Recipes: savoury stuffed crêpes and lemon shortbread
I do so hope that summer eventually brings some hot days when we can make the most of spending time with family, and go for a picnic.
Now, the ages of a picnic party dictate the food provided. For instance, popular with all ages but especially with young children, are cold sausages. Also, chicken legs or thighs – cooked with finely grated lemon rind, thyme and olive oil – which are all easy to eat.
The key thing is to avoid foods which don’t travel well – anything with mayo, or cakes iced with buttercream. So I give you a recipe for a rich lemon and vanilla flavoured shortbread – except that I cook it at a rather higher temperature than is usual for shortbread. This is very good eaten with strawberries or raspberries and it is easy to pack and transport.
Crepes make a nice alternative to rolls or sandwiches and mine can be made a day before the picnic, provided they are stored in an airtight container.
Rich lemon shortbread
6oz/170g plain flour
6oz/170g golden granulated sugar
8oz/225g butter, hard from the fridge, diced
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1 x 8oz/225g jar best quality lemon curd, if not home-made
Put the semolina, flour and hard diced butter into a food processor and add the granulated sugar. Whiz till the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the vanilla and grated lemon rind.
Butter an oblong metal baking tray measuring approximately 10in/25cm by 14in/35cm. Press the shortbread mixture firmly and evenly over the base and put the tin into the fridge for 1 hour. Then bake it in a moderate heat, 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes – the shortbread should just be shrinking in from the sides of the tin, and be turning pale biscuit colour. If it hasn’t quite turned colour, give it another 5 minutes’ cooking. Take the tin out of the oven, spread the lemon curd evenly over the surface, and put the tin back into the same temperature for 6-7 minutes’ cooking. Take the tin out of the oven and cool the shortbread in the tin. While still warm, mark it into squares or rectangles, and, when cold, lift the cut pieces of shortbread onto a serving plate. Store in an airtight tin.
Herb crêpes with spinach, garlic and prawns
For the crêpe batter
4oz/110g plain flour
2 large eggs
½ pint/285ml milk
1 teaspoon salt, about 15 grinds of black pepper
a handful of parsley, stalks removed
1 tablespoon snipped chives
Put the flour and eggs into a food processor and whiz, adding the milk in a steady trickle. Whiz in the parsley and snipped chives, salt and black pepper, then tip the contents of the processor into a jug and leave to stand for 30 minutes before making the batter into crêpes. To do this, put a tiny bit of butter, thumbnail in size, into a non-stick crêpe pan on a moderately high heat. When the butter is melted, pour in enough batter to coat the base of the pan, tipping and tilting the pan as you pour to get a thin and even layer. Cook for about half a minute before tucking your thumbs under the crêpe and flipping it over, to cook for the same time on its other side. Slip the golden and lacy crepe onto a plastic tray to cool before stacking. Continue until you have used up all the crêpe batter. Cover the stack of crêpes with clingfilm.
For the filling
1lb/450g young spinach
2 fat cloves of garlic,
2 tubs of low fat Philadelphia – each tub weighs about 7oz/200g
1 teaspoon salt, about 20 grinds of black pepper
12oz/340g shelled prawns – the very best are langoustines, but prawns of your choice and accessibility, and if they are large, snip them with scissors to small lengths about ¼ in/½ cm in size
Put the spinach into a large saucepan and pour boiling water over it to a depth of about 1in/2.5cm. Clamp the lid on the pan and cook for a couple of minutes over high heat before draining the spinach in a large sieve. When cool enough to handle without scorching your hands, squeeze the excess liquid from the wilted spinach – there will be a lot of liquid. Put the squeezed spinach into a food processor.
Put the garlic cloves in their skins into a small saucepan and cover them with cold water. Bring the water to the boil, drain it off and repeat the blanching process twice more. Then snip off the ends of each garlic clove and the flesh should pop out, into the processor with the spinach – the blanching takes away the harshness of the raw garlic.
Add the Philadelphia to the contents of the processor, and the salt and black pepper and whiz to a smooth texture. Scrape this into a bowl, and stir the snipped or chopped prawns into the bowl. Mix well.
Spread some of the spinach and prawn mixture all over each crêpe. Divide the mixture evenly between the crêpes. Roll up each, slice in the middle on the diagonal, and trim either end diagonally. Pack into a solid polythene box to transport to the picnic site.
Roasted mushroom pâté with crispy smoked bacon
Here is another filling for the crêpes. Make up a batch as for the above recipe.
1½ lb/675g mushrooms, stalks cut off just cut them level with the cap. Chop or slice the mushrooms.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 fat cloves of garlic in their skins
1 teaspoon salt
2 tubs of low fat Philadelphia
1 small handful of parsley, all stalks removed
about 15 grinds of black pepper
12 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, grilled till crisp then broken into bits
Spread a sheet of baking parchment onto a baking tray. Put the chopped or sliced mushrooms onto this, add the olive oil and, with your hands, try to smear the chopped mushrooms with the olive oil. Then spread them in an even layer, scatter the salt over all and roast in a hot oven, 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, for 20 minutes.
Take the baking tray from the oven and shuffle around the mushrooms, spreading them even before putting the tray back into the oven for a further 15 minutes’ roasting. Cool the mushrooms, then tip them into a food processor.
Meanwhile, put the garlic cloves into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to the boil, drain it off and repeat twice more. Snip the ends from each clove of garlic and the flesh should pop out with ease, into the processor. Add the Philadelphia cream cheese to the contents of the processor, and the black pepper and whiz till smooth, adding the parsley as it whizzes. Scrape the mushroom pâté into a bowl, and mix the bits of crispy bacon into the pâté.
Divide the pâté evenly between each crêpe, spreading it over the surface. Roll up the crêpes, cigar shape, and cut in half on the diagonal, trimming either end diagonally too.
TOP TIP: For picnic perfection, use an icebox to keep your food cool, bring plenty of napkins, pack a blanket to sit on and a bin bag to dispose of any rubbish
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North