Bonnie May has some ‘eggcellent’ ideas for a cracking time, including some new thoughts on the traditional family meal
Well, our first proper break since Christmas is upon us. The evenings are getting lighter, spring is well and truly in the air and at last most of us have managed to shrug off the winter blues.
Whilst we all (well most of us!) love to put aside times like Easter to spend with the family and celebrate together at home to recreate the Easter Egg trail round that garden, (which over the years has left almost every stone turned), I have been looking at what fun foodie things we can all do ‘out and about’ now that the sun has decided to raise her head a bit more. With four days to entertain ourselves (apologies to those who are still working) maybe, if scheduled well, you might be able to couple the traditional family meal with a little adventure a bit further away from your front door. And as far as the Easter Bunny and the ’been there, seen and done it’ chocolate egg is concerned, I have a few ideas on that as well.
Easter, like many of our celebratory dates in the calendar, seems to be an excuse for the shelves to be full of confectionery confusion at an ‘off the clock’ price. I am the first to admit over the years I have been the person on 2 December (after being reminded by my daughter) that our household is Advent calendar-less, and then bought the most extravagant one I can find as compensation!
And then Easter, to prove that I have got my act together, has me in the queue to buy the biggest egg imaginable, which then ends up in the ‘naughty nibble drawer’ six weeks later. I have finally decided to invest a little more time in the hunt for the tooth fairy’s greatest foe – and to share these great finds.
So, if you want to impress and not to follow the crowd, have a look at these fab treats that calm the sweet-tooth cravings, show you have really thought about sharing the chocolate love, and delivered the Easter package wrapped up in style.
These guys are cram-packed with yummy scrumptiousness: www. chocnutbliss.com, if you like the idea of someone doing all the hard work for you, I know it’s not egg-shaped but it sure does look fancy. And www.happyboxlondon. com are absolutely amazing. If you are feeling creative yourself why not choose to fill beautiful egg shells with personalised gifts of your choice, cinema tickets, lottery tickets, vouchers for a meal out or maybe that spa facial that would score you the brownie points?
See www.notonthehighstreet.com/easter/easter-treats for personalised Easter gifts. Here’s one for all you savoury cravers out there. I feel I should patent this as I can’t see it used on the web, but how about a ‘cheese-ter egg’, there is definitely a gap in the market here! And finally, not just for Easter, and they come through the post at top speed, personalised M&M’s, see www.mymms.co.uk.
The Family Feast
A meal at home to get everyone feeling the love is next on the agenda. I know the traditional Sunday roast is always a winner, but who doesn’t love a pie? Be it individual ones, or a big ‘made for eight’ one that will have the family choir oohing and aahing – particularly with the pastry twiddles in the top spelling out your name.
I know pastry making puts the fear of god in some of us, so if that’s what has put you off creating this shell to home meat, vegetables and sauce of deliciousness, then buy it. Shop bought short-crust is not cheating, it is good time management (a very good rule to remember!). And if pastry is something you can rustle up, then that’s just great, too. A good 10 inch round, loose-bottomed, non-stick pie dish is what you need, grease it, then coat in flour, tip off the excess and this will give you the trick you need to be able to flip this beauty out without worrying that it might not all be in one piece. Blind bake it and pack with your filling of choice, mine is smoked ham and turkey, then top and decorate!
Here is my recipe…
Smoked Turkey & Ham Pie
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
1 chicken or veg stock cube 150g smoked ham
500g cooked turkey 500g shortcrust pastry 1tbsp milk
Salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6
For the sauce
1 Melt the butter in a saucepan, finely chop the onions and cook until soft or golden brown.
2 Add the flour and cook for a further minute before adding the stock a little at a time, stirring well – bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute.
3 Add the ham and turkey and season with salt and pepper.
4 Roll out 2/3rds of the pastry and use it to line your pie dish – spoon in the filling and roll out the remaining pastry to cover the pie.
