For Easter this year the overwhelmingly obvious choice of meat is upland mutton. I say obvious because it is the only way I can think of to show some tangible support for the upland farmers who are struggling in several feet of snow this Easter. The Absolute Importance of Upland Mutton was one of the first articles I wrote for The Campaign for Real Farming, the importance having diminished not one jot since that time. Of course lamb is the traditional symbol of Spring – but they are only just being born. Hopefully, before the snow fell, last year’s lambs got a taste of fresh grass, and some were fattened sufficiently to send to slaughter. Those that have just passed their first birthday are called hogget, over the age of two they become mutton. Interest in this older meat, cooked long and slow, has, I think, been aided by a pub food favourite – braised lamb shanks. These, usually taken from the lower end of the rear leg, but also sometimes from the smaller front leg (shoulder), make handy single portion servings. As their popularity has increased so too has the price. A whole leg, or shoulder, can be cooked in exactly the same way to serve the entire family. Shoulder is the more economical joint, its additional fat melting away and basting the meat as it cooks. The Greeks call slow-roast lamb Kleftiko and by sealing potatoes and vegetables in the same parcel you have an easy one-pot meal. However, if you choose to do this remember that fat will be absorbed by the vegetables, so you might prefer the leaner leg joint.
So what are the other essential ingredients for Easter? Well the new grass also heralds the arrival of fresh young cheeses. I normally make the Russian curd cheese dessert, Paskha, for Easter but now that Westcombe Dairy have begun making Ricotta I think I will make a Sicilian variation on the same theme of fresh cheese and candied fruit, this time stuffed into deep-fried pastry tubes, called Cannoli.
Ricotta also comes into play when using the third essential Easter ingredients – wild greens. With Easter falling early this year, and spring arriving late, the best chance of fresh green leaves comes in the wild (unless they are buried under snow!). Wild Garlic and Nettles are easily recognised and, combined with ricotta, make a sophisticated looking soufflé or can be used to fill pasta, or pastry for a tart. If you want to use a cultivated leaf, substitute chard or spinach.
http://www.campaignforrealfarming.org/2011/06/the-home-dairy (for curd cheese, ricotta and Honey & Saffron Cheesecake recipes)