Spring green soup, chicken in rosé, pistachio pavlova – Sally Clarke’s Easter recipes

·12-min read

The arrival of Easter Sunday, just two weeks after the start of British summertime, can as easily coincide with wildlife emerging from hibernation as it can with the burst of spring bulbs and blossom. This makes planning an Easter menu too far in advance not easy.

As a cook, I find it difficult to favour one season over another, but the thought of asparagus, spring lamb, pink and wild garlic, the first peas and broad beans, or “champagne” rhubarb certainly whets my appetite most keenly.

At the restaurant we normally close for a few days over the Easter weekend, which allows our kitchen and dining room teams a few days of rest before the gathering of speed towards spring and summer madness. Like many of our staff and customers, I will spend time with family, cooking together and feasting.

Happy Easter to all!

Spring green soup

This soup uses the vegetable base to thicken the consistency, and therefore the texture is light and will not be too filling a start to the menu. It may be served chilled or hot; if chilled, it may need loosening with a little extra vegetable stock. If served hot, do not boil as this will spoil the vibrancy of the colour.

Serves 6
olive oil 60ml
butter 75g, or another 60ml olive oil if you prefer
bay leaves 2
rosemary a sprig
garlic 2 cloves, crushed
celeriac 250g, washed, peeled and cut into walnut-sized chunks
leek 1 large, root and discoloured tops removed, washed, roughly sliced diagonally and rinsed again
fennel 2 large outer leaves, washed, roughly chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
boiling water or vegetable stock 600ml
spinach 500g, large stalks removed, rinsed gently but thoroughly
parsley leaves a handful, washed
extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Warm the olive oil, butter, herbs and garlic over a medium heat in a large saucepan until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

Turn up the heat, add the celeriac, leek and fennel, stirring constantly to coat the vegetables in the oils. Generously season with salt and pepper, add the water or stock, then give one final stir and bring to a simmer.

Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes or until the vegetables are all soft. Add the spinach and parsley, and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes until the leaves have wilted.

Drain most of the juices from the pan into a jug, tip the vegetables into a liquidiser and blend, adding the saved juices little by little until very smooth and the consistency of double cream. You may not need all the juices. Wipe the pan clean.

Pour the soup through a medium-mesh sieve into the saucepan (or a container if making ahead), pushing through with a ladle. If you are not serving the soup right away, chill it as quickly as possible to preserve the vibrant green by sitting the container over a bowl of iced water. Once cool, it may be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days, but for optimum flavour, it is best served within a day.

To serve, heat the soup gently until piping hot, serve in warm soup bowls with a drizzle of good olive oil and the anchovy and olive wafers on the side.

Anchovy and olive wafers

If you prefer not to use anchovy, simply add extra seasoning to the mix instead, as it needs to be almost over-seasoned to balance with the puff pastry. It is important to cook the wafers until really crisp, so turning them over halfway through the cooking is an important step.

Serves 6
anchovy fillets 12 (in oil or salted), drained well
black olives 100g, pitted, drained well
sea salt and pepper
rosemary or thyme ½ tsp, finely chopped
lemon ½, finely zested
flour for dusting
puff pastry 200g, cold
parsley or watercress sprigs to garnish

If using salted anchovies, rinse them gently under a cold tap to release the excess salt. Pat dry on kitchen paper. Chop the anchovy fillets and olives together very finely. Add the chopped herb and lemon zest and mix to a paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Using a dusting of flour, roll the pastry into about 25cm square and 2-3mm thick. Spread the surface with the paste, then roll the pastry into a tight cylinder. Wrap securely with baking paper or clingfilm. Place in the fridge or freezer for at least 1 hour before cutting and baking.

Preheat the oven to 180C fan/gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

With a sharp or serrated knife cut the puff pastry cylinder into discs (about 5mm thick) and lay them cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and using a palette knife, turn each one over, then continue to bake for 1-2 minutes or until crisp throughout.

Allow to cool before arranging on a serving dish, garnished with parsley or watercress.

