I’m gonna just put this out there…Easter is way better than Christmas! There! I said it! Don’t freak out on me now all you Christmas fans (I’m looking at you, Amy Cameron!) Don’t get me wrong I love me a good Christmas, but there has always been something so pleasant about Easter. It could be the fact that it has always been a huge baking fest in my family! I mean, we cook our little hearts out at Christmas too, but there is something about Easter that makes me one very happy girl.
I was talking about this very thing with my Mum the other day. We came to the conclusion that, although Christmas is always amazing, there is a bit more ‘fuss’ associated with it. It just takes one quick stroll around a local supermarket or department store on the lead up to the 25th of December to understand what I’m saying. Although you see a few chocolates here and there before Easter, the holiday just doesn’t have that added pressure associated with it. It is just that bit more relaxing for everyone.
Here are some photos from our Easter this year, with lots of desserts and one amazing lamb on a spit! My parents grew it on their farm and prepared it especially for our Easter feast.
We ate it with homemade tortillas, fried capsicums, lettuce and tomatoes that were all grown on our farm. Mum channelled her inner Greek and made a tzaziki to go with it. My family have also always come together on Good Friday and we always make a seafood dish. This year, we roasted a whole salmon and served it up with some pretty delectable sides, including the creamiest potatoes!
Of course, there were various other delicious inclusions to our lunch, including these luxurious desserts below (plus a hot cross bun bread and butter pudding that we didn't get a decent photo of!)
My most favourite thing about Easter in my family has always been the Good Friday bake off, followed by the seafood lunch or dinner. Ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper, my nanna, mum, sister and I get together to make our traditional Easter treats. Over the years this has become an amalgamation of dishes from both Italy and Australia.
From Mum’s family in Benevento we have ‘Pizza Piena’, a pie made with shortcrust pastry and then filled to the brim with many various cheeses including parmesan, ricotta, provolone and countless others. After all these years, I still get told off for taking sneaky ‘tastings’ of said cheeses before, during and after cubing them. I call it quality control, my Mum calls it annoying, my nanna says I take after her.
From Dad’s family in Grassano we have the most delicious, though slightly unusual, calzone. We make pizza dough and then fill it with sautéed spring onion greens, anchovies and sultanas. Yes, it may seem an odd combo but it is just superb. It is salty and sweet and delicious and tastes like Easter!
But our most popular Easter treat has always and will always be Nanna’s Rice and Ricotta Cake! It has a lovely, creamy texture with pops of plump sultanas scattered throughout. Rice and Ricotta cake is very popular all over Italy and every region and Nonna will vary how they make theirs. The one I am sharing today is the one we have made in our family every year before I even existed! It is very simple to make, pretty much mix everything in one bowl and then bake!
Nanna's Rice and Ricotta is delicious straight from the oven, at room temperature or even right out of the fridge! It makes a great dessert, with a dollop of cream and is absolutely delicious for breakfast with your morning coffee!
Makes one rather large cake that should last the Easter period!
The freshest ricotta you can find is best for this recipe as it really is the ‘hero’ of the dish. Try and source from a local deli or cheese shop, if there is one near you. You could even make your own, if you have some extra time on your hands and you’re feeling industrious!
250g white rice
Salt (to cook the rice with)
1kg fresh ricotta
8 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
120g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
A couple of handfuls of sultanas, to taste
A good squeeze of lemon juice
Preheat oven to 180˚C fan forced. Grease a 4.5L capacity baking dish with butter.
Cook the rice according to packet directions, adding a couple of good pinches of salt when the water comes to the boil. Drain and allow to cool.
In a very large mixing bowl, add the cooled rice and all other ingredients. Mix really well, ensuring the ricotta is broken up and evenly distributed throughout. The mixture should still be lumpy, from bits of ricotta and the sultanas.
Pour into the buttered dish and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until lovely and golden on the top.
Allow to cool slightly before cutting into lovely, rectangle slices. Enjoy it warm, at room temperature or straight from the fridge. If you feel like some extra decadence, serve with lashings of whipped cream!