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!
RASPBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE MACARONS INGREDIENTS:
- 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.
Mr. D. told me today that if he could live on three meals for the rest of his life, he’d choose steak, pizza and pasta. That’s it – he’d never need any other type of food for the rest of his days on earth. However when he asked me for my top three meals, it was impossible to choose (and no, I wasn’t allowed to choose desserts!) And this is coupled with a colleague asking me what I’d have for my last meal if I was on death row (we do have some strange conversations in the staff room!) and once again I couldn’t decide. I clearly have a more varied palate than Mr. D. and I couldn’t possibly live on just three dishes and neither could I have just one ‘last meal’. For me, you’d have to make it ten!
So if I could only eat ten dishes for the rest of my life, these are the ten I’d choose:
1. ROAST DINNER
A roast dinner is a family favourite. It doesn’t matter what kind of roasted meat it is – though when I was growing up it was usually chicken or lamb – but it has to be served with stuffing, gravy, and Yorkshire pudding, or if I’m in the States, biscuits. I always add either red or white wine to the pan while the meat is roasting, and I usually tend to vary the types of vegetables that accompany the dish.
Seriously, who couldn’t love a good roast dinner?
I’ve never understood people who say that they don’t like curries, usually because they insist it’s too spicy. I don’t like overly spicy food either. I don’t see the point in not being able to taste what you’re eating because you’re mouth is engulfed in flames! But that’s the beauty of curries – you can make them as mild or as spicy as you like. I’m lucky that because of my cultural background, curry was almost always on the menu when we were growing up, and not just curries from the Indian subcontinent either, but also from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Africa and the Caribbean. There are so many ways of making this very versatile dish, and I can honestly say that I enjoy them all – providing they’re not too spicy of course!
3. NASI LEMAK
Nasi Lemak is Malaysia’s national dish, and even though I believe it is traditionally served for breakfast, I could quite happy eat this dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whenever I go to a Malaysian restaurant, I don’t really need to look at the menu, as I know I’m going to choose my favourite Nasi Lemak. This classic dish contains a serving of coconut rice and various other components which can vary but typically include a curry of some kind, fried chicken, an egg, sliced cucumbers, and crispy fried anchovies and peanuts, all served up on a banana leaf.
Mr. D. is a real sweetheart. He knows how much I love salmon so whenever we go out to dinner, he’ll be checking out the menu for my favourite salmon dishes before he’s even decided what he wants!
At home, I’ll usually pan-fry or oven bake the salmon with some lemon, coriander, and maybe a little crushed chilli (if Mr. D.’s OK with that!) But I really don’t mind how it’s cooked, as I know it’ll be delicious. I’ve eaten salmon curried; in a salad; poached; with teriyaki sauce; in a red Thai curry; grilled with a mango salsa, and this weekend I’ll be trying Jamaican jerk salmon for the first time. Bring it on!
But strange as this may sound, I can’t actually stand smoked salmon at all! How bizarre!
5. FISH AND CHIPS
This one can hardly be a surprise – I’m from England after all! I didn’t like it very much when I was a child though. I suppose it was because I was a very picky eater and I found fish and chips to be way too greasy. But as I got older I grew to love it. I still don’t like fish and chips if it’s overly greasy, and furthermore the chips have to be thick and chunky; I don’t care much for mushy peas, and the fish should preferably be cod and should always be battered NEVER breaded! Oh and you can hold the ketchup: I prefer to have a squeeze of lemon with chilli and garlic sauces. Not very British, I know, but it hits the spot!
I’ve tried fish and chips in other countries, and even though they’re not bad attempts, they’re obviously no match for the fish and chips at home. However I have to say the fish and chips in Zurich were pretty good!
6. SHEPHERD’S PIE
Another British classic that I absolutely love and it takes me right back to my childhood. As fussy as I was during childhood when it came to food, I loved shepherd’s pie and I’d surprise everyone by asking for thirds! Some people – Mr. D. included – might just write off shepherd’s pie as bland slop on a plate but as far as I’m concerned, it means they’re not ‘doing it right.’ Minced lamb in a thick, brown gravy topped with mashed potatoes looks, sounds and tastes boring. Whenever anyone in our family makes it, we always try to jazz it up a bit. You can do that by adding herbs, garlic, cheese, spring greens or mashed root vegetables to the potato topping, and a tin of chopped tomatoes, a dash of Worcestshire sauce and a load of veggies taste great in the minced lamb and helps to improve the appearance.
Though try as I might, I can never get Mr.D. to have more than a couple of forkfuls.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of seafood: crab, lobster, prawns, squid, scallops, clams… I seriously can’t get enough of them. Mr. D. and I went to an American restaurant in London last year where I ordered a kind a stew that had virtually every kind of seafood in a delicious white wine sauce. Bliss!
I’ve tried seafood cooked in many different ways but I believe that the best way of cooking seafood includes a fair bit of spice and zing to bring out the flavour.
8. MINTED LAMB CHOPS
Oh my goodness – heaven on a plate! This is something else that takes me back to my childhood as this was something I’d happily guzzle without complaining. It also happens to be my little brother’s favourite dish too. However, as the minted lamb is the star of the show, I like the accompaniments to be quite simple, so it’s just boiled potatoes, savoy cabbage and lashings of gravy for me – just like Mum used to make!
9. TRICOLORE SALAD
I love this salad of mozzarella, tomatoes and avocado with a bit of basil. What’s so strange is that I was never a huge fan of cheese or avocado when I was younger but I absolutely love it now, and try to make a tricolore salad whenever I can – and it tastes divine in a wrap!
