The Origin of the Easter Egg Hunt
The Origin of the Easter Egg is Pre-Christian, when eggs represented new life and Spring. Christians believe the Egg represents the resurrection and the shell the empty tomb. Families would gather eggs to bring to church, to be blessed and gift to neighbours, landlords and friends.
The idea of having an Easter egg hunt originated in Germany. Stories go as far back at the 16th century, when Martin Luther organised hunts for his congregation. The men would hide the Easter eggs to be found by the women and children – it was women who discovered the empty tomb.
Queen Victoria celebrated the hunting of Easter eggs, as a child in Kensington Palace and for her many children. The idea of painting real eggs, to hide before sending the children to find them, remains a beloved tradition at Easter Time – the only difference now, is that they are made of chocolate.
Decorating of Easter Eggs for the table on Easter Sunday is a fun way of including the whole family. Though some may love the bright colours, I prefer a pastel basket of decorated eggs.
Celebrating Easter is a special holiday. It is a spiritual time, a reminder of Christ’s cruxifixction, on Good Friday, and this is when we eat Hot Cross Buns. Try this recipe by Paul Hollywood.
For the buns
- 300ml/10fl oz whole milk
- 500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour
- 75g/2½oz caster sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 7g sachet fast-action yeast
- 50g/1¾oz butter
- 1 free-range egg, beaten
- 150g/5oz sultanas
- 80g/3oz mixed peel
- 1 apple, cored and chopped
- 2 oranges, zest only
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- sunflower oil, for greasing the bowl
For the cross
- 75g/2½oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
For the glaze
- 3 tbsp apricot jam
Bring the milk to the boil and then remove from the heat and leave to cool until it reaches hand temperature.
Mix the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, butter and egg together in a bowl, then slowly add the warmed milk until it forms a soft, sticky dough.
Add the sultanas, mixed peel, chopped apple, orange zest and cinnamon, then tip out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the heal of the other hand, then folding it back on itself. Repeat for five minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise for approximately one hour, or until doubled in size.
Divide the dough into 12 even pieces, and roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured surface. Arrange the buns on a baking tray lined with parchment, leaving enough space so that the buns just touch when they rise and expand. Set aside to prove for another hour.
Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
For the cross, mix the flour with about five tablespoons of water in small bowl, adding the water one tablespoon at a time, so that you add just enough for a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses.
Bake for 20-25 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, or until golden-brown.
Gently heat the apricot jam to melt, then sieve to get rid of any chunks. While the jam is still warm, brush over the top of the warm buns and leave to cool. Gently rip the buns apart to serve, revealing temptingly soft edges.
Easter Sunday is the celebration of the Resurrection. Invite family and friends, hang the bunting, lay the table (with those beautifully decorated eggs) and put on a feast. What would you serve for Easter Sunday lunch? Old favourites? Family traditional fare? Like any great Sunday lunch, chicken or lamb will go down very well. We have a favourite Roast Leg of Lamb recipe handed down over the years but I do try and do something different with lamb when the opportunity arises. Here is another lovely recipe, for Roast leg of Lamb and Hasselback potatoes.
There are so many wonderful ideas for setting up the table for Easter Sunday lunch. Or breakfast, whichever suits. I used to love making a true theatrical experience of it, and the children loved having their talents put to use (not always matching of course) for decorating the table. Using simple flowers, boughs of blossoms, twigs and nests, even tied grasses will create the right effect. All about Spring, so bring spring into your home.
And then there is the cake. An act of love in food. Plenty of recipes, but love this one.
However large, or small your party may be over this coming Easter Weekend, make it beautiful. Even if you find yourself on your own. It may take longer to eat the cake, but more for you. When we are at our age, and things are quieter in our lives, we sometimes don’t want the fuss. Then we think of all the memories and for me I would rather still make the fuss, make the eggs and a little egg hunting on the side, regardless of my age or number in my party. It can still be a party!
Images: Good housekeeping, Garden and Home, BBCfood, redbubble, English Heritage, Country Living