Easter is just around the corner and we are looking forward to yet another gloriously long weekend. For me, long weekends mean gatherings, socialising, fun, food as well as a healthy dose of r n’r – and I reckon afternoon tea combines all of these elements perfectly. I’m a huge fan of afternoon teas, and when it’s a holiday-themed afternoon tea, then that’s even better! One of the great things about hosting an Easter/Spring themed afternoon tea party is that if it’s a gloriously sunny day, you might just be able to hold your party outdoors. Inspiration for this party comes from colours and ideas associated with this time of year as well as food that is in season. Colours in soft, muted pastel shades are typical of Spring, and chicks, bunnies, Spring flowers, eggs and chocolate are what springs to mind (excuse the pun!) when we think of Easter, so these will probably play a role in your choice of food, drinks and décor. The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your Spring-themed afternoon tea party menu:
- Egg and cress
- Cucumber and cream cheese
- Chicken salad
- Chicken and pesto
- Ricotta and apricot jam
- Egg and asparagus
- Prawn cocktail
- Scotch eggs
- Mini asparagus and quail’s egg tartlets
- Mini Yorkshire puddings with lamb and mint gravy
- Pea and mint soup in shot glasses
- Bite-size lamb samosas
- Chicken tikka on bite-size naan bread with mint raita
- Spinach and ricotta/feta in filo pastry
- Cheese and spring onion scones
- Broccoli and spinach mini quiche
SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS
- Hot cross buns
- Fruit loaf
- Apricot muffins
- English muffins
- White chocolate and raspberry scones
- Rosewater and vanilla scones
CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:
- Lemon cupcakes
- Chocolate fudge cake
- Carrot cake
- Simnel Cake
- Mini rhubarb and custard tartlets
- Crème egg chocolate brownies
- Pastel coloured macaroons
- Chocolate whoopie pies
- Lavender shortbread
- Raspberry panna cotta in shot glasses
- Mini chocolate and cherry trifles
- Lemon tea
- Raspberry tea
- Vanilla latte
- Mint tea
- Elderflower cordial
- Shot glasses of thick chocolate milk
- Chocolate flavoured cocktails
Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles. And now I’m going to leave you with an awesome recipe for raspberry and white chocolate macarons. Yum!
- 130g pure icing sugar
- 110g almond meal
- 2 egg whites
- 65g caster sugar
- 4-5 drops of pink food colouring
White chocolate and raspberry ganache:
- 50ml double cream
- 100g white chocolate
- 45g raspberries, coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 140C.
- Combine icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor until finely ground.
- Triple-sift into a large bowl and set aside.
- Whisk two-thirds of the egg whites in an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks form.
- Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until fully combined and mixture is thick and glossy.
- Add food colouring.
- Stir in almond mixture in batches until fully combined and mixture slowly slides down sides of bowl when bowl is tilted.
- Add remaining egg white to loosen mixture.
- Spoon into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle.
- Pipe 3cm-diameter rounds of mixture onto heavy baking-paper-lined oven trays.
- Stand until a crust begins to form which should take around 5 hours.
- Bake macarons until firm.
- Cool completely on trays.
- Meanwhile, for white chocolate and raspberry ganache, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan.
- Remove from heat.
- Add chocolate, stand until melted, stir until smooth and glossy.
- Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable then stir until smooth.
- Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect, then spoon a teaspoon of ganache onto half the macarons. Sandwich with remaining macarons and refrigerate until set.
- Macarons will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated in an airtight container.
Jennifer Aniston has admitted that watching The Bachelor is her guilty pleasure. I watched one series back in 2012 where Courtney Robertson waltzed off into the sunset with her bachelor Ben Flajnik. I found the show to be over the top, contrived, and appeared to be scripted. It was something that people watched when they didn’t want to engage in anything too intellectually taxing… but oh my goodness it was so addictive! I hated myself for not doing something more productive with my time but once I started watching I had to continue in order to find out who Ben would choose. But I made sure that it was to be the last series I watched!
We all have our guilty pleasures in life. We all enjoy something which we feel a little bad for liking. And we shouldn’t feel bad – after all no one is ever harmed while we pursue our guilty pleasures – but we can’t help feeling a little bit naughty all the same.
It got me thinking about my own guilty pleasures – and I had a lot more than I thought. Naughty Mrs. D!
1. Romance novels
I wish I could say that I love rolling with the classics and I have a copy of War And Peace on my bedside table but that just wouldn’t be true! I’m a sucker for romance novels and it’s one of my ambitions to increase my collection of Danielle Steel and Mills and Boon novels. I’m lucky to be married to such a romantic man so there’s no shortage of romance in this household but these novels do help to reaffirm my belief in love and romance (as if I need reaffirmation!)
I’m sure I’ll get around to War And Peace one day!
I have a ridiculously sweet tooth. My parents are big sugar fans so I reckon I inherited my sweet tooth from them – and my dad in particular loves puddings. And if there’s lashings of custard, so much the better! I always stop off at M&S every Friday to ensure that I have enough yummy desserts and puddings to last until Sunday. During the cold winter months, there’s nothing I enjoy more than to curl up with something sweet. Unfortunately it means that I go back on the promise that I made to myself to be healthier.
Oh well – at least I’m sensible from Monday to Thursday!
I’ve loved magazines pretty much from the time I’ve been able to read. When I was a kid, my aunts and uncles used to spoil me with comics and kids magazines. As I was growing up, I’d sneak a peak at women’s magazines that my mum and aunts used to buy before I graduated to pop music and teen mags. At one point, I used to buy pretty much every magazine that was out there (or so it seemed!) which looking back was a ridiculous waste of money.
These days I limit myself to just two magazines a week which isn’t too bad and provides me with something to read on my way to and from work. The only problem is that our home is permanently strewn with magazines and pages that I’ve ripped out from them. So far Mr. D hasn’t complained…
I get such a buzz from buying things I really want that have been reduced to a fantastically great price. Books, clothes, shoes – you name it; if the price is low enough, I’m snapping it up! I don’t mind admitting that I’m a great bargain hunter and I try very hard not to pay full price if I can avoid it which often means waiting until it’s on sale. Whether this is a good thing or not is debateable but at least I can honestly say that say that I’ve never annoyed a retailer – or embarrassed myself – by haggling in my quest for a good bargain.
5. Reading in the bath
Reading in the bath is all very good if you live by yourself. But when you live with others, you run the risk of irritating them when you hog the bathroom while you indulge in a bubble-filled bath with a little light reading material. Whether it’s a magazine or one of those romance novels, it’s perfect ‘me’ time – especially when I throw a little chocolate into the mix!
6. Salon pampering
OK so there’s a lot of beauty treatments I pay for at professional salons which I could actually do myself at home thus saving money. But I’m often short of time (OK, a little lazy!) and I like being pampered. Grooming often feels like a chore when I have to do it myself.
And it doesn’t help that there is a salon right down the road from me…
7. Celebrity gossip
I don’t like gossip. I don’t like people who gossip. I’m careful not to gossip or repeat things that I’ve heard especially if it sounds dubious. So why is it that I’m addicted to the celebrity gossip pages of a particular national newspaper? It’s not only me but one of my closest friends as well who can’t get enough of the same gossip column, and we can often be found at work discussing in great depth what we’ve just read about Angelina, Jordan and co.
Mr. D is not impressed by any form of gossip and I have to admit I’m not too proud of myself either – but I try to convince myself that we’re not gossiping about real people!
8. Take aways/Eating Out
When I cook at home I save money, I know what’s going in my food, and it’s healthier. But there are some days when we just can’t be bothered to enter the kitchen – especially when we’re having a lazy weekend, in which case we’ll phone to get something delivered. And if we happen to be in town, we’ll stop off at one of our favourite restaurants. The food’s always delicious but I can’t pretend I don’t feel guilty afterwards.
9. The Internet
Ever since I discovered the benefits of being connected to the world wide web, it’s totally taken over my life. I do use it constructively – most of the time – but then there are times I’m just aimlessly surfing and I can spend hours wasting time looking at sites with animals wearing silly hats and people doing funny dances! I’m not sure what’s so addictive about the internet that it causes me to waste time when I actually do have things to do like sleep for example – but it’s one of those things that can’t be explained.
I may enjoy lounging around in the bath tub but I absolutely love my bed and no matter how much time I spend in my lovely comfy bed it’s never enough time. It’s where I sleep; read my magazines and romance novels; indulge in puddings; surf the net; eat my take always; shop for bargains on the internet, and of course snuggle up to my gorgeous hubby.
Pineapple is one of my favourite fruits, and it’s so versatile – it can be used in sweet and savoury dishes; makes an excellent mixer in cocktails and can be eaten both raw and cooked. This is a great dessert to serve as finale to a barbeque.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cooking: 10-15 minutes
- 1 pineapple, quartered lengthways, leaving the skin on
- 4 tsp Fairtrade caster sugar
- 1 tsp Fairtrade ground cinnamon
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Preheat a griddle pan or barbecue to medium.