10. TROPICAL FRUIT SALAD
OK, so Mr. D. said no desserts but I had to sneak one in here! I’ve never really been an apples, oranges, grapes kind of girl. So if you’re going to serve me any kind of fruit or prepare a fruit salad, tropical’s the only way to go. I could eat mangoes, pineapples, passion fruit, papayas, jack fruit, soursop and kiwi fruit all day long. And it’s better than gorging on cakes and pies (though I adore those too!)
Forget the wheel, the motor car and even the mobile phone; for me, the greatest invention ever has got to be… hair straighteners! That’s right, hair straighteners. But then when you’ve got unruly hair that can only be tamed by a good pair of straighteners, you’d think that they were the best ever invention too.
I have been using hair straighteners since I was in my mid-twenties and I could never get over the transformation: I went from looking like a small shrub to looking like a girl from a hair commercial. Amazing! I have a fantastic pair of straighteners by Tresemme and they go everywhere with me.
Sadly, I’ve noticed that all this non-stop straightening over the years has left my hair in something of a sorry state. It’s become quite parched, frizzy, static and more unruly than usual. Using styling products is only a short-term solution to the problem. I’ve tried using home-made remedies such as conditioners made from egg and olive oil and switching to different shampoos which are suitable for my hair type. I’ve also limited the number of times I use my straighteners, use a heat-defence spray before using heated appliances, and have reduced the heat setting on it. And it has made a noticeable difference… but it’s not enough.
I now have to concede defeat and ditch my straighteners. At least for a while – a long while! I realise the problem are the straighteners and until I stop using them completely, my hair is never going to recover. My hairdresser was appalled by the condition of my hair which she said had been ‘burnt’ from over using heat appliances.
But the question is, after years of being heavily dependent on them, can I leave my house with my hair looking au natural? How will I be able to face my work colleagues with crazy hair? Can I deal with the sniggers from my students? Will Mr. D refuse to be seen in public with me? What will having shrub-like hair do for my confidence? Well, I think my confidence will be in even more tatters if I continue to wreck the condition of my hair which has always been one of my best features and if I want it to stay one of my best I have to take care of it and make sacrifices… meaning no more straighteners.
So I’m going to give my hair a lot of tlc; continue doing what I’m doing as well as having conditioning treatments at the salon, and not use my straighteners for one whole month and see if there’s any improvement. I’m hoping that some really good hairstyling products will help in making me look ‘presentable.’ But will I really be able to get through a whole month without my beloved straighteners? Watch this space…
…and wish me luck!
I was moaning to a friend about the state of my hair when she suggested I give my hair an olive oil deep conditioning treatment. “Don’t you ever do that?” she asked, ” Add some olive oil to your hair and wrap a towel around it?”
I used to. A long time ago. In fact I was fanatical about massaging warm olive oil into my hair before wrapping my hair first, in cling film and then a towel. I did this every time I was about to wash my hair. There was no treatment like it and it left my hair soft, easy to manage and very, very glossy. I loved it!
Unfortunately however, you can have too much of a good thing and after two years of deep conditioning my hair, it actually left my hair very dry and straw-like. I couldn’t understand why. It was a beautician friend of mine who explained it.
“It’s good that you deep condition your hair but you’re not supposed to do it every time you wash your hair,” she said. “you’re actually forcing your hair to work harder and that’s why it’s become so dry.”
So I stopped conditioning my hair with warm olive oil. I was disappointed as I loved my pre-bath ritual and enjoyed in a little self-pampering. However, over the years constant blow drying and straightening have once again left my hair in a sorry state. Although I always use a heat protection spray on my hair before using heated appliances and have recently had my hair cut short… it’s still not in great condition. So this weekend, following my conversation with my friend, I decided to go back to my (hair) roots and see if deep conditioning it would make any difference.
This time, I did things a little differently. I actually added an egg to the oil before massaging it into my hair. I remember hearing that eggs work as an excellent shampoo or conditioner as it clings to any dirt or impurities in your hair and also helps to strengthen it.
I left the mixture on my hair for a couple of hours, wrapped neatly in cling film and a towel (much to the amusement of Mr. D!) and waited for the conditioner to work it’s magic!
And work its magic it did! My hair was super soft and shiny. I couldn’t stop running my hands through my hair. It’s been a long time since my hair felt this good. I know it’ll take a few more treatments before my hair is in tip-top condition but I also know not to overdo it again and will be spacing out treatments accordingly. Straw-like hair is so not a good look!
Here’s my method for the olive oil and egg deep conditioning natural hair treatment. I only used one dessert spoon of oil because my hair is quite short but the amount of oil you use depends on the length and thickness of your hair.
- Put a dessert spoon of olive oil into a small bowl.
- Place the glass in a pan of just boiled water so that it will warm through. Ensure that the oil does not get too hot.
- Break an egg into the oil and whisk thoroughly (the oil should not be overly warm or the egg will scramble slightly.)
- Evenly apply the mixture to dry hair.
- Wrap head in cling film so that all you hair is covered.
- Then wrap head in towel.
- Leave for a minimum of twenty minutes.
- Wash your hair thoroughly with your favourite shampoo. Make sure you wash your hair in lukewarm water – scrambled egg is very hard to wash out of your hair!
- I finished with my favourite conditioner but this step is optional.
- Dry as you normally would.
Voila! Great looking hair. And for those of you who may suffer from an itchy scalp, I’ve been told that mashed banana is an excellent remedy.
- Olive Oil | The Ancient Beauty Trick (sparkleandwine.com)
- Psoriasis? Why not bung some olive oil and cling film on there?! G’warn, I dare ya! (ebenezermagazine.wordpress.com)