There are certain times of the year that many American families have “traditional” meals. New Years = sauerkraut or black eyed peas. Christmas = ham. Thanksgiving = turkey. Potato salad shows up at every family reunion or non-holiday event, including funerals.
Easter is a holiday I don’t really engage with much. My family did the basket of candy/bunnies/egg hunt thing, but we were areligious. We usually had a dinner of ham and potatoes. I remember lots of fluffy rolls that came out of a can with a doughboy on the side. I’m sure we got out the special tablecloth—not the one with poinsettias on it, obviously, but the plain green one.
These meals are “special” in their whole family-at-the-table-ness. My mother is a good cook, do not misunderstand, but a slab of ham and some au gratin are not particularly rare to come by in a family from central Pennsylvania that’s living in the UK.
I want to share two dishes that are traditional Easter fare and that I also love, one from England and one from Mexico.
English cuisine is meat and potato-based, bland, utilitarian. Heavy and caloric, you can drink while downing it. There are a few areas of UK food that shine. Sweets (which I will come back to some other time) and weird/awesome condiments.
At Easter you have roast lamb with mint jelly. My simple recipe for mint jelly is great with lamb or pork but also works on hearty whole wheat bread or as a filling in cookies.
Michael’s Stupid-Good Mint Jelly
- 2 cups fresh mint
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 oz liquid pectin (or 2 tsp Pomona’s Universal Pectin powder and the accompanying 2 tsp calcium water)
I’ve lived in Santa Fe off and on for nearly two decades. I’ve come to love New Mexican cooking. I find the deserts to be especially interesting. The use of cheese is such a good idea, but a lot of people freak out about it.
Capirotada is bread pudding served on Good Friday. I had it for the first time at a misguided attempt by some kids from the East Coast to throw a Dia de los Muertos party.
- 2 bolillos (or baguettes)
- 4 ½ cups water
- 12 oz Piloncillo (or 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar)
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 6-10 whole cloves
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 4 tbsp butter
- 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese