Welcome to March’s Observer Food Monthly

Lifestyle

I find it difficult to take Easter seriously. It can’t even decide on a date. And the feasting can lean way too far on the sugary, frivolous side – fruit cake and marzipan balls. And why would I pay for a posh Easter egg when all I really want is the one I had as a kid, made with chocolate that has barely seen a cocoa bean. My favourite bit of Easter is getting a crinkly cellophane bag of those addictive speckled eggs with crisp, pastel-coloured candy shells.

But OFM rightly takes its celebrations seriously and we have a truly fabulous collection of recipes for you. Florence Knight invites us to join in her very special Easter menu. Her day starts with the search for a yellow crepe paper parcel filled with foil eggs then she goes on to carve a magnificent honey roast ham with jersey potatoes and watercress, followed by a fluffy steamed lemon pudding with cream. Now I’d sign up for that.

We have cakes too. Seriously gorgeous, bells ’n’ whistles cakes that will leave a traditional simnel standing, including Tarunima Sinha’s panna cotta cake with passion fruit puree; a proper chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and chocolate curls from Ballymaloe and a rum-laced coconut tres leches cake from New York cook and author Fany Gerson. (I told you they were gorgeous.)

We also tell the extraordinary story of would-be food influencer Hargobind Tahilramani. We have Jay Rayner on the joys of his mailbag and get to talk to Ainsley Harriott about his Life on a Plate.

There is also a goodbye. Fifty-nine years ago this month, the very first Len Deighton Cookstrip was published in the Observer. Originally designed to keep his collection of cookbooks out of the kitchen, they soon became a much-loved part of the paper. At 92, Len has decided to put down his pencil. So thank you, Mr Deighton, your cookstrips have been a constant joy.