Saint George’s Day Roast Beef

To early Christians, the legendary slaying of a dragon by Saint George symbolised Christ’s triumph over evil. But it was not until the mid 14th century that Saint George was made patron saint of England, reputedly by Edward III when he founded the Order of the Garter in St George’s name.

Roast beefPreparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: approximately 2 hours
Serves 6

Fore-rib of beef, approximately 2kg (4lb 8oz)
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Yorkshire pudding:
Plain flour 110g (4oz)
Egg 1 large
Milk, full cream 300ml (1/2 pint)

For the hot horseradish sauce:
Butter 15g (1/2oz)
Plain flour 15g (1/2 oz)
Milk, full cream 300ml (1/2pint)
Hot horseradish, freshly grated (2-3 tsp)
Soured cream 3 tbsp

1 Preheat the oven to240degC/475deg.F/Gas 9. Wipe the beef well with kitchen paper, and then smear it all over with the olive oil. Sprinkle the fat liberally with salt.

2 Place the beef in a roasting tin, standing it upright, and cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and continue cooking for 1 hour, basting frequently – this cooks the beef to medium-rare. For meat that is more well done, continue cooking until done to your liking – testing every 10-15 minutes.

3 While the beef is cooking, prepare the batter for the Yorkshire pudding. Sift the flour and a good pinch of salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Break the egg into the centre of the flour, and then gradually start to whisk it into the flour –preferably with a hand-held electric whisk. As the mixture starts to thicken, gradually add the milk – whisking well until all the milk is incorporated and the batter is smooth. Cover and leave to stand.

4 Meanwhile, make the horseradish sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, stir in the flour, add the milk and bring to the boil – stirring continuously until the sauce thickens. Stir in the grated horseradish, season well with salt and stir in the cream. Cover the surface of the sauce closely with cling film, cover the pan with a lid and keep warm.

5 When the beef is done to your liking, carefully remove it from the roasting tin onto a serving plate. Loosely cover with foil and leave to stand until ready to carve. Increase the oven temperature to 220degC/425degF/Gas 7.

6 Skim 3 tablespoons of the fat from the roasting tin into a 19cm (71/2in) round, ovenproof glass or metal pie plate, and heat in the oven until sizzling hot. Stir the batter, carefully pour it into the pie plate and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the pudding is very well risen, golden brown, and crispy.

7 To make the gravy, skim all but approximately 2 – 3 tablespoons of the fat from the roasting tin into a small bowl and use for roasting potatoes. Stir flour into the fat remaining in the tin, and add the beef stock.

8 Place the roasting tin over a moderate heat and bring to the boil stirring continuously, and scraping the browned residue from the bottom of the tin. Simmer for 5 minutes, season well with salt and pepper and then strain into a warmed gravy boat.

8 While the gravy is simmering, reheat the horseradish sauce and pour it into a serving jug or bowl.

Recipe taken from Around Britain Dairy Cookbook.

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Foodie chuckles

There has been many a food-related chuckle this week. I am loving Jamie Oliver’s adverts for his new Channel Four TV show, Jamie Does, they are gloriously Fast Showesque.

Let’s hope the actual program is as amusing and tempts us with some delicious regional delicacies from around the world – I’m afraid his American Road Trip, though entertaining, did little to inspire the cook in me.

I also read this little anecdote in my Graze box this week. To propose to a woman in ancient Greece, a young man would simply have to throw her an apple. If she caught it, he knew she had accepted his offer.

Well thank goodness I wasn’t born in ancient Grecian times! I would have remained a life-long spinster, such are my catching skills. I must admit, I am much more impressed by a proposal on a gondola in Venice – just call me fussy!

This week, our Year Round Dairy Cookbook has been reduced to less than half price. It’s a staggering £2.99 for gorgeous seasonal inspiration. Here’s my favourite recipe from the spring section, Lemon Chicken with Potato Wedges, an easy and healthy dinner – good enough to cook for friends.

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Lemon chicken with potato wedges

This recipe is a good alternative to roast chicken, especially if you have visitors, as it looks great and is easy to double up on ingredients for more people.

Lemon chicken with potato wedges

Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 50 minutes
Serves 4

426 Kcal per portion
20.5g Fat per portion of which
6.9g is saturated

Potatoes, 4 medium (about 800g) peeled and cut into wedges
Olive oil, 3 tbsp
Lemons, 2, 1 cut into 6 wedges and the other into 8 thin slices
Garlic 4 cloves, unpeeled
Thyme or oregano sprigs, handful
Chicken breasts 4, skin left on
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Nutmeg, freshly grated
Parma ham, 4 slices
Chicken stock 150ml (¼ pint)
Crème fraiche 4 tbsp

1 Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Put a large baking tray in the oven to heat up. Add the potato wedges to a pan of boiling salted water and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes well, dry for a few seconds in the pan.

2 Put 2 tablespoons of oil on the hot baking sheet, add the potatoes and toss in the oil. Gently squeeze each lemon wedge over the potatoes and add them the baking tray, along with the garlic cloves and herb sprigs. Roast near the bottom of the oven for about 50 minutes, turning them after about 25 minutes and then once again to crisp and brown all over.

3 Meanwhile, put the chicken breasts in a roasting tin, rub the skin with the lemon ends then season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Arrange a slice of ham on each piece of meat, ruching it to look attractive, then put 2 lemon slices on top. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Put the chicken above the potato wedges in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then pour the stock into the tin and cook another 20 minutes.

4 Transfer the chicken to a hot platter. Pour the roasting tin juices into a small pan, bring to the boil and reduce to about 90ml (3fl oz) then whisk in the crème fraiche to make a thin creamy sauce. Spoon some sauce onto 4 hot dinner plates and place a chicken breast on top. Serve with the lemon flavoured chips, garlic cloves  and some green vegetables.

Cook’s tips
If you want less fat in this recipe, take the skin off the chicken and  don’t add the crème fraiche to the sauce – it still takes good.

Variations
The recipe works well with chicken leg portions too – cook them for 50 minutes.

Recipe taken from Year Round Dairy Cookbook. Available for just £2.99!

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Happy Easter Holidays

I hope you have all had a lovely, relaxing Easter and not eaten too many of those tempting Easter treats!

An extra day off work today – woohoo. The perfect opportunity to show off your gardening talent (or not – it’s so easy my cat could do it!) with the following Pretty in Pink gorgeous spring basket. It takes less than an hour to do and has instant impact.

I love hyacinths and they are just starting to bloom now, so it’s definitely one for today’s to-do list, along with a visit to a nearby National Trust property – for some fun family activities. Visit the National Trust website for details of events near to you.

And for lots more easy garden projects take a look at Seasonal Garden Ideas . Enjoy!

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Pretty in Pink

Pretty-in-Pink

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Pretty in Pink

Make a pretty basket of pink hyacinths special by adding hoops of pussy willow twigs with the soft grey catkins just bursting out – a lovely display that should last for several weeks.

Pussy willow twigs are available in early spring, either in hedgerows or from florists. Pot-grown hyacinths can be found in garden centres from January through to May or even later.

Planting up a basket takes about an hour.

Plants required
Ten to twelve pink Dutch hyacinths just coming into flower.
Six to eight pussy willow twigs each about 45cm (18in) long.

Equipment required
Rustic-weave basket.
Hanging-basket liner (plastic, hessian, felt or moulded paper).
Bulb compost to fill.
Several handfuls of moss to tuck around the base of the hyacinths.
Trowel.

1 Place the liner you have chosen in the bottom of the basket, pricking holes through for drainage if needed. Fill the basket two-thirds full with bulb compost.

2 Carefully remove each hyacinth, one at a time, from their pots and plant in the basket, adding more compost and setting each one to the same depth as it was in its pot. Place them as close together as you can, so the heavy flowerheads will support each other, and firm in well.

3 Tuck moss loosely around the base of the hyacinths to cover the soil completely. Water lightly.

4 Wedge the bottom end of a pussy willow twig into the basket weave then bend it over to form a hoop. Tuck the tip of the twig securely into the basket, then repeat with the other twigs all round the basket, overlapping the twigs slightly as you go.

5 Position your basket in a sunny spot for best display. The furry grey catkins will eventually turn bright yellow as they open.

Tips
Take great care not to knock the pussy willow catkins off the twigs as you handle them – they are quite fragile. If the hyacinth stems start bending over, insert thin bamboo canes into the compost and tie the stems to them as discreetly as possible with soft string. Bring under shelter if heavy rain is threatened.

Note
Reuse your rustic basket for a summer display by planting with nasturtiums or begonias.

Aftercare
By its very nature this is a temporary display. When the hyacinth flowers have withered, stop watering and allow the foliage to turn brown. Then remove the bulbs from the basket, clean them carefully and store in a dry, dark place until autumn, when you can plant them out in the garden. Discard the pussy willow twigs when the catkins have flowered.

Project taken from Seasonal Garden Ideas

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Easter Celebrations

Whoop whoop, we have a lovely long weekend to look forward to with some scrumptious celebrations!

I love Easter, with spring in the air; the mix of lovely pastel colours; the children’s excitement; and some quality family time. The countdown to the big event is on.

Here are some ideas you might like to try:

• Make Easter cards. These are so simple – ribbon interwoven (my current craft obsession) and taped to a piece of card, attached to a card blank with an egg sticker in the centre.

• Make marbled eggs. Isaac and I had great fun experimenting with colours and patterns. These can hang from ribbon on a few twigs, taking centre-stage on the dining table. For details see How to decorate Easter eggs

• If time allows, make some flowery bunting for one dining room wall – see How to make bunting flags

• Create an easy Easter egg hunt (let’s hope the bunny comes!) with a single word treasure hunt that children of all ages can enjoy.

• Buy a few pastel coloured flowers, cut the stems short and fill your favourite teacups with them to make the table extra-pretty.

So, get creative everyone, but most of all enjoy the long weekend. Let’s hope we get lots of sunshine!

And finally, cook a traditional free-range roast chicken with all the trimmings followed by a slab of this gorgeous Simnel cake. The 11 marzipan balls on the top represent the apostles, minus Judas.

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