravy and some veggies.


This is pure, unashamed, comfort-food indulgence! Don’t be scared of making the sauce — it is so easy and takes minutes. Serves four.


1 large head cauliflower, broken into


½ head broccoli, broken into florets

50g/2oz butter

50g/2oz plain flour

500ml/18fl oz of warm milk

150g/5oz of cheddar cheese

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Sea salt and ground black pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5. Bring a pot of water to the boil, then add the cauliflower and broccoli florets and cook for no longer than two to three minutes — they should still have a good bite to them, as they will finish cooking in the oven. Drain them under cold water and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour quickly so you have a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the warm milk and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer for two minutes until the sauce becomes thick.

Remove from the heat and add in the cheese, Dijon mustard and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Place the cauliflower and broccoli in a high-sided baking dish and pour over the cheese sauce. Top with a little extra grated Cheddar and another sprinkle of ground black pepper.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the top is nice and golden. Serve in big hefty spoonfuls!


Serves eight-12.


For the sponge

250g good-quality dark chocolate

125g butter, softened

6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated

175g caster sugar, separated into 100g and

75g measurements

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling

450ml double cream

1 tbsp cocoa powder

½ tbsp instant espresso powder

Mini chocolate eggs, to decorate


Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Line a 23cm springform cake tin with parchment paper and set aside. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a small pot of simmering water, allow to melt slowly, stirring gently to help it.

While the chocolate is melting, separate four of the eggs, place the whites in a mixing bowl. Put the yolks in a separate bowl along with the two whole eggs, 75g of caster sugar and the vanilla extract.

Using a handheld mixer, beat the contents of the bowl with the egg yolks until light and fluffy. Pour in the melted chocolate and butter and stir through until combined. Whisk the egg whites until foamy and then gradually add the remaining 100g of caster sugar. Continue to whisk until you are left with soft white peaks.

Using a spatula, mix a dollop of the egg whites through the chocolate mix until combined and then gently fold the rest through. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and place on the middle shelf to cook for 35 minutes, until the middle has risen up and is no longer wobbly. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. As it cools, the middle should sink down and you will be left with a craterlike hole.

When you are ready to serve, whip the cream until firm but not stiff and then fold through the espresso powder and cocoa powder.

Dollop the cream into the crater of the cake and then pile mini chocolate eggs on top to decorate. Serve nice big hefty slices, and your guests won't be able to resist!

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