Easter has always been a very special holiday for me. When I was a young girl growing up in Germany, my Oma (grandmother) used to come and visit us during Easter time and I could hardly wait for her arrival. I remember hopping from one red Mary Jane shoed foot to the other, clutching a fresh spring bouquet in anticipation of her stepping through the arrival gates at the airport. Once at home, Oma would unpack her chocker-block filled suitcase in my room (which I willingly gave up for the duration of her stay) and begin to hand out some of her treats. The mother of three sons, Oma frequently got her 'little girl fix' by buying me pretty clothes and Easter was always the perfect time for a new spring dress. I looked so forward to donning the new outfit, which I wore with pride on Easter morning.
In preparation for the festivities Oma and I would begin by taking a walk along the lake to gather pussy willows for the Osterstrauch. These would then be placed into a vase at home and decorated with colourful Easter egg ornaments. I will reveal the secret behind this pretty arrangement on Thursday...
Colouring the eggs was great fun, as we would concoct the most obscure and vibrant dyes to bath the eggs in, then rub the shells with pork fat until they glistened. The Easter Egg Hunt always took place in the garden, rain or shine and I was always amazed by the treats that the 'Easter Bunny' managed to conceal between narcissus and tulips, behind a blooming shrub or inside a birdhouse.
The Thursday before Easter is known as Gruendonnerstag or Green Thursday in Germany and it is common to eat foods that are green like soups made with spinach or leeks and parsley or potatoes and hard boiled eggs with a green sauce. So in keeping with tradition, I am going to post some great recipes for you to prepare for Green Thursday.
Since meat is not traditionally consumed on Good Friday Karfreitag, Oma instinctively came prepared with edible treasures from the North Sea: smoked eel and fresh shrimp, which would be incorporated into 'Brotzeit' a type of cold platter consisting of fish, cheeses, boiled eggs and fresh and pickled vegetables along with a basket of fresh breads and buns. As traditions go, we still eat fish on Good Friday and this week I will post a recipe for a traditional 'Brotzeit, which is a great way to help keep things light before the indulgence of Sunday's big feast...
Now for Easter Sunday...I was torn between posting a menu for brunch or dinner, but because I have this tremendous recipe I wanted to share with you, I decided to go with the brunch option. Living on the West Coast of Canada, we are blessed with the constant availability of fresh seafood. My recipe for Individual Crab Souffles incorporates fresh crabmeat, Swiss cheese and tarragon for a luxurious entree addition to your brunch table. And wait until you dig into this sumptuous puff of deliciousness - there is a surprise inside!
Roesti is a traditional Swiss dish often paired with a creamy pork Stroganoff. Essentially a giant version of a hash brown, Roesti is a really versatile dish that goes equally well with a brunch as with a dinner menu.
My version is made with bacon, onions and sage - ingredients usually already in the pantry and the fridge. Cooking it in a cast iron pan gives it a nice crispy crust.
I love to balance my palate with savoury and sweet and I could easily eat half a tray of sweet sticky cinnamon buns before even plunging my fork into the main course - but since feeling so much better on a Gluten-Free diet, I am just not ready to jump off the wagon - at least not yet...so for now my sweet indulgence is some juicy fresh fruit. In this recipe I have combined fresh mangoes and strawberries and topped them with creamy thick Greek yoghurt that has been drizzled with lemon grass syrup then sprinkled with coconut sugar and left to set until the sugar 'caramelizes' over the yoghurt - yum!
My recipes tend to be on the lighter side and I use relatively unprocessed ingredients. This Crab Souffle is considered low in fat as I prefer it, but certain substitutions can be made as indicated below the recipe to 'rich it up'.
Individual Crab Souffles
Fine dry breadcrumbs*
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp minced shallots
3 Tbsp flour*
1-1/4 cups hot milk**
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp Pernod (anise flavoured liqueur)
1/4 tsp each sea salt, pepper and paprika
1/2 cup low fat Swiss cheese, grated
150 g fresh crabmeat, cooked**
4 egg whites
Pinch cream of tartar
4 large shrimp, cleaned and sliced horizontally
Fresh parsley for garnish
1. Butter eight 1/2 cup ramekins, coat with breadcrumbs and set aside.
2. In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; cook shallots until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in flour
and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in milk. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Simmer for 1 minute; remove from heat. Beat in egg yolks one at a time. Stir in cheese, tarragon, lemon juice, Pernod, salt and pepper, paprika and nutmeg.
3. Rinse crab meat; pick out any pieces of shell. Blend into sauce. (recipe can be prepared to this point, covered with buttered wax paper directly on top and refrigerated up to 8 hours. Heat slightly before continuing).
4. Beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat until stiff but not dry; stir one quarter into crab mixture. Gently fold in remaining egg whites; spoon into prepared dishes; top with shrimp half, pushing it slightly into the souffle mixture. Place ramekins on baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 8.
*I used gluten free bread crumbs and gluten free flour.
* Not everyone is used to the taste of low-fat, but I promise this recipe delivers on all fronts. However, if you still prefer the Full Monty then substitute half the milk for heavy cream; low fat cheese for regular and if fresh crab meat is unavailable, by all means use canned...then skip the cocktail.
Bacon And Onion Roesti:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
4 thick slices bacon, fat trimmed, cut into matchsticks
2 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Melt half the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onion and bacon and increase heat to medium, cooking until lightly browned, about 7-8 minutes. Stir in the sage, then tip into a large mixing bowl with the grated potatoes.
2. Add remaining butter to the skillet. When it stops foaming, spread the potato mixture over the base of the skillet, pressing down well with the back of a spoon. Fry for 6-7 minutes, or until golden. To flip, place a large plate over the skillet, using an oven mitt, lift the pan and invert it onto the plate. Remove the pan and slide the Roesti back into the skillet. Continue to cook for the same amount of time. Sprinkle with additional sage leaves. Cut into wedges. Serves 8.
Fresh Fruit with Lemongrass and Coconut Sugar Infused Greek Yoghurt
2 fresh mangos, peeled and sliced
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
1 cup 2% fat Greek yoghurt
4 Tbsp coconut sugar, or brown sugar
4 Tbsp lemongrass syrup (recipe follows)
1 cup pure cane sugar
1 cup water
2 lemongrass stalks (core only), sliced
1. Combine sugar, water and lemongrass cores in small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring to dissolve sugar.
2. Remove from heat and cool. Fill a jar with a few lemongrass stalks. Strain syrup into a jar. Cover and keep in the fridge. Makes 1 cup.
1. Divide fruit among 8 dessert plates. Place a dollop of Greek yoghurt next to fruit. Drizzle yoghurt with lemongrass syrup and sprinkle with sugar. Chill until ready to serve. Serves 8.
1 bottle dry sparkling wine, chilled
For each cocktail:
1 ounce Limoncello liqueur
2 ounces mango nectar, chilled
Mango and lemon slices for garnish
Pour Limoncello and mango juice into champagne flutes. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with mango and lemon slices.
I know you will enjoy this luxurious brunch menu - treat yourself!