WHAT is it about Christian festivities and the desire to stuff our faces with as much food as possible?
Take Christmas. It seems the day can't be fully enjoyed unless you're left in an almost comatose state on the sofa, your stomach close to bursting with turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pudding, and, of course, rich fruit cake.
Four months later we're at it again, this time with roast lamb or honey-glazed ham, new potatoes and spring vegetables - and, of course - Easter eggs. ... Mind you, the Pagans seem to have been just as ravenous. Apparently, Ancient Saxons would mark the start of spring with a festival for their goddess of fertility, Eastre, and so the early Christians related their celebrations of the Resurrection of Christ to this festival.
CHOCOLATE EASTER NESTS Ingredients:
1 bar of good quality milk, dark or white Belgian chocolate 6 Shredded Wheat biscuits 15 paper muffin/cake cases 30 mini chocolate sugar-covered eggs Method:
Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. When completely melted, simply crush the cereal bars into the chocolate and begin stirring with a wooden spoon until all the cereal is covered with chocolate. When you have a nice chocolatey mixture, divide it into the paper cases. Using two teaspoons, hollow-out a hole in the centre of the mixture to form the final "nest" shape. When you have made all your nests, place two chocolate eggs in each one to complete the look.
COLUMBA CAKE Ingredients:
For the sponge:
300ml milk, warm 3 teaspoons active dry yeast 210g plain flour For the dough:
4 large eggs/2 large egg yolks 300g sugar 160g butter, melted 3/4 teaspoon salt 1 vanilla pod split and deseeded 2 oranges grated rind 2 lemons grated rind 600g all-purpose flour 250g raisins 150g candied fruit For the glaze:
To make the sponge, whisk the yeast into the warm milk. Sift in the flour and combine with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm corner for about 30 minutes.
To make the dough, whisk together eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk in the butter, salt, vanilla, orange rind, lemon rind, and then add the flour mix slowly. Add the sponge mix. Combine together until the dough is smooth. Add the raisins and fruit. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic. Set aside for at least one hour or until it doubles in volume. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Work the dough lightly to deflate. Add the minimum flour necessary, and keep the dough sticky. Butter a cake tin and add a strip of parchment paper across the bottom. Transfer the dough to the tin and spread uniformly. Cover with plastic and set aside to rise again, until it doubles in size again. Pre-heat the oven to 375 F (190C). Place the almonds and sugar in a food processor fitted with metal blade. Run the blade until finely ground. Place in a bowl and combine the cornstarch and egg whites.
When the cake is ready, spread the glaze on top with a spatula and dust with icing sugar. Bake at 375F (190C) for about 20 minutes or until golden.