Wednesday 27 April 2011

Just the thing for a picnic or street party food

With a cluster of bank holidays and wonderful weather, we don’t need an excuse to get out and party with friends and family. This painting by Harold Sharman Henson depicts a scene of what traditional street parties used to be like.
You don’t need a permit to serve food as long as you’re not selling it at your street party. But it’s important that the food is prepared in a safe and hygienic manner so see my tips for Baking and HygieneWe used to have sandwiches, scotch eggs, sausage rolls, cooked meats, home made cakes and biscuits for street parties or picnics. 
This Easter Sunday, after a lovely walk around our local parkland it was warm enough to have a picnic so I served up an Easter version of Grandma's Simnel Cake as a scrumptious treat.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Go Dutch to celebrate Easter

Easter Celebration Stick
There is a significant Dutch influence in Yorkshire cooking since Dutch engineers came across to build the dykes to drain the flood water from the fields in the Vale of York and on the banks of the Humber. My Dutch friend, Cobi, who has lived in Yorkshire for over 30 years, remembers her Grandma’s baking. She writes …

‘My Grandma was born in a small village, in the North of Holland, in a county called Friesland and lived there all her life until she died. She was married to a fisherman and they had their own fish shop. Grandma only baked on birthdays and special days like Christmas and Easter because there was very little money and baking was classed as a luxury. Grandma was always busy in the fish shop selling the fish Grandad had caught. Friesland had its own language. In Dutch the word for grandma is Oma (I'm Oma to my grandson), but the Fries word for Oma is Beppe and that is what my brother and I called her.

This is Oma’s recipe for Celebration Stick. It’s delicious!

For the marzipan (almond) filling:
125g ground almonds
125g sugar
½  egg
Finely grated rind of a lemon
Juice of a lemon (If a stronger flavour is preferred, then use more lemon zest).
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, cover and leave to stand for an hour or so.

For the decoration:
Apricot jam
Glazed cherries
Strips of orange peel

For the pastry:
Puff pastry is used in this recipe, so make your own or use readymade frozen puff pastry.
Roll out the pastry thinly, about ½ cm thick, into an oblong shape of about 35-40 cm long and 12-15 cm wide.

Roll the almond mixture (marzipan) into a long sausage shape, slightly shorter than the oblong.  Place the almond mixture on the pastry oblong and roll the pastry over the marzipan. Slightly wet the edges and stick together.  Do the same with both ends.  Place the long roll on the baking tray with the stuck side down. Brush with beaten egg and place in a hot oven, about 225C, 430F, for about 30-40 minutes or until baked.  Do not open the oven for the first 15 minutes.  Take out and allow to cool. 

When completely cold, warm 4-5 tbsps of apricot jam in a pan until very runny.  Spread the runny jam over the baked roll.  For final decoration use glazed cherries and orange peel strips. Decorate with Easter eggs or Easter chicks.
Cut into small slices
Happy Easter!

Friday 8 April 2011

Diamonds are forever Part 2

A Diamond Wedding Party Cake   
Last week was P and C’s Diamond wedding party. They invited 25 family and friends to lunch in a restaurant near their home. We ate their Diamond Celebration cake as a dessert after the speeches.

I did two tiers with the bottom tier as a fruit cake, as I showed you in the recipe in Diamonds are Forever Part 1. The second tier was a Victoria Sandwich so everyone had a choice. I followed Grandma Abson’s recipe for a traditional Victoria Sandwich with Raspberry Jam and butter cream filling. 

I covered the fruit cake with homemade marzipan/almond paste and then covered both cakes in 'ready to roll' icing.   This way of icing cakes is a real life saver as I’ve never done intricate icing unlike Grandma and her niece Ivy, who both excelled in producing amazing sugar craft flowers. I used a cake polisher to give a smooth and shiny finish to the icing.  

Kay at Flowers by Kay made a lovely Lily of the Valley decoration for the top of the cake. The shimmery green ribbon and the sparkling ‘60’ gave a final flourish to the masterpiece! I can tell you that we all had a great time celebrating their 60 years together.
The happy couple ready to cut the cake!

Friday 1 April 2011

Simnel Cake for Mothering Sunday

A jewel of a Cake for Mother’s Day
We all think of Simnel Cake decorated with almond balls, chocolate eggs and fluffy chicks for Easter but it’s also a tradition on Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day. Young men and women away from home took gifts to their mothers. Traditionally, they gave them Simnel Cake and violets. An ancient rhyme tells of the old custom of ‘going a mothering’: “When at Mid-lent thou dost wake, to thy mother beat thy cake. She will prize it for thy sake”. Simnel Cake probably owes its tradition to Latin ‘siminellus’ which signifies the finest wheat flour, so the cake would be made with the finest ingredients.  

Simnel Cake
4oz/110g butter
3oz/75g sugar
1 tbsp syrup
2oz/50g ground almonds
2 large eggs (save some of egg white)
1lb/450g mixed fruit
2oz/50g chopped peel
2oz/50g glace cherries
Grated rind of one orange or lemon
8oz/225g self raising flour
¼ tsp mixed spice
2-3 tbsp milk
1lb/450g almond paste  

Mix all of the ingredients together. Turn half the mixture into a well greased tin and on it place one third of the almond paste, rolled out slightly smaller than the cake measurement. Turn the remaining mixture onto this and bake for 2 - 2 ½ hours in a slow oven. ” (300 F, Mark 2, 150 C) “Allow to cool. Then brush the top of the cake with the apricot jam. Roll out the remaining almond paste and place on top of cake. Place under a hot grill or in a very hot oven for 1- 2 minutes to allow top to brown. Then decorate as you like with Glace Cherries.  
For an Easter Simnel Cake, shape the remaining almond paste into 11 balls and arrange them around the edge of the cake and brush with egg white then grill as before.  
Whatever the occasion, Simnel Cake is a great one to enjoy!