Friday, 6 April 2012

Friends for Easter Dinner

Easter is one of my favourite times of the year. Its not quite as frenetic as Christmas, the weather is improving and the evenings are bright. There's a lovely freshness to the young green leaves on the trees and you can really get out and enjoy the world around you. The other reason I love Easter so much is because it doesn't have quite the same hoo haa about  if you what I mean. Especially for Mummies!! Christmas is pressure city central whereas Easter is not quite so intense and I find that I enjoy it  without being fit for nothing but a lazy day on the couch afterwards.

As with so many others we often have family and friends for dinner on Easter Sunday and this means a little menu planning.  I'm a bit of a traditionalist  and would almost always have roast lamb but there are a number of friends and family who are not mad about lamb and so I find myself struggling with the should I cook what I want or serve what my guests like battle. What the guests like normally wins out and so roast duck is a nice alternative for Easter Sunday. Recently I did this and served it with a Kumquat & Cointreau Compote which was luscious!

Kumquat Compote:

250 g Kumquats
200ml Water
100g Sugar
Dollop Cointreau

Dissolve the sugar in water simmer until syrupy then add the kumquats and simmer for 5 minutes or so.

Add the Cointreau and simmer again until only a few tbsp of water remain.

I always roast duck slowly on a trivet having made sure the skin is dry and then rub salt in. I start it on a high heat and then lower right down to 150c and allow to cook slowly. Dont forget to save all the lovly duck fat you collect in the process - think of the confit you can do then!!

To start on this occasion was a lovely 
Chilled Tomato and Red Pepper Soup with a Crab Cocktail
This is an adaptation of a  Gordon Ramsay recipe and its dead easy and quick to prepare although it does need a couple of hours to chill.


500 grms  Ripe tomatoes
1 Large Red Pepper
1 Shallot
1 Clove Garlic
500ml Passata
200 ml Cream
Thyme and a bay leaf
Salt, Pepper & Sugar to season
Olive Oil

Saute the shallots and garlic in a small amount of olive oil gently until softened and transparent. Add the roughly chopped pepper and tomatoes and allow soften for five minutes on a low heat. Add the passata and allow to simmer for ten minute.Season and add the cream and allow to simmer very gently for two minutes. Then liquidize the soup and pass through a sieve. Allow the soup to cool and then chill two hours. adjust the seasoning.

Crab cocktail 
1  ripe avocado
400 g crabmeat
Chopped dessert apple with a squeez of lime.
200ml creme fraiche (or mayonnaise) 
A squeeze of tomato sauce
The juice of a lime.

Mash up the the avocado and mix with chopped apple and some chopped chive a spoon of creme fraiche and a squeeze of lime juice together. Then combine the remainder of the creme fraiche, lime juice and tomato sauce together. Retain a couple of tbsp of this for later. Then combine the crabmeat with rest of the dressing.

Using a ring or scone cutter place in the middle of a soup plate and put first a layer of the avocado and apple mix then a layer of the crab mis and then nap it with the retained dressing. The pour the chilled soup carefully around the side garnish with chives and serve.

Finally the piece de resistance:

Gateau Diane

This is a lovely crowd pleaser and is extremely rich - perfect for any occasion this one has an Easter twist. I got this recipe from this months Food & Wine magazine hadn't had it in years but it definitely won't be as long again.

4 large eggs whites only (room temperature)
pinch of salt
225g caster sugar
250g chocolate I use 1/3 70% 2/3 55%
100 ml boiling water
500 ml double cream
Preheat your oven to 100c. Line two large baking trays with baking parchment and use a 7" round tin to trace out four circles.
Place the egg whites in a large spotlessly clean bowl , add a pinch of salt and whisk until at soft peak stage add the caster sugar a tbsp at a time and whisk until glossy with a stiff peak. . Then put the meringue mixture onto the parchment carefully in the circles. Bake for two hours and leave in the oven until cold so that the meringue is crisp and dry.

Break up the chocolate and add the boiling water. Place over a pan of simmering water and melt stirring until smooth. Allow to cool. Pour the chocolate into a large bowl with the cream and whisk until thick. (You could add a dollop of baileys or the tipple of your choice at this stage !!). Then place a meringue circle onto a pretty serving plat and spread a layer of the chocolate cream on top, continue with the other layers finishing with the chocolate cream on top. 
Decorate as you wish but for an Easter twist I used mini chocolate eggs and strawberries. Allow to chill in the fridge for two hours. Then serve with a dusting of icing sugar on top.