Hot cross buns, egg hunts and bunny aside, like most Australian family occasions Easter often centres around one thing – the dining table.
Though our local produce hasn’t escaped recent weather events entirely there is plenty of gorgeous and seasonal produce available, according to Belconnen Fresh Food Markets vendors.
On the seafood front, Sea Harvest owner Spyro Konidaris says what we all want to hear from our local fishmonger – “it will all depend on what the fishermen have caught on market day”.
South Coast snapper and blue-eyed cod and barramundi from Queensland are always popular, though, and South Coast lobsters make more than adequate heroes for the table.
Recent rains have tightened Spyro’s Coffs Harbour king prawns supplies, so if it has to be king, his advice is to get in early.
“Fortunately, we have a really good supply of Queensland tiger prawns,” he says. “They’re a slightly less salty prawn and they’re very good.”
Rain has also affected some South Coast rock oyster farms, but Spyro says there’s an abundance of Pacific oysters from Tasmania to make up the shortfall.
“Rock tend to be a bit creamier and the Pacific tend to be saltier but they’re a nice tasting oyster,” he says.
He added that his customers sometimes use his salmon caviar to elevate oysters and his urchin roe – which can be enjoyed as is – is “a bit of a delicacy”.
If seafood isn’t your thing, Market Meats owner Bede Wright says tasty, tender, fall-apart lamb, pork roasts and smoked hams tend to play centrepiece at his customers’ Easter lunch spreads.
Trussed, dressed and ready to bung in the oven, as far as hero dishes for the carnivorous go, these are a rare combination of low-effort and impressive.
Sometimes relegated to side dishes but no less deserving of the spotlight, Pasticceria Amelia offers fresh, delectable, handmade pasta for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
“Coming into the cooler weather, it’s a chance to explore some of the beautiful proteins available at the moment such as boar or rabbit with our pasta,” owner Ben McDonald says.
“Vegetable-wise, we’re coming into chestnut and mushroom season.”
Ben says customers adore their hand-cut, free-range egg pappardelle and their potato gnocchi “flies out the door”. Their trays of ready-for-the-oven traditional lasagne and Tiramisus are popular, but one dessert takes the cake for Easter lunches.
“Orders for our baked ricotta cheesecakes fill up fast. To have them for the Easter long weekend, customers will need to order by Thursday (14 April),” Ben says.
As the seasons change, vegetarians need not miss out according to Tom’s Superfruits owner Mic Frugtneit. He is expecting to sell a lot of root vegetables, which come into their own in autumn.
“Mostly for their Easter cook ups people are loving all those lovely roasting veggies –parsnips, pumpkin, beetroot and potatoes,” he explains.
Summer fruits are on their way out and winter fruits are still meandering in, but among all the “new season” fruits, the humble Imperial mandarin is back in full swing.
No Easter feast would be complete without something a little special in the beverage offering – and chocolate beer is emerging as the eggnog of Easter.
“We have probably about 30 different chocolate beers going at the moment, from all different parts of the world,” says Plonk manager Louis Young.
He can’t go past the Bridge Road Brewers triple choc ale among those he has personally vetted. Described as “an Easter egg in beer clothing”, it promises to be “smooth, lush and with the uncanny ability to make every mouthful feel like a holiday”.
“A lot of them [the chocolate beers] are like having a dessert essentially, a perfect way to finish off a meal.”
These brews are an adult alternative to indulging in a straight-up Easter chocolate binge; although Louis insists the two are not mutually exclusive.
“You can legitimately use an Easter egg as a cup for the beer – especially if you’re into your chocolatey desserts,” he says.
Another Belco Markets vendor offering a chocolate alternative is Leisha Sutton. As the owner of Belconnen’s only independent book store, Book Passion, her suggestion might be unsurprising – but hear her out.
“Books are better,” she insists. “They last longer, they’re healthier for mind and body and they can open up a child’s imagination in ways the Easter Bunny never could.”
Among the many Easter-specific books on offer she has Where’s the Easter Bunny. “It’s the Where’s Wally of Easter books,” she explains.
“But one of my favourite series at the moment is Julianne Gogh and Tim Fields and it’s called Rabbit and Bear. It’s an unlikely friendship and is a sort of first reader, so good for the littlies.”
It just shows that some Easter purchases feed the body and others feed the imagination.
The Belconnen Fresh Food Markets have everything you need for your Easter table. They are open Wednesdays to Sundays from 8 am to 6 pm. Select vendors will be available on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, check their website to stay up to date.