Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee is a remarkable achievement, and one that is worth celebrating in memorable style, and that is just what will happen up and down the United Kingdom in a wonderful opportunity for communities large and small to come together after a wretched couple of years and, not to put too fine a point on it, party.
For many parties, there will have to be the kind of food that can be eaten with one hand while the other holds on to a glass of something delicious. With that in mind, here are just a couple of recipes for party food that, I hope, do just that and are relatively simple to cook. So, be ready to dance the hokey cokey with something tasty in either or both mitts, or tuck in while sitting at a trestle table with a party hat strapped on at a jaunty angle. To fit with the Jubilee theme, each dish is centred around a principal ingredient from the four corners of this scepter’d isle.
Leek & cheese tart
(Makes one tart for around 8 people)
My first suggestion is a very tasty tart filled with leeks and Caerphilly cheese or other lovely lactic cheeses like Lancashire or Wensleydale. Sauté 500g of chopped leeks in a little butter or oil to soft silkiness and crumble in 200g of Caerphilly, a good handful of chopped parsley, a heaped tablespoon of grain mustard, six heaped tablespoons of creamy but tangy crème fraîche and a couple of beaten free range eggs, all mixed very well.
For the pastry case I buy in ready-made pastry, but by all means use your favourite recipe and method to conjure up some golden crust of your own. With your pastry line a 25cm tart case, leaving a little above the rim to allow for shrinkage, fill with baking parchment and baking beans and blind bake for 12 minutes.
Remove the beans and parchment and bake for a further 5 minutes. Allow the pastry to cool, then fill with the leek and cheese mixture, put it on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes or so in an oven at 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 until golden on top and just set. It can be served cold, handily, but is even better warm.
Cheddar scones with boozy bacon jam
(Makes enough for 10 scones and more than enough bacon jam for each one)
My second suggestion couldn’t be more British in origin, but with a twist in terms of the accompaniment. Cheese scones are a regular in our house, made by my lovely wife with full-flavoured Cheddar and topped with the same just before baking and I happily help her devour them greedily, often with nothing more than a thick spread of butter. Here I offer up a version of her recipe together with one for a deeply savoury but tangy bacon jam perfect for spooning liberally on top.
Make the jam first by slicing 400g smoked streaky bacon (about 24 rashers) into lardons and frying them until they are golden and releasing their lovely fat. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the pan and lower the heat. In the pan and the retained fat fry off one large chopped onion gently until soft and starting to colour, then add 1 tsp of garlic powder or a clove of fresh garlic, crushed. Cook for a minute or two and then add back the cooked bacon, 80g light or soft brown sugar, 3 tbsp English cider vinegar, 1 tbsp Scotch or Irish whiskey, 100 ml of dark ale, stout or porter.
Stir well and cook over a moderate heat for about 25 to 30 minutes until the mixture thickens and looks syrupy, then take off the heat. Pour the mixture into a food processor or blender and pulse so that the bacon is chopped smaller but isn’t a purée. Tip into sterilised jars or a bowl that you can cover, leave to cool completely, then refrigerate until you need it. In the jars it will keep for a month or so, but if you are anything like me, it won’t last that long.
To make ten scones, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/ gas mark 6 and then grease a baking tray, or line it with baking parchment. Mix 450g of self-raising flour, ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp English mustard powder and 1 tsp of baking powder in a large bowl, 2 tbsp of finely chopped chives and then add 110g of cold cubed butter or margarine and rub it in using your fingertips until you have what resembles a bowlful of breadcrumbs. Then add 125g of well-flavoured grated Cheddar cheese and mix in well.
In a separate bowl, mix together a large beaten egg and 150 ml of cold milk, whole or semi-skimmed. Add this mixture to the dry mixture gradually until you can bring the mixture together to form a soft dough, retaining any leftover egg and milk for glazing. Tip it onto a lightly floured surface and, very gently, roll it with a floured rolling pin until it is about 2cm thick. The more you handle it in the rolling stage, the heavier the scones will be, and you don’t want paperweights for scones! Use a cutter that suits the size of scone you want, perhaps a 5cm one, and cut as many out as you can from the dough and place them on the tray, re-rolling the dough as lightly as you can to get more. Brush them with the remaining egg and milk mixture, sprinkle with 30g of grated Cheddar and, if you like spice, a pinch of cayenne pepper, bake for 15 minutes or so until golden and well risen.
They are hard to resist while they are still warm, but perfect for making a day ahead of the party. Top them with the bacon jam for an unusual but delicious treat.
Asparagus, Jersey Royal & prawn frittata
(enough for 6 generous slices)
And finally, something that, on the face of it, is not all that British, a frittata. Even the word omelette is French, so I’ll coin the phrase ‘fluffy egg pudden’. All you need is a medium-sized frying pan (NOT a large one; you want a bit of depth in the frittata ideally). 200g Jersey Royal potatoes quartered and boiled until just tender, 125g fat English asparagus spears also steamed or boiled to near tenderness and split lengthwise unless they are the very slender spears you can sometimes get, a dozen or so shelled crayfish or prawns, six large free-range eggs, a good pinch of salt and white pepper, parsley and just a little fresh thyme with the leaves stripped from the stems. Preheat a grill.
On the hob heat the pan over a moderate heat and add a slug of olive or British rapeseed oil. Beat the eggs and season them. Fry the potatoes in the pan and once the spuds are hot pour in the eggs. Stir quickly and briefly to mix the potatoes into the egg and then leave for a minute or two before sprinkling over the parsley and spreading the prawns around evenly, laying the halved spears of asparagus embedded in the mixture like the spokes of a wheel. After five minutes or so remove the pan from the heat and put it under the grill and give it 5 minutes to cook the top of the ‘pudden/frittata’ until it’s puffed and bubbly. Remove from the heat and slide from the pan and eat in wedges while still warm, or at room temperature, on squares of greaseproof paper.
So, there you have it. Three easy to make dishes that will be good, and easy, to eat on the hoof, made with ingredients that reflect the wonderful produce of these isles in an edible tribute to Her Majesty’s glorious reign.
All you need now is something to drink with these.
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