- Cook the pineapple quarters for 2-3 minutes on all sides until just softened and a little charred.
- Just before removing from the heat, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon.
- To serve, cut away the fruit from the skin and cut up into slices.
- Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over.
Everyone who knows me knows that although I try to eat healthy and like fruit, I’m not really an apples and oranges kind of girl. I love anything that’s a bit out of the ordinary so I can’t get enough of exotic fruits. Dragon fruit, mango, lychees, rumbutans… you name it, I’ve tried it. Or so I thought… After being introduced to grenadillas by a friend this week, I tried them for the first time. “If you like passion fruit, you’ll love grenadillas,” said my friend confidently. And he wasn’t wrong. The grenadilla is indeed a relative of the delicious passion fruit and hails from South America. Whereas passion fruits have a tough purple skin, grenadillas – which are larger in size – have an inedible, shiny, orange-gold skin which appears hard at first but is actually surprisingly fragile. There is a very spongy pith before you get to the edible part of the fruit. As with passion fruit, the edible part consists of black seeds covered in a jelly-like pulp; the only differences being that the pulp is more of a pale champagne colour and is much sweeter in flavour – almost like honey.
HOW TO PREPARE
- Grenadilla is orange and firm when it is ripe.
- Ripe grenadilla can be refrigerated for a few days.
- Cut the fruit into two halves as you would with passion fruit.
- Scoop out the jelly-like pulp with a spoon. The skin is not to be eaten.
HOW TO EAT
- Granadilla is commonly eaten by itself but it can be cooked or juiced.
- It makes a great jelly, jam, pie filling, flan topping or cake frosting and also makes a great addition to fruit salads.
It also has great nutritional value and is said to be an excellent source of fibre and essential minerals, such as phosphorus, iron and calcium. They are usually available in the spring months so now is the time to try them. You never know – it could be your new favourite fruit!
Try this recipe for a granadilla and blood orange meringue pie – a tropical twist on the classic lemon pudding.
GRANADILLA AND BLOOD ORANGE MERINGUE PIE
1 20cm pie case
385g can of condensed milk
125ml lemon juice
I love the pairing of chocolate and rose as a flavour combination. It works really well and tastes divine. So you can imagine my delight when I came across some recipes featuring the two.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge chocolate fan – who isn’t? But I also really like the delicate flavour of rose – the sweet fragrance alone is deliciously tempting. It’s not a common flavouring in most parts of the world, being more popular in Asia and the Middle East. In the UK, it’s probably more commonly known for being used to flavour Turkish delight and rose creams. However in the Far East where my mum comes from, it’s used to flavour a whole variety of sweet things including cakes, biscuits, ice-creams, jams, jellies, milk puddings and drinks. One of my favourite drinks is a rose milkshake made with a delicious rose syrup. My mum prefers to dilute the syrup with water to make a type of rose squash.
I’m not surprised that it’s not as popular here in England as it’s a very difficult flavouring to get right: too little and you won’t be able to taste it; too much and it will taste as though your food has been laced with air freshener! It’s got to be spot on. But when you get it right it’s just like the flower itself – beautiful.
So I found three gorgeous recipes which combine both chocolate and rose together. They’d be perfect for Mother’s Day, St. Valentine’s Day, romantic meals – any occasions in which roses and chocolates are synonymous. But of course you can make them any time you want simply because they look and impressive and taste amazingly good!
CHOCOLATE WHOOPIE PIES WITH ROSE MARSHMALLOW FILLING
- 60g – 2¼ oz unsalted butter diced plus extra for greasing
- 120g – 4¼ oz golden caster sugar
- 1 medium egg
- 20g – ¾ oz cocoa
- 125g – 4½ oz plain flour
- 1 rounded tsp baking powder
- pinch sea salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1 medium organic egg white
- 75g – 3oz white caster sugar
- 1 tbsp sieved fresh orange juice
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 5 pink marshmallows halved
- pink food colouring optional
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
- Butter two baking sheets.
- In a food processor, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended, then incorporate the egg.
- Sift together the next three cookie ingredients and add to the mixture followed by the remaining cookie ingredients.
- Mix until well combined.
- Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture on to the baking sheets spaced about 7cm l 2¾ in apart to allow for spreading.
- Bake until just risen and firm without crisping at the edges – they should be soft and slightly cake-like in texture.
- Loosen them immediately with a spatula and leave to cool.
- If not assembling on the day store in an airtight container.
- Place the first four filling ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk using an electric hand-held whisk until combined.
- Set the bowl over a pan containing a little simmering water and whisk the filling at high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and moussey.
- Add the marshmallows and stir for several minutes until beginning to melt.
