With March hopping on by, there’s not long left before the Easter Bunny’s arrival.
So, before you contemplate eating every chocolate egg in site on Easter Sunday, perhaps think about cooking up something special and making this year’s celebrations even more fun for the family!
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting one of The Celtic Manor Resort’s luxurious Hunter Lodges to learn how we can achieve this.
Looking down onto the gorgeous green fields and lakes, the open plan lodges themselves are an ideal setting for the whole family to come and enjoy anytime of the year.
They accommodate up to 8 people and each of the 4 bedrooms has a stylish ensuite bathroom. I was very impressed by the sauna, outdoor jacuzzi and games room with bean bags for children to enjoy.
Accompanied by a few media representatives I arrived at the Lodge to be greeted by Executive Head Chef Mike Bates. Mike prepared food for the prestigious NATO Summit in September, and would be giving us an Easter Masterclass.
When I saw Welsh Cakes cooking on the griddle I knew we were in for a treat. I’ve been craving warm, soft and sugary bakestones since St. David’s Day so I’m glad I saved myself this.
Mike invited us to give it a go ourselves and trying the different sugar coatings like raspberry.
I can certainly see the appeal to getting the family involved with making these. The ingredients are simple (click here for the recipe) and you can split the dough to make different varieties to please everybody… who could resist a chocolate chip welsh cake!
Moving over to the kitchen, we all got involved with making a salt-baked crusted Welsh lamb.
It’s a unique spin on cooking a leg of lamb that I was confident would be so worth the little extra effort.
To follow this recipe, firstly ask your butcher for a tunnel boned leg of lamb (no more than 2.5kg).
- 1KG PLAIN FLOUR
- 600G WATER
- 400G SMOKED WELSH HALON MON SEA SALT
- 4 SPRIGS OF THYME
- 10 TWISTS OF A BLACK PEPPER MILL
- 4 SPRIGS OF ROSEMARY
For the crust, we combined all the dry ingredients listed above in a bowl and slowly adding water to form a smooth dough. I had a go at this myself and it was very simple and quick to do!
It’s good to know that you can cling film and refrigerate the dough in advance to save you time when it comes to cooking.
Wild Garlic Gremolata:
- 1 LEMON ZESTED
- 1 CUP OF PICKED FLAT PARSLEY
- 1 CUP OF WILD GARLIC LEAVES
- 1 TEAPSOON OF SALT
- 1/4 CUP OF OLIVE OIL
We also glazed our lamb with a tasty gremolata. Above is a list of ingredients so you can make your own too.
All you have to do is place all the ingredients (except olive oil) into a food processor and slowly add the oil until smooth.
Following this, one of us had a go at rolling out the dough to cover the whole leg of lamb before Chef Mike rubbed the gremolata over the meat and cavity.
When cooking, the crust locks in all these flavours to make the meat extra mouth-watering!
After blanketing the leg of lamb with the dough completely, it was ready to go in the preheated oven at 180C for 1 hour and 35 minutes.
As the meat cooked, half of us helped prepare a healthy quinoa salad, while the others (including me) started blanching vegetables. The salad is an alternative serving suggestion to serve the lamb with, click here for the recipe.
Blanching is not something I (and perhaps many of you) are familiar with as I usually boil my vegetables, drain and serve.
With blanching, we boiled green beans and asparagus for a brief time and then placed them straight into ice water. This ensures the vegetables stay nice and crunchy by stopping the cooking process after boiling.
I really liked Mike’s passion for fresh home grown produce. The Celtic Manor even grow some of their own vegetables at Newbridge on Usk.
With the table set and red wine flowing, Mike brought over a salt-crust baked lamb he prepared earlier (using same method) to go with our vegetables and salad for the all important taste test.
We looked on salivating as the crust was cracked open to reveal the juicy meat. If you cook the lamb using this method, leave to cool for 20 minutes before cracking open.
Unsurprisingly, it was utterly scrumptious!
The soft succulent lamb was perfectly contrasted by the crunchy vegetables. I also found it very rewarding to know that we were partly responsible for the delicious dinner we were devouring.
I’d really recommend getting your children or partner involved with the preparation process.
It’ll certainly give your Easter dinner an extra edge – and perhaps tempt the fussy eater of the family to try new things!
I felt like a big kid myself when we constructed or own Eton Mess dessert.
With a range of treats to satisfy the biggest of sweet tooth’s, we all enjoyed making our own creations and letting Chef Mike assess our efforts. I attempted to use my artistic-flair here, but perhaps I should’ve been a bit more extravagant!
Taking a shuttle to the main hotel, we booted up for a stroll back to the Lodge through one of the Resort’s woodland trails.
With a hot chocolate in hand, the trail took us through a golf course, skimmed a reservoir (ideal picnic spot) and hugged the hillside down towards the lodges.
On our way down the views over the Resort’s land was fantastic. I was reminded that the £2million bridge over the river was built for the Ryder Cup that was hosted here in 2010. To the left is also the area where the Resort’s Polo matches are scheduled to take place in June (click here for more information).
After burning off some of our dinner, we arrived back at the homely Hunter Lodge to the inviting site of scones, fruit cake and a pot of tea.
It was a sweet and indulgent end to an insightful day and I very much enjoyed every element.
I’d love to hear if you feel inspired to make your lamb dinner a labour of love this Easter. If you have a go at any of the recipes or have any questions, please let me know what you think in the comment section below or via twitter @ExploreWithEd.
If you’re interested to know more about the Hunter Lodges, here is a link for your convenience: http://www.celtic-manor.com/hunter-lodges
Thanks to The Celtic Manor and PR for inviting me along – hope to see you again soon!
I’ve also been lucky enough to enjoy a masterclass with Italian Celebrity cook Gennaro Contaldo. Click Here to take a look.