Monday, 9 April 2007

Easter Holiday (Phew!)

Well, we've really enjoyed the Easter holiday weekend. I love having family or friends to visit at any time, but especially when we can enjoy some really great festive food together. On Thursday we had a fairly ordinary family meal; our great favourite, Savoury Mince Crumble. On Thursday evening, before we all went to bed, I made some hot cross bun dough (for the first time ever) and left it to prove overnight.

On Good Friday, I finished off the hot cross buns and we ate them for breakfast, still warm from the oven, with butter and a little cheese. They were so good that I was convinced to make a second batch of dough that evening for Saturday's breakfast.

The weather was not as good as had been forecast, and very misty, so we decided to spend part of the day shopping in Aberystwyth and went for lunch at 'Le Figaro', a restaurant which Hubby and I used to go to quite often when we were first married.

For supper that evening I cooked a Fish Pie, with smoked and unsmoked coley, sweetcorn, wilted spinach and wedges of hard-boiled eggs, all coated in bechamel sauce and topped with mashed potato. I served it with some broccoli. James had a small portion, whizzed in the blender and seemed to absolutely love it; opening his mouth, kicking his little legs and shouting for more.
On Easter Saturday, the weather was glorious, so I took my parents and the children to one of our favourite spots for a picnic of rolls, salad, cold meats, eggs, fruit and some homemade bara brith.

We had a fairly simple supper on Saturday night, a casserole of chicken thighs, with sausages and butter beans. I cooked it last week and put it in the freezer so that I could simply defrost and then reheat it , topped with a thick layer of breadcrumbs. A few vegetables were the only accompaniment necessary and then we had Jane's Grapes for pudding, which I had prepared the night before

Jane's Grapes

Small Seedless White Grapes
Whipped Double Cream
Granulated Sugar

Fold the grapes into enough whipped cream to just coat them. Pack into a serving bowl (about two-thirds full) and smooth the surface as much as you can. Cover the top with a thick layer of granulated sugar and chill overnight (don't cover the dish). Just try it...

For breakfast on Easter Sunday, we all had boiled eggs, even Hubby, who didn't have to go to work (hooray!). Christopher and I had made Easter baskets for everyone, which I filled with a selection of small chocolate eggs. We all exchanged eggs and some other gifts, and later spent some time in the garden, before having a lunch of Leek and Potato Soup, homemade Granary Rolls and some cheese (including Drewi Sant, Perl Las, and some Gorwydd Caerphilly).

Leek and Potato Soup

large lump of butter
5 sliced leeks
2 large potatoes, peeled and roughly cut up
1 litre vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
500ml whole milk

Melt butter in a large pan, turn the prepared leeks and potatoes in the butter until well coated. Pour in the stock, add the bay leaves and bring to the boil. Simmer (with the lid partly on) for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are well cooked. Remove the bay leaves and purée. I use my hand-held stick blender, but use what you like. Stir in the milk and heat through. I topped it with a swirl of cream and some chopped fresh parsley.

This soup freezes very well, but you may need to purée it again when you reheat it after defrosting; sometimes it can get a little lumpy with freezing.

The Easter Sunday dinner was the highlight of the weekend for me. We spent some time in Aberaeron that afternoon, so before we left, I prepared the (2kg) leg of lamb by stabbing it and stuffing the slits with garlic and fresh rosemary. I rested the joint on a couple more large sprigs of rosemary in my Silverwood roasting tin and poured over a glass of red wine.

When we got home, when I put it in the oven and gave it a couple of hours at 200°c, adding about 200ml of water to the tin after an hour. While the meat was resting, for 10 minutes or so, I tipped all the juices from the tin into a small pan and added a teaspoon of redcurrant jelly, Simmered for a few minutes, with the meat juices from the carving dish added just before serving.

I served Hasselback potatoes and plenty of vegetables with the lamb and gravy, then we followed it with a lemon cheesecake. This recipe works really well and everyone always likes it. My brother, in particular, is very partial to it and in the past has phoned me from the supermarket to ask what ingredients he needs to make it.

Really Easy Lemon Cheesecake 
200g digestive biscuits, crushed
60g butter
405g tin condensed milk
200g cream cheese
142ml carton double cream
zest and juice of 3 unwaxed lemons
Melt the butter and mix in the biscuit crumbs. Press into the base of a 20cm springform cake tin to form a crust and chill (not you, the tin) while you make the filling. Whisk the condensed milk and cream cheese together until smooth. Mix in the cream and then add the lemon zest and juice. Stir well, but quickly as it will start to thicken immediately. Pour the filling over the base and cover the tin. Leave it in the fridge overnight. Leftovers will keep for a couple of days, unless Graeme's around.

There was enough lamb and gravy left over to make a superlative Shepherd's Pie for our supper tonight, after my parents had embarked on the long drive home.

Shepherd's Pie

1-2 tbsp leftover lamb dripping
1 onion, chopped finely
leftover gravy
300g leftover roast lamb, minced
6 medium potatoes, peeled and halved
butter and milk, to make mash

Cook the potatoes (I prefer to steam them). Meanwhile, melt the dripping in a deep frying pan and gently fry the onion until cooked, but not coloured. Add the gravy, and a splash of water if needed, and bubble for a moment. Tip in the minced meat and mix well, then turn into an ovenproof dish. Mash the cooked potatoes, with butter and milk as you like. Use the mash to top the pie. Rough up the surface a little with a fork and then bake at 180°c for 30 minutes until browned and bubbling hot. Serve with peas.

James had a spoonful of pie whizzed in the mini-blender with a few peas and wolfed it down. It hardly touched the sides. He's turning into a right little greedy guts, that one, can't think where he gets it from...

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