Freelance food writer Karen Burns Booth has always loved Easter cooking. As a little girl she would help her grandmother with spring baking at their Northumberland cottage, and she carries that memory with her today.
The 55-year-old mother of one splits her time between France, where she runs a cookery school, and North Yorkshire, where she writes about her recipes.
Here she shares some of her mouth-watering tips to help everyone make the most of spring and Easter cooking.
Naturally Passionate about Fresh Seasonal Produce
Karen’s love for cooking stems from her strong interest in nature.
“I’ve always been interested in gardening, nature and fresh ingredients. I’m very creative and love how colour and texture are all linked with cooking. Quite often I’ll photograph the ingredients before the recipes. I just find it’s a really lovely way to bring the process to life.”
Karen’s blog, Lavender and Lovage, features recipes using fresh garden herbs. One of her favourite recipes is the Victorian Spring Posy Cake.
“My favourite sweet recipe has to be my Victoria sponge with rose cream, lavender and lemon curd. It’s a great celebratory family cake for spring or summer, or something that you’d have for a girly night in.”
Indulgent Ingredients for your Family Celebration
For Karen, spending time with family and friends and indulging in sweet and savoury treats is what Easter is all about.
“To me it means a seasonal gathering with family and lots of treats. Lent is over so you can embrace chocolate, cream, butter, eggs, meat and anything you weren’t allowed during the 40-day period.”
Over the years Karen has tried lots of spring recipes, particularly the traditional ones.
“I’ve had lots of experience with Easter recipes, especially the historical ones such as pace eggs, the old-fashioned Easter eggs which you wrap in onions and boil in spinach and beetroot water. You get this lovely marble effect.”
She says it’s the traditional recipes we should really make the most of during spring festivities.
“I always cook traditional food at Easter. On Good Friday I’ll do a fish recipe and bake hot cross buns, which are really easy to make. I’m very keen on traditional British feasts and festivals.
“One of my top tips for foodies is to go seasonal. There are lots of lovely lamb dishes out there, or if you’re vegetarian go for eggs, cheese, wild garlic and spinach so you’re making the most of spring greens.”
Marvellous Mother’s Day Treats
Spring dishes are also perfect for celebrations like Mother’s Day, says Karen.
“One of my favourite spring recipes is a Simnel cake. It’s basically a fruit cake with marzipan, decorated with fresh spring flowers. It’s a Mother’s Day cake which was adopted by the Christian Church for Easter.”
Hot cross buns are equally as good for Mother’s Day and batch cooking.
“Hot cross buns are another great seasonal recipe. If you can make bread, they’re really easy. It’s just a white bread recipe enriched with egg, butter, fruit and sugar.
“People often start worrying when they start adding things, but they’re a really simple thing to bake and of course you can freeze them as well. If you have a traditional baking day, then make a couple of dozen and pop them in the freezer. You can defrost them in just under an hour,” says Karen.
Simple Spring Recipes
Even if you’re not a whizz in the kitchen, springtime cooking can be incredibly easy.
“You can’t go wrong with a one-tray roast. You just put your lamb, potatoes and vegetables in one tray. Pour on half a bottle of red wine, add a bit of garlic, sling it in the oven and you’ve got an Easter roast dinner in one tray.
“For dessert you could try a chocolate mousse, which is really easy, or a fresh, seasonal rhubarb crumble. Although fancy dishes are great, families often love the old-fashioned dishes like pies, crumbles and roast dinners at Easter.”
Tools to Make Cooking Easier
If there’s one kitchen tool Karen just couldn’t live without, it’s her combined blender and food processor.
“I absolutely love my blender and food processor. It has lots of attachments so it can whisk, beat, chop, and even peel potatoes. I can grind meat, whisk up some meringue, or knead dough. Appliances like that are great for families.
“I keep mine on my worktop as well, so it’s on show. I find if you put your appliances in a cupboard you’ll never use them.”
The combined appliance makes lengthy prepping tasks much quicker.
“At Christmas time I make grated spiced red cabbage which takes around 45 minutes to chop by hand, but in a food processor it takes just 10 minutes.”
Get Healthy with Home Cooking
Being healthy doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy good food.
“If you cook meals from scratch at home, you’re already on the healthy path. With some fresh meat and vegetables, you’ve cut out an awful lot of additives that ready meals have.
“A lot of people are talking about sugar intake these days. It’s just about keeping cakes and sweet things for treats – don’t expect to have them every day. Try and bake your own cakes to avoid that horrible palm oil and other sugars that shop-bought cakes have.”
Karen also finds the way you cook food can make meals much healthier.
“Try and oven bake or grill your food rather than frying it. I often oven bake my bacon and keep it in the fridge for sandwiches or to add to certain dishes.”
Quick and Easy Cooking
Even if you have a busy lifestyle, with so many easy recipes available, there’s really no excuse for not giving home cooking a go.
“If you’re well prepared, studies have shown that you can make dinner for a family of four when you get home from work quicker than having a takeaway meal. If everything is ready to cook you can have a meal on the table in under an hour. It’s really easy and so much quicker, tastier and healthier than takeaway food,” says Karen.