Braised chicken thighs with rosé wine, mushrooms, shallots

This lighter, less complicated version of the classic coq au vin is nonetheless tasty, but is simple to assemble and serve. Check the thighs are cooked through by piercing one with a small knife to the bone. If the juices run clear, the dish is ready to serve.

Serves 6
chicken thighs 12 large
sea salt and freshly ground pepperolive oil 8 tbsp
brown or button mushrooms 400g, trimmed and cut in ½
garlic 2 cloves, creamed to a paste
long shallots 12 large, peeled and trimmed, cut in ½
bay leaves 6
rosé wine 200ml
chicken stock 700ml
celery and parsley leaves a handful of each, roughly chopped

Trim the excess skin and fat from the chicken thighs and wipe with kitchen paper. Season with salt and pepper.

In a heavy-based casserole pan heat half the olive oil over a medium heat, then sear the thighs skin side down until golden and crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Turn them over and sear for a further 3-4 minutes. (Depending on the size of the pan this may be done in two batches.) Remove the thighs carefully, and keep to one side. Preheat the oven to 145C fan/gas mark 3.

Add the remaining olive oil to the casserole pan, then the mushrooms, creamed garlic and shallots, tossing together gently over a medium-high heat until pale golden at the edges. Season as before, add the bay leaves and continue to cook together until the vegetables start to soften. Add the wine and stock, bring to the boil, then turn off the heat. Arrange the thighs neatly on top of the vegetables, skin sides up and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Braise for 40-45 minutes or until the juices have reduced by half and the thighs look crisp and dark golden. Serve as soon as possible, scattered with the chopped herbs.

Purple artichokes and purple sprouting broccoli with warm herbed creme fraiche

A perfect dish for vegetarians, or if you prefer to keep it vegan, use a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon or orange juice, and generous amounts of sea salt and freshly ground pepper as the dressing. If there are any leftovers, these vegetables make a wonderful room-temperature salad, perhaps sprinkled with chopped roasted almonds or pecans.

Serves 6
purple artichokes 9-12, depending on size
purple sprouting broccoli 6-8 clusters with leaf, washed
lemon juice and finely grated zest of ½
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
vegetarian Italian hard cheese about 150g in one piece, shaved with a potato peeler into long shavings
creme fraiche 3 tbsp
chives 1 tbsp, finely chopped

Peel the stalks of the artichokes with a potato peeler and trim the bases away to equal lengths – about 3-4cm long.

Remove the large outside leaves, then with a serrated knife remove the top quarter of each. Place in a pan of cold salted water with the lemon juice. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the artichoke hearts feel tender to the tip of a skewer. Drain and allow to cool. Cut each into half or quarter depending on the size. If the artichokes are large, there may be a choke (hairy interior) – simply scoop out with a teaspoon and discard.

Trim the broccoli bunches to equal thickness of stalk so they all cook evenly. Place in a pan of boiling salted water and cook until the stalks are tender to the tip of a skewer. Drain and leave on one side.

To serve, heat a large shallow pan with a generous drizzle of olive oil and sear the artichoke pieces until they start to take on colour (about 3-4 minutes). Add the broccoli to the pan, season with salt, pepper and lemon zest, and shake the pan gently, mixing the vegetables together.

Serve immediately arranged in a warm serving dish, scattered with the cheese shavings and drizzled with the creme fraiche mixed with the chives.

Baked fennel heart with herb and garlic crumbs

I could eat fennel every day – in salads, raw as crudite, baked, roasted or grilled. This dish is intended to be a vegetable side to the braised chicken, but could easily be served as a meal in itself – simply with salad leaves, or with crumbled fresh goat’s cheese scattered over, melting as it arrives at the table.

Serves 6
fennel bulbs 3 medium, washed
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 clove, crushed to a cream
rosemary or thyme 1 tsp, finely chopped
bay leaves 3

For the crumbs
olive oil 4 tbsp
day-old bread 75-100g, chopped or broken into medium crumbs
garlic 1 clove, crushed to a cream
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp, roughly chopped

Cut the fennel in half, then each piece into equal thirds or halves depending on size. Trim off the tops so each piece is equal in length. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the fennel for 1 minute. Drain from the pan and arrange the pieces attractively in an ovenproof dish. Mix together the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and herbs, and drizzle over the fennel evenly.

