Happy Easter to you all
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and our family are coming to lunch and so today I’ve been making a few preparations, starting with a chocolate cake for our dessert. I might push out the boat tomorrow, providing I get up early enough, and make a Pavlova, too, so there would then be a choice of desserts. Anyway, much depends on how I feel when I wake up these days!
Yesterday we shopped in Waitrose and I couldn’t help but admire the lovely displays of flowers and chocolates. I am well aware that these displays are primarily to stop us in our tracks so that not only do we admire them but buy items from them, but a lot of thought and preparation had obviously gone into these lovely displays, making the supermarket look very festive.
I can only assume that the little yellow buckets are for children for Easter Egg hunts, I don’t think they are for spring cleaning! But all the yellow, pink and green looked really pretty and I lost no time in choosing some purple and yellow tulips and also their last bunch of white freesias (plus a bunch of double daffodils.)
Tulips, freesias, and double daffodils – what could be more beautiful at Easter (or any other time of the year)? And some more double daffodils in the hall …
Much of this morning was spent in the kitchen. First I made tomato and courgette (zucchini) soup for lunch. This is a lovely easy and quick soup to make. I am sure I’ve mentioned it before, but for newer readers, the basic ingredients are a large white onion, 1 medium sized courgette (zucchini) and five or six large tomatoes. Other ingredients are rapeseed (or olive) oil, tomato puree, dried basil, vegetable stock cubes (4) or bouillon, a teaspoon or two of sugar, two dessertspoons of crème fraiche, and boiling water.
If you start top left and then right, then the middle row, left and then right, and then the bottom row, left and then right, these photos show you the quick and easy profess.
Chop the onion and courgette and saute in a little oil (I use rapeseed oil)
Wash and then chop the tomatoes (with their skins on)
Add the tomatoes to the onion and courgette
Add boiling water to cover. You can always add more water later if the soup is too thick, but bear in mind that tomatoes are mainly water so don’t overdo the water at this stage
Add the crumbled stock cubes (or bouillon) and dried Basil and tomato puree
Simmer for 20 minutes
Remove from heat, add the sugar and crème fraiche, and blend with a stick blender (or a jug blender if you prefer.) Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. You shouldn’t need extra salt as the stock cubes are quite salty, and pepper doesn’t really go very well with this soup, but if you like extra salt and pepper, then of course add some.
Serve with a dot of crème fraiche and torn up fresh basil leaves (if you have them.)
We had this for lunch with a baguette, olives, mature Cheddar cheese and St Agur creamy blue cheese.
Once the soup was simmering I made a chocolate sponge cake for Easter. This, again, is simple to make if you follow basic rules: however many eggs you use – I use four – weigh the eggs and then take that weight as your guide to the weights of the other ingredients, they should all weigh the same. The four eggs today weighed 260 grams, so I adjusted that to 250 grams as they would be minus their shells in the mixture (obviously!) Then I weighed out 250 grams each of golden caster sugar, soft margarine, and self-raising flour to which I added 2 rounded dessertspoons of cocoa.
First, have all the ingredients at room temperature. Set the oven at 160C. Then, prepare two sandwich tins, greasing them and then putting cake liners in the bases. Then weigh the ingredients as mentioned above. Lightly beat the eggs, and into a bowl sieve the flour and cocoa powder together. Next, in a large bowl, ‘cream’ the margarine with the caster sugar, so that it’s nice and fluffy. I do this with my washed-and-spotlessly-clean hand, but most people would use a food processor or wooden spoon. I find a hand is the best way to make a cake, believe me. This is how my mother taught me. Hands are the very best tools!
Then add the beaten egg gradually, so that the mixture doesn’t curdle, but if it does just add a little of the flour/cocoa and mixture before adding more egg.
When all the egg has been added, gently beat the mixture a little to get some air into it, and then gently fold in the flour/cocoa. When you are satisfied with a fairly even distribution of flour/cocoa, divide the mixture between the two sandwich tins. I actually weigh the tins when full so that they are as even in weight as possible. Spread the mixture or, as I do, give them a gentle shake so that the mixture reaches the sides of the tins.
Put the tins in the centre of the pre-heated oven (160C) and set the timer for 25 minutes.
When cooked test with a skewer and if it comes out clean, the cakes are ‘done’
Turn the cakes out onto pieces of kitchen paper and then onto a wire cooling rack (I use the kitchen paper t0 reverse the sandwiches onto the wire tray, flipping them over so you don’t have a wire pattern on top of the cakes.)
Now, wait until they are cold before sandwiching together with butter cream. For butter cream I use a dollop of margarine, about 1 oz (whatever that is in grams) and I add sieved icing sugar and a little cocoa powder until I feel it is the right consistency to spread on two sponges (the underside of each) and then I sandwich them together.
If you want to have butter cream on the top, as a frosting, then just make more to start with. But today I decided to melt dark chocolate and spread that as icing, and I decorated with some miniature chocolate eggs.
When melting chocolate over hot water, make sure you don’t get any water or steam into the chocolate as it melts as this will cause it to go cloudy. I heat the chocolate it in a Pyrex basin over a small pan of simmering water, but the basin isn’t allowed to actually touch the water. Pour the melted chocolate over the cake and spread as evenly as possible.
Had I given it more thought I would’ve bought a Cadbury’s flake and crumbled that and made a little ‘nest’ for the miniature eggs. Next time I will do this.
After the baking I was ready for a sit down and a read … plenty to choose from as the latest House & Garden arrived today, and I bought Period Living yesterday, and Homes & Antiques arrived just two days ago.
I also have five new books. A dear friend sent me a Dorothy Dunnett novel which she recommends, and I heard about the book The Salt Path on local News on TV. This is the true story of a couple whose world was turned upside down within a week, as during that week they lost their business, their home and then the husband was told he had a terminal illness. So what did they do? They decided to walk the full length of the south west coastal path, perhaps as therapy. But no doubt I shall find out as I read this book.
I am currently read Rachel Hore’s latest novel and enjoying it very much; it is a dual narrative, one set in the present, the other in WW2. I have also bought Catherine Law’s latest novel simply as I’ve enjoyed her previous books.
And so tomorrow is Easter Day with the family coming for lunch. I have been preparing the table, decorating it with flowers and small chocolate eggs, but I draw the line at Easter crackers. Wherever you are, on your own, with family, or with friends, may I wish you a very Happy Easter.
Until next time.