- Then whisk until smooth and combined, adding a little food colouring if wished to achieve your desired shade of pink.
- Remove from the heat.
- Sandwich the cookies in pairs with about a teaspoon of the filling, matching the top and bottom sizes as evenly as possible.
- Set aside for an hour for the filling to set.
CHOCOLATE AND ROSE PETAL JAM VICTORIA SPONGE
Makes 1 x 20cm (8″) cake
- 225g (8oz) diced unsalted butter
- 200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 200g (7oz) self-raising flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 25g (1oz) cocoa sifted
- 4 medium eggs
- 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) milk
FILLING & TOPPING
- about 125g (4 ½ oz) rose petal jam or good quality pink or red jam of your choice
- 350ml (12 fl oz) double cream
- pink food colouring optional
- Butter a 20cm (8in) loose-bottom cake tin at least 7cm (2 ¾ in) deep.
- Heat the oven to 190C/170 C fan oven/gas 5.
- Place all the cake ingredients in a food processor and cream together, about 3-4 minutes, until completely smooth.
- Transfer the mixture to the cake tin, smoothing the surface.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Run a knife around the cake and leave to cool in the tin, then turn out.
- For the filling, work the jam in a bowl to loosen in slightly.
- In another bowl, whisk the cream with a couple of drops of pink food colouring until just starting to form soft peaks, taking care not to let the cream turn buttery.
- Slit the cake horizontally into three layers using a bread knife.
- Spread the bottom layer with half the jam, and then half the cream. Repeat with the middle layer using up the remaining jam and cream and set the top layer of cake in place.
CHOCOLATE ROSEWATER MOUSSE
- 125g – 4½ oz dark chocolate about
- 70 per cent cocoa broken into pieces
- 2 medium organic eggs separated
- 25g – 1oz caster sugar
- 100ml – 3½ fl oz double cream
- few drops rosewater to taste
- Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water.
- Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff using an electric whisk, then sprinkle over the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking well with each addition until glossy.
- Fold the egg yolks into the whisked whites.
- Flavour the cream to taste with rosewater and fold into the chocolate in two goes.
- Now fold in a third of the egg mixture to loosen it, and then the remainder in two goes.
- Spoon or pipe the mousse decoratively into dessert dishes or glasses.
- Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
Who doesn’t like a large slice of Bakewell Tart? And if like me, you’re quite fond of apricots, then you’ll love this modern take on an old classic which uses apricot jam rather than the traditional raspberry. Easy to prepare and delicious – your family and friends will love this. If you don’t scoff the lot yourself, that is!
APRICOT BAKEWELL TART
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Cooling time: 1 hour
For the pastry
225g plain flour
110g unsalted butter
50g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
For the filling
4 heaped tbsp. apricot jam
150g unsalted butter
150g castor sugar
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
150g ground almonds
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp. Almond extract
1 tbsp. flaked almonds
Icing sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit/Gas mark 4
- To make the pastry, put flour, butter, sugar, and salt into food processor.
- Whizz until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add one egg and pulse the processor until the dough comes together.
- Flatten into a disc; cover with cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to about 3mm thick.
- Grease a 20cm, 3.5 cm deep fluted tart tin and line with pastry.
- prick the base and chill for 20 minutes.
- Line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans.
- Cook for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the beans and paper.
- Beat the remaining egg and brush over the inside of the pastry case.
- Cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Leave to cool.
- Spread the jam evenly over the base of the pastry case.
- Cream the butter and castor sugar together.
- Gradually add the eggs and egg yolk.
- Fold in the ground almonds, orange zest and almond extract.
- Spoon the mixture over the jam.
- Scatter with the flaked almonds and bake for 25-30 minutes.
- Serve with cream, ice-cream, custard or mascarpone.
Cinnamon is one of my favourite spices and as proof of that, it tends to be one of the first spices I usually run out of. It’s so versatile and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes so there really isn’t much that I don’t use it for… except maybe a full English!
And talking of full Englishes, I absolutely love cinnamon flavoured goodies for breakfast, whether it’s coffees, doughnuts, cereals, cinnamon rolls… I love them all. And one of the simplest of all is cinnamon toast which is a lot like the sugar bread my mum used to make me when I was little but with a subtly-spiced kick. And it is so easy to make so it’s perfect for people who are always running late in the morning – like me!
4 Slices white bread
2 tblspns castor sugar
1 tspn ground cinnamon
Butter for spreading
Combine sugar with ground cinnamon and mix well.
Cut crusts off bread and lightly toast.
Butter toast and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Put under grill until sugar has melted.