Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Hampered, in a good British way

On Saturday 31st July l awoke, and as my peepers adjusted to the shock of being sprung from hibernation, they began to search ardently for light - lot's of it, but there wasn't enough. I sprung from the cloud, flung back the curtains and squinted into a solemn grey sky. This wasn't the plan, did I forget to tell someone that today was our first foray into supper clubbing outside…that today was the Great British Picnic!

For the weeks prior to the picnic, l had busied myself with researching a menu that personified hazy summer afternoons in Britain; food that complemented the smells of parched lawns and smouldering fauna, but alas it looked like the weather was going to dampen the mood.

Nevertheless, food had been bought, diners booked, the shown had to go on. What's more, there seemed something apt about a British picnic being enjoyed under heavy bulbous grey skies in July - or so I thought. As it got nearer to 4 in the afternoon, shards of glorious light began to break through as if beamed down by the smiling god of picnics (Hampa - the god of picnics?). Grass steamed off under the new heat, wildlife ventured from their dry hideouts, it appeared the scene was setting, putting the word 'great' back into the picnic.

As our guests carefully arranged their blankets, and unfolded camping chairs, we popped the lids off our homemade lemonade to "let the sunshine in", or get things going if you're not robbing lyrics from terrible musicals.

Homemade Lemonade

Our guests slurped, and didn't squint which mean't the lemonade was rightly sweetened, so our first course of Chilled Pea and Mint soup w/ truffle ricotta was served.

Chilled Pea and Mint Soup w/truffle ricotta

Now, l have to admit, l still find it hard to get used to the idea of chilled soups, but have tried a few this summer and this one certainly goes towards the top. For me chilled soups need to be light and zingy, so this one worked nicely.

For the main course we served a selection of dishes, that our guests filled there paper plates with; Black Pudding scotch eggs, shooters sandwich, summer ruby salad, homemade piccalilli, and Anya potato salad with shallots and vinagarette.

Scotch eggs w/ black pudding

Shooters Sandwich

Summer Ruby Salad

My favourite dish from the selection had to be the black pudding, but I'm totally biased as they have to be up there as one of my guilty pleasures. They retain a nostalgic fondness, which has only been slightly ruined by the odd occasion I've foolishly slipped one of those insipid grey meat covered versions (found in every service station) into my mouth. I took inspiration for my scotch eggs from a number of sources, but after a few experimental attempts, plumped for the following recipe.

Black Pudding Scotch Eggs Recipe (Makes about 8-10 eggs)

1 Onion
A few knobs of butter
400g of Pork Sausage Meat
200g of Black Pudding, chopped into small cubes.
Sage & Thyme (to taste, l used 1/2 tbsp of chopped sage to 1tbsp of Tyme)
Salt and Pepper
8 eggs
Beaten Egg (for the wash)
Flour (for the covering)


Firstly chop the onion into small dices and then cook on a low heat, preferably under a round piece of parchment paper, so that the onions become sweet and slightly crispy. Just as the onions look ready in the pan add the chopped sage and thyme then remove from the heat. Place the sausage meat and the small cubes of black pudding in a large mixing bowl and then add the onions once they have cooled. Next soft boil your eggs by placing them in a pan covered by 1/2 inch of cold water, bring to the boil, them simmer for 3 minutes. Once you've shelled your eggs, carefully roll each one in flour, as this helps it bind with the sausage mixture. Then wet your hands and take a small handful of the sausage mixture and place it into the ball of your hand. Next flatten the sausage mixture so it almost covers your hand and place the egg in the centre. Start enveloping the egg carefully until the sausage meat has entirely covered the egg. A handy video that shows this technique can be seen here. It's a little annoying so you may want to fast forward to 5 minutes in to see the technique.

Now most of the hard work is out of the way, you simply roll the covered egg in egg wash, then roll it in the breadcrumbs. I repeated this process as I wanted an extra crisp coating, although I'm sure this isn't essential. Lastly deep fry the scotch egg for around 4-8 minutes until the egg takes on a dark brown colour. I used a open fat fryer at 160 celsius.

To finish the experience of dining outside, it wouldn't be a British summer without a trifle, so l carefully pulled out 16 little cyclinders filled with Strawberry's, champagne jelly, creme anglaise, sponge, and whipping cream. It was fun watching our guests delve into the receptacles like red squirrels searching for carefully stored nuts.

Strawberry Champagne Trifle

Our first foray into supper clubbing outside had me sweating about the logistics of such an undertaking, but it seemed to go we'll, and I even got to eat with everyone too - which was extra nice!

We'd like to say a big thank you to Jon Baker from Good Food magazine who popped down to take some decent photo's of our food - the ones in this post. Very much appreciated, and if your interested in some of his personal work you can find out more about his work here.