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!)
Easter’s here! Amid all the chocolate we’ll be scoffing, we’ll most definitely be sitting down to a special Easter meal of roast lamb like millions of other families up and down the country.
But this year I fancied an Easter lunch with a bit a twist. Rather than the usual minted roast lamb, I thought about serving a roast lamb with a jerk seasoning and served with roasted sweet potatoes. I remember watching Jamaican chef Virginia Burke on a food programme where she cooked a delicious looking jerk lamb; a contemporary take on the classic jerk chicken. I remember Burke saying at the time: “We have the best food in the Caribbean but nobody knows about it.”
And she’s absolutely right! I have been a big fan of Jamaican food – in fact all Caribbean – for years and I’m really surprised that it’s not more well known because I’m sure it would really take off in a big way – in quite the same way that Indian or Thai food has.
If you’ve never tried Caribbean food, you really don’t know what you’re missing. Try Virginia Burke’s recipe for jerk lamb with a yummy guava sauce. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!
JERKED LAMB WITH GUAVA SAUCE
For the jerk seasoning
•6 spring onions
•2 scotch bonnet peppers
•1 tsp ground allspice
•1 tbsp thyme, chopped
•2 tsp ground cinnamon
•1 tsp nutmeg, grated
•1 tsp brown sugar
•1.5 tsp salt
•1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
•75 ml white malt vinegar, distilled
•1 tbsp oil
For the guava dipping sauce
•1 heads garlic
•1 tsp olive oil
•175 g guava jelly, or redcurrant jelly
•2 tbsp white wine vinegar
•1 tsp hot pepper sauce, (optional, for added heat)
For the lamb
•3 tbsp jerk seasoning
•2.5 kg leg of lamb, boned
•2 cloves garlic, crushed
•1 tsp parsley, fresh, chopped
•1 tsp coriander, fresh, chopped
1. Place the ingredients for the jerk seasoning into a blender and whiz to a thick paste.
2. Rub the jerk seasoning and salt thoroughly into the lamb. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.
3. Set the oven to 180C/gas 4.
4. Rub the crushed garlic on the inside of the lamb leg. Roll up the leg and tie in three places to secure. Roast for 45 minutes for medium rare – add about 15 minutes cooking time for well-done lamb.
5. To make the dipping sauce, cut off the top of a whole head of garlic. Pour over the olive oil, wrap it in foil and roast for about 15-20 minutes, until soft.
6. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and crush them in a saucepan. Add the guava jelly and white wine vinegar. Stir until the guava jelly has dissolved, add the hot pepper sauce (if using) and bring to a simmer. Cook for five minutes.
7. Allow the lamb to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Just before serving, stir the parsley and coriander into the sauce. Slice the lamb and serve immediately with the warm sauce.
I have just tried redcurrants for the very first time. OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration as I’m sure I’ve had a tart, cake or some other dessert topped with a couple of redcurrants but this is the first time, I’ve properly tried them. I’ve wanted to try them ever since I was five years old and I saw them in my mum’s The Cookery Year cook book, as they looked delicious and ever since then I’d wondered what they taste like.
Well, now I know. Redcurrants are surprisingly tart but still quite yummy and I managed to demolish the whole punnet in one sitting. Mr. D tried some too as he’d never eaten them before. Did he like them? Well, it’s quite hard to tell with him but he did say that he found the redcurrants to be quite sharp and didn’t scoff them the same way I did, so maybe it wasn’t such a big hit with him. Oh, well – all the more for me!
Redcurrants are related to the gooseberry – which might explain the tartness – and are native to western Europe, although there are similar species in Asia and North America. They’re available from July until September which means that I’ve only just managed to try them while they’re still in season. Despite their sharp taste, redcurrants are still slightly sweet enough to be eaten raw, although you’d obvious have to sprinkle them with sugar if you’d prefer them to be sweeter. They are quite rich in vitamin C and go well with other fruits and berries.
They are a surprisingly versatile fruit and can be served in a multitude of ways. They can be sprinkled with sugar and served with cream or frosted to decorate desserts and puddings. Redcurrants are also usually used as part of the mixed berries that go into making a delicious Summer Pudding. Because of their high levels of pectin, they make great jams and jellies that taste great with toast or accompanying lamb or game. That’s right – they go quite well with savoury dishes too!
So here are two quick and easy recipes using delicious redcurrants. Make these lovely delicacies before redcurrants disappear for another year!
SPICY RED ONION AND REDCURRANT RELISH
- 4 medium red onions
- 2 small red peppers,
- 1 bsp olive oil
- 2 red chilli,
- 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 2″ piece fresh ginger, chopped
- 300ml red wine vinegar
- 200g light muscovado sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp five spice powder
- 300g redcurrants, stripped from stalks
- Peel onions and cut into thin slices.
- Cut red pepper into chunks then mix with the red onion and oil.
- Fry for 5-10 mins over a high heat until lightly charred and softened.
- Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Deseed chillis and chop.
- Grate ginger and crush garlic before mixing with the chilli.
- Lightly fry chilli mixture before adding half the vinegar.
- Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 mins.
- Add the onion mixture plus the remaining vinegar, all the sugar, spice and 1 tsp salt.
- Bring to the boil then bubble away for about 5 mins until thickened.
- Add redcurrants and simmer for about 5 mins more, or until they have burst, but still have some shape and the liquid is syrupy.
- Remove and pour into a large heatproof jar. Cover and seal while hot. Keeps in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Taste great with sausages, cold meats and goat’s cheese.
ZESTY BERRY COMPOTE
100ml berry juice- any kind
2 tblspn. Crème de cassis
Zest of 1 lemon
1kg fresh/ frozen summer fruits (blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants)
10 stems fresh redcurrants
1. Empty the jars of conserve into a large pan. Add the cassis and 200ml water. Heat until warm, then add the frozen fruits and heat for a few minutes until the berries are no longer frozen. Cool and chill.
2. Serve in glasses decorated with fresh redcurrants.
3. Also delicious served with cream, ice-cream or custard.