Easter traditions include some pretty good food, if slanted towards the sweet end. A good hot cross bun is worth celebrating, and a licence to eat a little too much chocolate shouldn't be ignored, but don't forget the savoury side.
Whole snapper with dried oregano and lemon
Serving fish at Easter is a tradition in many households and a whole fish like this is the easiest and most satisfying way to do it - quick to prepare and delicious, it comfortably feeds a family.
1 whole snapper, about 2kg, head and tail on, cleaned
Freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp dried oregano
Extra virgin olive oil
6 fresh bay leaves, preferably on stem
1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees fan-forced or 240 degrees conventional.
2. Lay three layers of foil, twice the length of the fish, on a tray so you can fold it back over and seal as a parcel. Lay two lengths of baking paper on top of the foil and put the fish on top.
3. Squeeze one lemon over the fish and inside the cavity. Slice the other lemon into thin rounds.
4. Season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides and inside the cavity. Finely grate the garlic over the fish, sprinkle over the oregano and drizzle with a little oil. Arrange the slices of lemon along the top of the fish and tuck the bay leaves into the head cavity.
5. Fold the baking paper and foil over the fish and seal around the edges by rolling and scrunching the foil layers together. Bake for 30 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and peel the paper and foil back to fully expose the fish (you can cut off the excess paper and foil here). Turn the oven to grill setting. Put the fish back in the oven and grill for five minutes to colour a little.
7. Rest the cooked fish for five minutes. Serve whole at the table, spooning over some of the juices.
Hot cross buns
These spicy, fruit-rich buns are the best way to start Easter morning. They're great warm from the oven but, given the time they take to prove, I'd make them the day before and have them toasted with butter.
150g fat sultanas
50g quality glace orange peel
14g dried yeast (two sachets)
350ml milk, gently warmed
80ml vegetable oil
90g castor sugar
600g plain flour (I prefer organic unbleached)
15g cocoa powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground clove
1 tsp ginger powder
8g (about 1 tsp) salt
Cross and glaze
120g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
60g castor sugar
1. Soak the currants, sultanas and peel in hot water for 30 minutes, then drain.
2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. Mix the vegetable oil, sugar and egg together.
4. Combine all the dry ingredients with the soaked fruit in the bowl of a stand mixer.
5. Add the yeast mix to the sugar, oil and egg mix. Whisk, then stir this through the dry ingredients. With the dough hook attached, mix for six minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
6. Tip the dough onto a clean surface and knead a couple of times. Return to the bowl in a smooth ball and cover with cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
7. Tip the dough onto a clean surface, knock back gently and cut into 12 pieces. Press each piece into the cup of your hand and roll in a circular motion on the bench, or in your hand, to form an even ball. Place the balls on a baking tray spaced about 2cm apart, cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rise and expand so the balls are touching - this could take 20 minutes to 40 minutes depending how warm your kitchen is.
8. While the buns are rising, make the cross. Whisk the 120g of flour with 120ml of water to a smooth paste - if it's too sticky add a little more water. Place in a piping bag with a fine nozzle and, once the buns are fully risen, pipe the crosses; it is easier to do this in lines the whole length and width, rather than individually.
9. Bake the buns in a preheated oven at 220 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees and cook for another 10 minutes.
10. To make a glaze for the buns, add 60g of castor sugar, a teaspoon of mixed spice and 55ml of water to a small pot, bring to the boil and boil for two minutes, then brush over the hot buns. Transfer to a cooling rack.
Tip Don't halve this recipe as it doesn't perform well. Just throw extra buns in the freezer or share with your neighbours.
Drink Hot cocoa or milky tea
Makes 12 buns
Hazelnut chocolate nests
This is a really simple and tasty way to dress up those shop-bought chocolate eggs. You can also have fun with the kids decorating the pattypan liners or making little baskets for the nests.
100g pitted prunes, finely chopped
200g quality dark chocolate
50g unsalted butter
150g Nutella spread
2 tbsp dark cocoa powder
120g shredded wheat cereal, loosened and gently crumbled
50g hazelnuts, chopped
36 small pattypan liners or little paper baskets
36 small chocolate eggs
Gold leaf (optional)
1. In a small pot, boil the prunes in a little water for about two minutes or until soft and mushy.
2. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of simmering water, without stirring. Add the butter, leave a minute to melt, then mix thoroughly. Remove from heat and stir through the prunes, Nutella and cocoa powder, combining well.
3. Add the shredded wheat and hazelnuts to the chocolate mix and combine well, being careful not to break the wheat up too much.
4. Spoon tablespoon-size dollops into the pattypan papers. While still soft, press the eggs into each nest. Leave to set for one hour, then garnish with gold leaf (if using).