I hope that I am safe to say spring has finally sprung. Knowing my luck next week will be full of hail storms and icy conditions but if that is the case then at least I enjoyed the sun while it lasted. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know I am a big fan of dining al fresco and there’s not a season that I haven’t attempted to make the most of cooking or eating outdoors. Picnics, barbeques and even making gravy outside when there’s not enough room on the hob; any excuse.
You will need (for two hot chocolates):
- 60g 70% dark chocolate
- 50ml rum, whisky or Cointreau
- 225ml whole milk
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- Vegetable oil
- 8 sheets of gelatine
- 2 egg whites
- 450g unrefined caster sugar
Sift the icing sugar and cornflour together. Rub a tin lightly with the vegetable oil then dust with the cornflour sugar mix.
Put the caster sugar in a pan with 200ml water and bring to the boil. Boil until it reaches 127C on a sugar thermometer.
While you wait for the sugar to boil put the gelatine sheets into 150ml water.
When the sugar syrup is ready add the gelatine with the soaking water and mix well. Grate around 1/2 tsp nutmeg into the syrup.
Whisk the egg whites in an electric mixer until stiff then continue to whisk them while you pour in the hot sugar syrup. Keep whisking until the marshmallow is stiff.
You will need (for 4 as a side):
- 350g potato, peeled and thinly sliced
- 350g swede, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 4-5 rashers smoked, streaky bacon
- Oil for frying
- 150ml double cream
- Salt and pepper
Fry the bacon in a little oil until crispy then set to one side.
Layer up the potatoes, swede, garlic, bacon, and add a little salt and pepper to each layer, finishing with a layer of potatoes and swede in an ovenproof dish.
Pour the double cream over the veg then dot the top with butter.
Place into an oven at 170C for 1 and 1/4 hours or until soft through when tested with a knife.
If you find it’s browning too quickly cover the dish with some foil before returning to the oven.
IngredientsYou will need (for 6-8 portions): 400ml mulled wine 5 sheets gelatine 100g sugar 160ml water
Few slices panettone
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
150ml double cream
Make the jelly by dissolving the sugar in the water on a low heat. Put the gelatine into some cold water. Bring the sugar syrup to a boil then remove from the heat, squeeze out the gelatine and then stir it in to the sugar syrup. Add the mulled wine and stir well. Pour into the dish you’ll be serving the trifle in then refrigerate until set.
When set, lay the slices of panettone on top of the jelly and drizzle over the orange juice. Whip the cream until firm and then smooth over the top of the panettone. Decorate however you like.
You will need (for 10-12 scones):
240g self raising flour
Pinch of salt
130ml milk plus extra for brushing
For the sloe port jelly:
100ml sloe port (any other port would be good too)
2 sheets gelatine
Make the jelly first.
Put the gelatine into some cold water to soften.
Get a small saucepan on a low heat and add the sugar and water. Once the sugar has dissolved squeeze out any excess water from the gelatine and stir the gelatine into the hot sugar syrup.
You will need (as a light lunch for 4):
250ml chicken (or turkey) stock
50g walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted
4-5 rashers smoked, streaky bacon
10 sprouts, shredded
50g dried cranberries
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying
Put the couscous into a large bowl. Bring the stock to a boil and pour over the couscous. Cover and put to one side for five minutes.
Add a little oil to a frying pan on a medium heat and add the bacon. Fry until golden brown.
While the bacon cooks add the walnuts and dried cranberries to the couscous with some salt and pepper and give it all a good mix together to fluff up the couscous.
You will need (for around 24 biscuits):
180g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g caster sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
Boiled sweets, different colours and flavours
Ribbon, string or other hanging devices
Preheat an oven to 180C and line two baking trays with grease proof paper.
Rub together the flour, cinnamon and butter until you have a breadcrumb texture. Stir through the sugar and then bring the mixture together with drops of milk until it forms a ball.
Knead the mix lightly then chill for 30 minutes.
You will need for 16 sausage rolls:
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small apple, peeled and finely chopped
80g cooked and peeled chestnuts, finely chopped
400g good quality sausages
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
Butter or oil for frying
Salt and pepper
1 pack readymade and rolled puff pastry
Milk or egg for brushing
Melt a large knob of butter in a large frying pan on a medium heat. Add the onion, apple and sage and fry for 5-6 minutes or until softened.
Add the chestnuts, salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes longer. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
You will need (for a good platter of nibbles):
500g turkey mince (not lean)
1 1/2 tbsp garam masala
125g granulated sugar
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Mix the garam masala into the turkey mince until well distributed and well mixed together. Form into mini meatballs then cover and refrigerate until needed.
Put the water and sugar into a pan and heat slowly until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries and chilli and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes or until thickened and the cranberries have burst.
Put the sauce to one side to cool.
You will need (for 12 mince pies):
225g plain flour
Zest of one orange
130g mince meat
130g marmalade (all the better if it’s a whisky marmalade)
Milk or egg for brushing
Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour until you have a breadcrumb texture.
Stir through the orange zest.
Bring the mixture together with little drops of cold water until it forms a ball. Knead quickly on a floured surface then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll the pastry out on a floured surface until just less than the thickness of a £1 coin. Cut out 12 rounds (fluted or plain) with a cutter that will fit your tin and then 12 smaller rounds for the lids. I used an 8.5cm and 6.5cm cutter.
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Use the larger rounds to line bun tins.