WITH the spring come new lambs, images of Jerusalem at Passover, the ultimate sacrifice and victory. But older beasts are as good, too, by now reaching hogget and mutton. Do try them, as the flavour is definitely rewarding. If you can get mince rather than cuts, then all the better. Orthodox Easter is usually later than in the West (1 May in 2016); so this Greek shepherd’s pie brings in Mediterranean flavours for a different take — looking to the summer, perhaps, and Constantinople.
2.5kg (5lb) potatoes
1 large onion
3 sticks of celery
2 cloves garlic
50g (2 oz) anchovy fillets
450g (1lb) lamb mince
1 tablespoon flour
1 lamb stock cube
1 tablespoon tomato puré
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 large aubergine, diced
2 tablespoon pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers
2 teaspoon dried oregano
125g (4 oz) grated cheddar cheese
Set a pan of salted water on the hob. Peel and boil the potatoes until tender. While they cook, peel and dice the onion and carrots with the garlic and the celery, and fry them up in a little oil in a large flameproof pot. Chop the anchovies and throw them in, also with their oil.
Once the vegetables are soft, add the mince and fry until brown. Stir in the flour, stock cube, and tomato purée, and cook for about a minute. Now add the tomatoes (keep the can), aubergine, olives, capers, and oregano. Add as much water as fills the empty can, and everything to the boil; season and stir, and turn off the heat. Drain and mash the potatoes and spread them over the top.
Bake at 350°F/180°C/Gas 4 for one hour. Sprinkle the cheese on top for the final 20 minutes. Serve with green beans, or a simple salad.
Zabaglione is a frothy, boozy custard — this means, unfortunately, that it is not suitable for the whole family. Marsala wine is the usual ingredient, but alternatives include Madeira, or even sherry. I like to serve this in wine goblets with a few buttery finger-biscuits for dipping.
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons caster sugar
5 tablespoons Marsala wine or alternative
1 dessertspoon grated orange zest
pinch of nutmeg
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow, like straw, then add the Marsala wine (or other alcohol) and combine. Set the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and continue whisking until the custard starts to thicken and gives a frothy, mousse-like consistency. This can take up to ten minutes: it doesn’t set entirely, but deepens in colour and volume. (Don’t let the water boil dry or bubble up and heat the mixture too much or you will get scrambled eggs.)
Once it evenly coats the back of a spoon, remove from the heat and stir in the orange zest with the nutmeg. Pour into wine glasses or sundae dishes, and serve straight away with biscuits.