5 Make a hole in the centre and pinch the sides to form a good seal – use the milk to brush the pie.
6 Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes and there you have it!
To go with your pie (which you can make in advance) I love mash, well, I Iove good mash – and I have been referred to as being a bit of a potato and mash snob (not that I see a problem in that at all!) For mash you need a potato that is light and fluffy and with a depth of flavour, Desiree and King Edwards are best for this. When they are cooked make sure they are drained really well, you can even let them steam for a while. Mash them really quickly with butter, cream and salt and pepper and serve straight away. There is a potato for every occasion, some are good roasters, other great for potato salad. Have a look at www. lovepotatoes.co.uk, these guys can point you in the right spud direction!
So, you have the pie and now the mash, we need to brighten this all up with a bit of colour. Braised red cabbage, roasted root veg and wheel out the peas. Yes, they are usually a ‘mid-week, run out of time, feed the kids quick’ kind of veg but they are little jewels of perfectness with pie and mash! Sometimes you just need to roll with the punches and try not to be too clever.
So with a main course like this do you need a starter? I think not, but if you are wanting to set the scene with a glass of Easter cheer and a nibble before seating the crowd, little sticks of a cherry tomato, a mozzarella pearl and a basil leaf will not take up too much room for the feast that follows.
And to finish…
Pudding? Oh my! Still on the theme of pies, is a banoffee one taking this too far in the calorie count?
350g digestive biscuits
2 tins condensed milk
1 pot of double cream (248ml) 3 sliced bananas
Chocolate (for grating)
To make the toffee sauce
Remove the label of the condensed milk and immerse it in boiling water. Boil the tin for 2-3 hours. The longer you leave it, the darker and thicker the toffee will be (MAKE SURE it is fully immersed in the water, otherwise you’ll be cleaning the ceiling)!
For the base
Crush the biscuits and mix with melted butter. Press the biscuits onto the pan and chill.
Mix the toffee and banana slices and pour onto the biscuit base Grate some chocolate on top and cool in the fridge for 30 minutes
And then where to go to burn off all those calories before the food induced coma sinks in! There are some lovely treasure hunts and family days out all revolving around chocolate and eggs that will be sure to wear the little ones out, and let the grown-ups soak up a little pre-summer (albeit chilly) sun and stretch the legs. It’s always really easy to ‘pass’ on venturing outdoors but once you have the right attire it’s great to embrace the spring breeze. Many of the Easter weekend activities will need to be booked, so don’t leave it till the last minute as you may be disappointed – here are a couple that I have found, not all on the doorstep but maybe this might be the chance to make a whole day of it, or even meet friends that live a little too far to hook up for lunch.
You’ll find plenty of choices in this issue.
Polish your party tricks
It is not only Easter, with a couple of extra days off to think about getting out and about, there are loads of amazing delicious dates in the calendar throughout the year that you might like to have a look at. Again some right on the doorstep and a few a little further afield but, if like me, you love the idea of learning a new kitchen trick then look no further. A weekend break usually revolves around exploring a new town or city, or visiting friends but why not try for a change learning a few culinary skills that could expand the repertoire on the menu at home? This list below is just a snapshot of the hundreds of culinary
‘time-out’ adventures – there is everything from baking, butchering, dinner party diva classes, grow your own veg courses… and the one I am about to send my daughter on at The Orchards – how to cook to be a chalet girl!
Make your voice heard
We all have an opinion of what is good, what could be better, what we want to shout to the world about, and what we want to keep to ourselves. We are all experts in our own armchairs as to who is on trend and who is most certainly not. Finally, right here on our doorstep you can cast your vote. Yes, you too can be part of the culinary panel and show the world how you now major in all things foodie! Have a look at the www.bucksfoodanddrinkawards. co.uk – there are loads of great categories all giving our local food and drink companies the chance to strut their stuff! Stop telling everyone else what you think, tell it to these guys and make your thoughts count!