For the breadcrumbs, heat the olive oil in a shallow pan and fry the crumbs until evenly golden brown, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, salt and pepper, followed by the parsley. Leave on one side.

Preheat the oven to 150C fan/gas mark 3½. Roast the fennel until tender (about 20 minutes) turning once, or shaking the dish to prevent sticking. Remove the dish from the oven, scatter the crumbs over the surface, then continue to bake for 5 more minutes, or until crisp and golden. Serve as soon as possible.

Soft parmesan polenta

One of my favourite dishes, whatever the weather or time of day it’s so comforting, either by itself or as an accompaniment to roasted or braised meats. Leftovers may be sliced and fried in olive oil until crisp on the outside and tender inside.

Serves 6
vegetable stock 500ml
milk 500ml
bay leaves 3
polenta 200g
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
butter 75g (optional)
parmesan 100g, grated

Bring the stock and milk to a gentle simmer in a pan with the bay leaves. Leave off the heat to infuse covered for 10-15 minutes. When it has infused, remove the bay leaves.

Place back over a medium heat and as it comes to a simmer, pour in the polenta slowly, whisking as it gently thickens. Once it is smooth, change to using a wooden spoon, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking. The polenta will take 10-20 minutes to cook, depending on the brand, and some will need a top up of warm stock or water to loosen the mix. It should have the consistency of porridge when it is ready.

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter (if using), three-quarters of the parmesan and taste for seasoning.

Pour into a warm serving bowl and scatter with the remaining parmesan. Cover to keep warm and serve as soon as possible.

Pistachio pavlova with spring rhubarb and blood oranges

The perfect base for any creams, any poached or fresh fruits, any season, any weather. Be sure the fruits are ripe, at their peak of flavour and cut into manageable pieces so that the serving of the meringue is swift and the least bit messy as possible!

Serves 6
egg whites 3
demerara sugar 100g
caster sugar 90g
white wine vinegar 1 tsp
vanilla extract 1/4 tsp
cornflour 2 tsp
pistachio nuts 75, chopped
blood oranges 4 large
spring rhubarb 200g
caster sugar 1 tbsp
double cream 150ml
plain Greek yoghurt 100ml
strawberries ½ a punnet (6-8) (gariguette, if available)
mint sprigs and icing sugar to serve

Preheat oven to 120C fan/gas mark 1. Line a baking sheet with a large piece of baking paper.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until stiff peaks form. Mix together tthe demerara sugar with the 90g of caster sugar. Add almost all of it to the egg whites and whisk again until smooth and glossy. Gently fold in the remaining sugar, vinegar, vanilla and cornflour, then finally the chopped pistachio nuts. Immediately pile the meringue on to the prepared tin and spread out gently to form a round flat mound of meringue 25cm across.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until crisp on the outside, but not coloured. The inside should be soft and marshmallow-y. Allow to cool.

Slice the top and bottom off each orange, then with a small sharp knife remove the peel and pith. Holding the peeled oranges over a bowl, remove the segments. Squeeze the juice from the membranes.

Cut the rhubarb into long sticks about 5-6cm long, on an angle. Place in a shallow stainless steel pan, sprinkle with the tablespoon of caster sugar and all the juice from the oranges. Cook gently over a medium heat until the rhubarb starts to soften (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from the heat and gently tip the juices into a small pan, leaving the cooked rhubarb to cool. Bring the juices to the boil and reduce by two-thirds or until syrupy. Chill before serving.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form, fold in the yoghurt. Cut the strawberries in half (including the leaf). Place the pavlova on a serving dish, spoon the cream over in soft dollops. Arrange the drained rhubarb and drained orange segments over the top decoratively and tuck the strawberry halves (if using) in and around, cut side up. Serve as soon as possible, drizzled with the cooled syrup, finished with mint sprigs and a dusting of icing sugar.

Sally Clarke is chef-owner of Clarke’s Restaurant, 124 Kensington Church Street, London W8

The Observer aims to publish recipes for seafood rated as sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide