When our kids were little I would spend hours each Easter creating elaborate Easter egg hunts around our Wanaka cabin. The clues that led from one stash of eggs to the next were often rather obscure – 'Peter Rabbit’s favourite spot in the garden' (the lettuce patch), 'where Peter Rabbit goes to sleep' (in one of the quillions of rabbit holes on our rabbit-plagued property), 'Peter Rabbit likes it hot' (the chilli patch), 'where Mr McGregor keeps his fork' (the garden shed), 'where Mr McGregor gets his eggs' (the chicken coop) et al – but after a year or two my children were accustomed to my rather indirect sense of logic, and had got to know the garden and the names of various fruits and vegetables.
For us, Easter has always been about eggs – big and little, chocolate, painted, boiled. Like all kids, mine loved the idea of a huge chocolate Easter bunny, but that was where my mother’s indulgence prevailed – my territory was the tiny chocolate eggs, and I would scour the town to find as many different kinds as I could.
Last week I took my daughter to Melbourne, where every shape and size imaginable of gorgeous chocolate eggs and chickens and bunnies was on offer, but I simply couldn’t resist a pretty cardboard carton of Shocolate Master Chocolatiers eggs. They are so pretty that it seems a shame to eat them, but I’m sure we will!
Seeing them in their little carton I was inspired to get out the 19th century chocolate mould I picked up at a market in France more than a decade ago. Until now it has just sat on the shelf but it seemed like a good time to try it out. After giving it a thorough clean and dry I brushed the inside with almond oil and then gradually built up layers of chocolate, chilling in between to set the chocolate.
The better the chocolate the better the eggs will taste, so I used Whittaker's 72% Dark Ghana. Getting it out of the mould was a little unnerving – I decided to go for a very thick layer of chocolate in the hope that it would be less likely to crack, so 180g of chocolate and about half an hour of final chilling in the fridge later, it was ready for the test. Success!
My mother, who was a talented artist, would get us into painting blown eggs each Easter, and this morning I continued the tradition with my daughter Rose and her friends Michelle and Lucy. You need to make a small hole in each end of the egg with the sharp point of a knife or scissors and then blow in one end while holding the egg over a bowl. You have to blow quite hard to get the egg moving, but once it starts you are away and the whole lot comes out. Rinse with water and then blow that out too. Gently dry and they are ready to paint - and you can use the egg to make scrambled eggs!
For Easter Sunday breakfast, Mum would always boil our eggs with food colouring, or wrap them in onion skins tied tight around the egg with a piece of muslin or plastic wrap to create a lovely mottled effect - and the eggs are entirely edible.
Little rituals like making your own Easter eggs create a sense of engagement and build lasting family memories. It’s easy to think life’s too busy and just go out and buy it all, but putting in a little time pays big – and yummy – rewards.