The perfect Easter menu, including roast leg of lamb

Diana Henry's Roast Leg of Lamb with Potatoes Pecorino Basil and Garlic - Haarala Hamilton

I find it more difficult to decide what to cook at Easter – especially if it comes early – than any other time of year. It’s to do with our weather: you can have sunny Easters (I remember one where we ate crab sandwiches on the quay in Blakeney, north Norfolk, wearing T-shirts) and others that are positively wintry. The food you offer has a lot of work to do – it has to create a sense of spring even when it still feels a bit of a way off. It also has to be celebratory and special, even though it can never compete with Christmas.

There are ingredients I immediately turn to: lemons (even though they’re at their best in the winter), eggs, duck, lamb, goat’s cheese, chocolate, almonds and pistachios. In America they have maple- or honey-glazed ham at Easter. That’s good if you have a lot of people to feed, but it’s hard to shift its association with Christmas.

I look to Italy – particularly Sicily – and Greece for inspiration and pile cookbooks from both countries on the kitchen table. Choosing what dishes you’re going to cook is often as enjoyable as making them. I like a special Easter bread, too, which is made with sweet enriched yeasted dough (I’m not a fan of simnel cake).

The loaves might be braided or have some dyed eggs decorating the top. You can find different versions of these breads all over Europe, but I’m particularly drawn to Eastern European ones. Food writer Olia Hercules has a beautiful glossy ammonite-shaped apple, pecan (you can use walnuts) and poppy seed sweet bread on her website that would be good for an Easter brunch, or served in the afternoon with coffee. That’s what I will be making this year.

The recipes below are among my favourites for Easter – some of which you may have enjoyed before in my Telegraph columns. Eggs, lamb and chocolate are all covered. Dig in!

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