William Skidelsky celebrates Easter with paskha

Paskha, the Russian Easter pud, should not be eaten more than once a year

This Sunday, my family will eat paskha for pudding. This is a Russian Easter dish made from butter, sugar, cream, curd cheese and not much else. The ostensible reason we eat it only once a year is that it would be sacrilegious and untraditional to consume it at other times. However, even if such considerations were unimportant, the sheer calorific extravagance of it would undoubtedly keep consumption down. Paskha is one of those dishes, like Sussex pond pudding or virtually any dessert from The River Cafe Cook Book, that you simply would not contemplate eating often, not because it isn't delicious, but through fear of what the long-term effects on your health would be. It is one of those puds that should come with a warning: "Caution: regular use will lead to obesity, heart failure and almost certain death."

Paskha is so named because Paskha is the Russian word for Easter. My mother (who is English) was given a recipe for it some 20 years ago by a friend of my paternal grandmother (who was Russian). Over the years, other Russian friends have given her other recipes, and, by a process of revision and amalgamation, she has arrived at the recipe that in her view works best. Paskha, it seems, is something most emigre Russians of a certain age eat at Easter, as a way of commemorating their former lives. It helps, I find, to think of this as one contemplates tucking into one's second or, as is often the case, third helping.

Here is my mother's recipe for paskha, to serve up to ten people. There is one problem: to make paskha in the traditional way requires a specific type of wooden mould. Unless you have Russian family connections, your chances of being able to do so are slim. But not to worry. Instead of placing your paskha in a mould to drain, you can, my mother reckons, simply suspend it in the fridge in a cheesecloth or piece of muslin. Here goes.

Cream together 110g butter and 110g caster sugar and add the zest of one orange and one lemon. Then add: two egg yolks (retain the whites); 450g curd cheese; 60g ground cashew nuts; 100g ground almonds; 150ml sour cream; 150ml double cream; 60g almonds. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture along with three tablespoons of Armagnac. You can, if you wish, add vanilla (either a dash of essence or the scraped seeds of a pod) and raisins that have been soaked for a day in brandy to plump them up. Now either put the mixture into your mould, which you have lined with cheesecloth or muslin (a large clean J-cloth also works), or suspend it in the fridge with a plate underneath; I trust you can be creative enough to work out how to do this. Leave for 48 hours, and invert the mould/release the paskha from the cheesecloth. Serve (though this is strictly optional) with extra cream.