A veritable Jubilee picnic feast

On the last day of the Jubilee weekend my friends and I thought it would be a good idea to have a patriotic picnic, but as we were all quite busy and the weather was not looking too promising we decided to have an indoor picnic…

So apologies for an epically long post, but as you will see I had quite a busy baking afternoon! Bacon, Mushroom and Leek quiche, toasted sesame and pumpkin seed salad and then for pudding; flapjacks, Chocolate fudge cake and mini lemon meringue pies.

This was an afternoon of solid baking and cooking. Two sets of pastry to be made, but as you may gather I enjoy fiddly cooking, and hope that no one will be put off by it. A tiny bit of concentration and some patience produces amazing results!

Started off by making the Flapjacks they could rest afterwards; I believe the key to good (by good read sweet and squishy) flapjacks is golden syrup and lots of it! I start off by melting 150g unsalted butter, 3 tbsp golden syrup and 2 tbsp dark brown sugar (the darker the yummier – I use muscovado as it tastes like treacle) in a saucepan on a low heat. Once this is all melted making sure it doesn’t boil (it may turn to caramel if it does) take it off the heat and pour and mix in rolled oats, as many as it takes to soak up all the syrup. Line a baking tray and spread the mixture over, and bake at 180°C for 20mins or until golden. Cut them into squares straight away and allow to cool – they will/do crumble if you try and move them too early!

The Lemon Meringue Pies (LMPs) are fairly tricky to make, but oh so worth it with melt in the mouth pastry, tangy lemon curd and crisp meringue shells…

Pastry is excellent/easy if you follow a few simple rules:

  1. Use fridge cold butter and iced (or at least cold) water
  2. Handle the pastry as little as possible
  3. When it says rest for 30mins in the fridge – do so

Different sorts of fat make different sorts of pastry, lard/butter mixes, butter/egg yolk mixes, stork/Trex and good old fashioned all butter pastry.

For the LMPs I went for a sweet shortcrust, combining 175g plain flour, 100g cold butter, 1tbsp icing sugar and an egg yolk (keeping the white for meringue later) in a food processor until it forms crumbs, bring these together into a dough, wrap in Clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least 30mins.

Meanwhile make the lemon curd filling by heating 100g golden caster sugar and the zest and juice of 3 lemons until it forms a nice syrup. Take off the heat and melt in 85g of butter, return to a low heat and whisk in 3 egg yolks and 1 egg and do not stop whisking otherwise the eggs will cook too quickly. Take off the heat when the mixture plops of the whisk/spoon.

Roll out pastry to nearly 1cm thick (on a floured surface), the pastry may crack but be patient and roll slowly. Cut into rounds and place in a buttered tart tray. Return to fridge while you make the meringue.

Meringue is pretty easy to make, and once mastered you will always have a failsafe pudding! Always use a large bowl and an electric whisk if you have one (I have done it without before, but no one likes to wake up with an achey arm!). Whisk the 4 egg whites you should have left over from the pastry and lemon curd until soft peaks, add 100g of golden caster sugar (you can use white sugar, but the darker the sugar the prettier I think the meringues looks). Carry on whisking until it has formed stiff peaks, and add another 100g sugar and 2tsp cornflour and whisk till stiff and shiny.

Take your pastry cases out of the fridge, fill with a teaspoon of lemon curd and either a dollop of meringue on top, or as I did, pipe swirls of meringue. Cook for 15-20 mins (until golden) at 180°C. I made a pavlova case with the left over meringue, simply dollop onto baking parchment and bake.

For the Chocolate Cake I decided to go for something quite simple, no layers and less faff:

Cream 175g butter, 350g caster sugar and 1 tsp  vanilla extract (Nielsen-Massey Vanilla)

Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time, 175ml milk and 3 tbsp double cream – it will look like it has curdled but will be fine!  Sift in 75g cocoa powder (the better the cocoa powder the more chocolaty it will be – I use Green and Blacks) 100g plain flour and 150g self-raising flour. Mix together well and pour into a greased and lined cake tin and cook at 180°C for 1 hour. Allow to cool for a while before you turn it onto a cooling rack. While this is cooling you can make the ganache icing.

For the Ganache Chocolate icing heat 200ml double cream until boiling point, without letting it boil, take off heat and stir in 200g dark chocolate until all melted. Allow to cool for 10mins or so and pour over your cooled cake.

On to savoury (at last!) I whipped up a quick salad, toasted some sesame and pumpkin seeds and scattered them on top and left everyone to do their own dressings.

Quiche is another relatively quick meal, but does involve making pastry… this time around, after an afternoon of cooking I decided to go for a straight forward all butter shortcrust pastry. In a food processor crumb 175g plain flour and 75g butter, turn into a bowl and add as much iced water as it takes to bring it together into a dough (normally 1-2 tbsp iced water), wrap in Clingfilm and leave it to rest in the fridge while you make the quiche filling.

You can put pretty much anything in a quiche, leek and bacon, cheese and ham, broccoili and cheese… I just used the odds and ends in the fridge and made a Leek, bacon and mushroom quiche. Simply roughly chop everything up and brown in a heavy bottomed pan – I use a cast iron casserole dish (I really love my Le Creuset, but I have another from Tesco which does the job just fine). In a measuring jug gently whisk 200ml double cream, 2 eggs and some salt and pepper.

Roll out your pastry to line your quiche dish, fill with the gently fried meat/veg and pour over the cream and egg mix. Cook at 180°C for 20-30mins (once again – until golden).

This is a pretty lengthy post, but it was a pretty lengthy afternoon!!

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