Here, culinary historian Pamela Foster's traditional recipes for hot cross buns, roast lamb and rich Simnel cake

Easter is one of the major Christian festivals of the year filled with plenty of customs, folklore and food. A moveable feast, Easter occurs the First Sunday after the Full Moon following the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. Roughly sometime between late March and early April.

In the UK, Maundy Thursday is celebrated the Thursday before Easter, the day of the Last Supper. "Maundy" is French meaning to "command" or "mandate" referring to Christ's command at the Last Supper to "love one another as I have loved you." The Queen participates in the Ceremony of the Royal Maundy, dating back to Edward I where deserving senior citizens are recognized for service to their community.

Marking the end of Lent, Holy Week leads to Good Friday which commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. On Easter Sunday Christians celebrate his resurrection. Traditional foods include hot cross buns, roast lamb and rich Simnel cake.

HOT CROSS BUNS
(Makes 24 Buns)

Hot cross buns are traditionally served hot or toasted on Good Friday, the cross standing as a symbol of the Crucifixion. They are closely related to the currant bun. My Granny's Sweet Bun recipe can easily be transformed into hot cross buns by adding cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, currants, and candied peel when you first mix the ingredients.

½ portion of My Granny's Sweet Buns
2 ½ tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 cup currants (pre-soaked)
¾ cup candied fruit peel
1 egg
3 tbsp. caster sugar
Short Crust Pastry

1. Follow My Granny's Sweet Bun recipe, adding the spices, and fruit after you mix in the cream so that the ingredients are all incorporated before you let
the dough rise.

2. Turn out the risen dough onto a floured surface. Shape into two 12 inch long logs about 3 inches thick. Cut the dough into equal pieces. You should have 24. If you have more, blame my Granny, she was always making more than she needed for unexpected company.

3. Work each piece of dough into smooth, seamless balls. Place buns on two greased baking sheets leaving 2 inches between each bun. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rest for 30–45 minutes in a draft free place, or in your oven.

4. Preheat oven to 400°F.

5. Mix the egg with caster sugar to make an egg glaze. Brush buns with the egg glaze.

6. Roll out the pastry dough to five inches thick. Cut into thin strips about five inches wide. Arrange 2 pastry strips over the center of each bun to form a cross, tucking
in the ends at the bottom of the bun. You can skip this step and simply use thick icing to pipe a cross onto each bun after the buns have been baked and cooled.

7. Bake buns in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer buns to a rack to cool slightly.

8. Hot cross buns can easily be made in advance of Easter and thawed before serving. You can eat these at room temperature, heated in the oven, or toasted.

NEXT: ROAST LEG OF LAMB

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