Easter is a big deal in England. The whole country pretty much shuts down on Good Friday and Easter Monday and it’s still strange for me, after 14 years in America, to see that most people work on those days. For the non religious, Easter in England is a bit like Thanksgiving. It’s about family and food without all the stress of buying gifts.
I’m very lucky to have an adopted family in America who always include me in their Easter Sunday lunch. The same large, generous family that I spend Thanksgiving with and it’s one of the days I look forward to most in the year. I remember one Easter Lolly bought kits for us all to make Ukrainian Easter eggs (Pysanky). You use wax to create designs a bit like batik. I still have mine displayed in my bedroom as the only thing I’ve ever made that I’m not utterly ashamed of. I really recommend giving them a try and supporting Ukraine in the process – I wish we were selling the kits on Many Kitchens. A thought for next year! For now, you can find the kits here.
Though I’m not going to be doing the cooking this Easter, I wanted to suggest a recipe that is my go-to for large parties and the perfect side dish to an Easter Ham. Pair those two with a simple salad mixed with an all natural vinaigrette and you have a delicious meal which can be made completely ahead of time so you can join in the Easter egg hunt.
Potato, Pancetta and Leek Gratin
2 tablespoons of olive oil
8 oz of cubed pancetta
3 large leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
3 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced as thin as possible – ideally with a mandolin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and sauté the pancetta until golden brown – about 8 minutes.
3. With a slotted spoon, remove and drain on paper towels.
4. Add the leeks and garlic to the frying pan and sweat until soft – about 10 minutes.
5. Add the cream and simmer for 5 minutes until fully heated through.
6. Stir in the pancetta, thyme and add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Butter a large ovenproof dish – I used a 10” casserole dish.
8. Arrange a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the dish.
9. Season lightly and then spoon over some of the leek cream mixture and spread evenly.
10. Repeat with remaining potatoes and sauce until all are used – remembering to season the potatoes as you go and finishing the last layer with the sauce.
11. Press down firmly on the potatoes so that the sauce fully covers the potatoes – if it doesn’t, you can add more cream or some milk.
12. Bake until the gratin is golden on top – approximately 1 hour.
Serve with Easter Ham and a Mixed Leaf and Herb Salad (perfect when dressed with Jacqueline and Jerome’s Citron vinaigrette)