Heather's Monthly Articles

British Picnics (recipes included)

August 2017

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A British picnic

Say what you will about the British summers, nobody packs a picnic quiet like a Brit.

The minute the sun shines – and it often is just for a minute – out comes the woolen checkered picnic blanket, the heavy duty plastic plates and cups (paper would just blow away) and they’re off to the races! No need for utensils, except a good sharp knife to cut into the block of cheese, or to divide up the pork pies, scotch eggs and Battenberg cake. Bite size pieces of bread can simply be torn off the crusty loaf. And don’t forget the big thermos of tea, with milk and sugar already added of course.

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William the Conqueror

For such a seemingly British tradition, it’s the French we have to thank for the words ‘picnic’ and the ‘hamper’ into which it is packed. ‘Piquenique’ dates back to 17th century France and is a combination of the verb ‘piquer’ (meaning to pick) and the word ‘nique’ (meaning a small delicacy, treat or trifle). Hampers were introduced into Britain a lot earlier. They came over from France in the 11th century with the Normandy born ruler William the Conqueror, and were used to transport appetizing delicacies for journeying nobles.

After invading England in September of 1066, within a month William had defeated England’s King Harold at the Battle of Hastings and by Christmas was crowned King. Until his death in 1087, William spent most of his reign back on the continent, which of course provided a much more suitable climate for a travelling feast. Can you blame him?

Traditional British Picnic Food Recipes As Mentioned Above

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4 large eggs
10oz pork sausage (the type that comes in the roll)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1green onion, very finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4oz plain flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
4oz breadcrumbs
vegetable oil, for deep frying

• Place the eggs, still in their shells, in a pan of cold salted water.
• Place over a high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for exactly nine minutes.
• Drain and cool the eggs under cold running water, then peel.
• Mix the sausage with the thyme, parsley and green onion in a bowl and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
• Divide the sausage mixture into four and flatten each out on a clean surface into ovals about 5in long and 3in at its widest point.
• Place the seasoned flour onto a plate, then dredge each boiled egg in the flour.
• Place each onto a sausage oval, then wrap the sausage around each egg. Make sure the coating is smooth and completely covers each egg.
• Dip each sausage-coated egg in the beaten egg, rolling to coat completely, then dip and roll into the breadcrumbs to completely cover.
• Heat the oil in a deep heavy-bottomed pan, until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns brown when dropped into it.
• Carefully place each scotch egg into the hot oil and deep-fry for 8-10 minutes, until golden and crisp and the sausage is completely cooked.
• Carefully remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
• Serve cool.

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For the pastry:
7oz lard
2fl oz milk
2fl oz water
1lb all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten, for brushing

For the pork jelly:
2lb pork bones
2 pig's trotters
2 large carrots, chopped
1 onion, peeled, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 bouquet garni (bay, thyme, parsley; tied together with string)
1/2 tbsp black peppercorns

For the pie filling:
14oz shoulder of pork, finely chopped
2oz pork belly, skin removed, minced
2oz lean bacon, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper

• For the pastry, place the lard, milk and water into a small pan and gently heat until the lard has melted.
• Sift the flour into a large bowl and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.
• Make a well in the flour and pour in the warm lard mixture. Mix well to combine, until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Knead for a few minutes, then form into a ball and set aside.
• For the pork jelly, place all of the pork jelly ingredients into a large pan and pour in enough water to just cover. Bring slowly to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for three hours over a low heat, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface, then strain the stock through a fine sieve and discard the solids.
• Pour the sieved stock into a clean pan and simmer over a medium heat until the liquid has reduced to approximately 1 pint.
• For the pie filling, place all of the pie filling ingredients into a large bowl and mix well with your hands. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
• Preheat the oven to 350F
• Line a small jelly jar with saran wrap to prevent the pastry from sticking.
• Pinch off a quarter of the pastry and set aside. On a floured work surface, roll out the remaining three-quarters of pastry into a round disc about 1¼in thick. Place the jelly jar into the middle of the pastry circle and draw the edges of the pastry up around the sides of the dolly to create the pie casing. Carefully remove the jelly jar from the pastry once your pie casing is formed.
• Roll the pork pie filling into a ball and carefully place into the bottom of the pastry case.
• Roll out the remaining piece of pastry into a circle large enough to cover the pastry case as a lid.
• Brush the top inner parts of the pastry casing with some of the beaten egg and place the pastry circle on top. Pinch the edges of the pastry to seal the pie. Brush the top of the pie with the rest of the beaten egg, then bake in the oven for 45 minutes to one hour, or until the pie is golden-brown all over.
• Remove the pie from the oven and set aside to cool. Cut two small holes in the top of the pork pie and pour in the pork jelly mixture (you may need to heat it through gently to loosen the mixture for pouring). Chill in the fridge until the jelly is set.
• To serve, cut the pie into slices and serve with chutney.

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For the cake:
6oz softened butter, plus extra for greasing
6oz superfine sugar
3 eggs
6oz all-purpose flour
3 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
red food coloring

For the covering:
6 tbsp apricot jam
1lb 2oz ready-made marzipan
2–3 tbsp powdered sugar, for rolling.

• Preheat the oven to 375F
• Grease an 8in square, loose-based cake tin with butter.
• Take a 12in x 8in strip of baking parchment paper and make a 3in fold in the center. This will create a division in the cake so that the two differently colored sponges can be cooked at the same time.
• Line the tin with the baking parchment, keeping the division in the center.
• Blend the butter, sugar, eggs, flour and vanilla until well combined.
• Transfer the batter to a bowl set on scales, remove half of the batter and put it in a different bowl.
• Add a small dab of red food coloring to one bowl and fold it into the batter until it is well blended.
• Spoon the cake batters into each side of the prepared tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
• Bake in the center of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponges have risen. Cool in the tin for five minutes, then slide a knife around the outside of each sponge and turn them out onto a wire rack. If the sponges have risen unevenly, press the surface gently until level. Leave until completely cold.
• To assemble the cake, first place one sponge on top of the other and trim off the crusty edges so they are both the same size. Cut the sponges in half lengthways to make four long rectangles.
• Warm the apricot jam in a saucepan then press through a fine sieve.
• Brush the long side of one of the sponges with jam and sandwich together with a sponge of a contrasting color. Do the same with the other two sponges.
• Sandwich the two pairs of sponges together like a checker board and brush the top and sides with jam.
• Place the marzipan on a surface dusted with powdered sugar and roll into a rectangle of about 16in x 10in; it should be large enough to wrap the cake completely, leaving the ends exposed, and be about 1/4 in thick.
• Turn the cake upside down on the marzipan and brush the underside of the sponges with jam.
• Wrap the marzipan around the cake, pressing it gently onto the surface of the sponges, and press the edges together to make a firm join.
• Turn back over with the seam underneath, trim a thin slice off each end and place on a serving plate.

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