EASTER falls on April 9th this year. ‘Tis the season of all sorts of joyful things, Spring for a start, Easter egg hunts, painting eggs (hard-boiled in case you didn’t know – from experience!), lambs gamboling in the fields and Simnel cake (a light, rich fruit cake covered in marzipan – an English tradition). I shouldn’t really mention it in the same paragraph, but I always serve lamb at Easter. I score the fat of the joint and stick slivers of garlic and fresh rosemary in the score lines. The lamb is placed on a rack over a roasting tin and the drippings fall through onto a mirepoix (a triumvirate of onions, carrots and celery finely diced). This makes for a delicious gravy. There will be roast potatoes or maybe Gratin Dauphinois, thin green beans, a mixture of carrots, peas and baby asparagus tips and, of course, the traditional condiments – red currant jelly and mint sauce. I haven’t decided on a dessert but this one is in the running – a chocolate and caramel Easter Sundae. Carefully cut the top off a chocolate Easter egg, fill the egg with good vanilla ice cream, pour over two warm sauces – chocolate and caramel – and scatter with micro Easter eggs or candies or sprinkles. Not quite sure how you serve it but it serves 6. Get the recipe at https://realfood.tesco.com/recipes/chocolate-and-caramel-easter-sundae.html.
Now is the time to buy EASTER EGGS – there should still be a lot of choice. The creme de la creme of Easter eggs is a hand-painted chick or bunny from Fortnum & Mason – not cheap, but unique. Waitrose has a white chocolate egg shot through with raspberry flavored pink and red flecks. Harry Potter fans may like the owl shaped ‘Hedwig’ from Marks & Spencer. Williams Sonoma has a Peter Rabbit papier mache egg filled with chocolates, candies and a cookie. They also sell a package of 3 gold-flecked eggs which are attractive to look at. If you don’t want an egg they have Easter themed cake pops.
On a more serious note, EGGS are scarce at the moment – sometimes completely unavailable – and very pricey. A carton of eggs now costs more than certain cuts of beef! This situation is due to Avian Flu which is not a new disease but spreads very quickly. Birds that have the disease or birds that have been exposed to the disease have to be euthanized – over 40 million to date. Consequently, there is a gap before a new bird can lay eggs and get up to maximum egg laying strength.
Continuing the theme of eggs, I have just discovered that YOLK has opened on Clematis Street (# 218 to be precise), West Palm Beach, so rush over and shake up your breakfast routine. Yolk started out in Chicago and has won many awards. The concept was to create a special breakfast/lunch place where customers could get some of the usual staples well-cooked with quality ingredients or you could opt for something new – a Benedict Caprese (muffin with mozzarella tomato and topped with an egg), Kale & Cauliflower Scrambler, West Coast Crepes, Red Velvet Cake French Toast… Kids eat for the very reasonable price of $7.00, S’Mores or Oreo Pancakes. Try it for lunch for interesting salads and handhelds. www.eatyolk.com
It may not be STRAWBERRY season where you live but, right now, here in Florida, strawberries are in season. They are a deep red and full of flavor. Health wise, strawberries are one of the fruits with the lowest sugar content. When I think of strawberries, I think back to my childhood, having them in a bowl with a lot of sugar and a lot of double cream – it wasn’t that they needed sugar, it was just a delicious way to eat them, as they do at Wimbledon each year. Here are some other suggestions for strawberry recipes: strawberry shortcake, pavlova, strawberry rhubarb pie, balsamic strawberries (unusual but very good – just try them, even if you think ‘how can this be?’). Strawberries can be added to all sorts of salads or you could make a salad and serve it with a strawberry vinaigrette or salsa. Some herbs go well with these berries – basil, cardamom (cardamom pannacotta with strawberries?) mint, cinnamon and vanilla – and just about any soft cheese – mozzarella, goat’s cheese, brie, etc. Try putting a slice of strawberry, a slice of mozzarella and repeat on a cocktail stick garnished with a little chopped basil and a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
MICHELIN travel guides are famous the world over and many people swear by the information they give regarding places to stay and eat. Michelin has just published (online only) a guide to Florida restaurants. For the most part they are clustered around Miami and Orlando which I found odd because I associate Orlando with Disney World. However, it is also a convention city. The Florida Guide mentions 124 restaurants, of which one has 1 star – L’Atelier Joel Robuchon, Miami – and fourteen have 2 stars. The category I am most interested in the the ‘bib gourmand’ category. These restaurants offer exceptional quality at a reasonable price – there are 29 of those . As I am a frequent visitor to Miami I am contemplating trying out some of the 16 ‘bibs’ in that city. https://guide.michelin.com/us/en/florida/restaurants
You may take your Michelin Guide to France this summer but you should also take a look at the recommendations from LE FOODING. Le Fooding promotes a less-intimidating gastronomy for those who savor their food in an unstuffy fashion. Type in the city you want to visit in France and a list of recommendations will be shown, including also bars, places to stay and food shops – bakeries, patisseries, coffee shops, etc.
FLAVORED YORKSHIRE PUDDINGS are beginning to pop up on Sunday lunch menus in the UK where a Yorkshire pudding now comes with every type of roast – mustard, rosemary and thyme (good with lamb), bacon (good with chicken), cheese and chives (sausages maybe?), sage and onion (turkey at Christmas). Must try – maybe with lamb at Easter.
I am continuing to try out new spices and this month it is the turn of RAS EL HANOUT – a key spice in Moroccan cooking and widely used in tagines (see my Tagine recipe below in Recipe of the Month). When you hear the word spice, many people think hot, as in curry, but in fact a better way to describe a spice would be a distinctive, aromatic seasoning which can be used in all sorts of recipes – savory, sweet, cakes, pastries and drinks and spices are found in cuisines all over the world. Ras el hanout is a strong, but not hot, earthy spice with sweet undertones. May or may not be available in your supermarket. I bought mine from www.nyshuk.com.
I have mentioned CHARLIE BIGHAM’S savory frozen ready meals before. I first discovered them when I was shopping for frozen meals for my father for his carers to thaw out and cook and they seemed of a higher quality than some. Now Charlie has started a frozen dessert line – five choices so far – the eponymous Sticky Toffee Pudding, Cherry Bakewell, Bread and Butter Pudding, Bramley Apple Pudding and Chocolate Molten Cakes (2 in a packet). All very traditional and all very tempting. www.bighams.com
FORK IN THE ROAD – Little Goodies (hotdogs) available at Whole Foods. Probably as good a hot dog, in this case mini hot dogs for kids, as you are likely to find. They meat comes from small farms using humane and sustainable methods to raise the cattle outside in the fields, no antibiotics, no nitrites. www.forkintheroad.com.
Here are my new recipes, some vegetarian, some not, published in February on my website – www.joshealthykitchen.com:
Moroccan Inspired Roast Vegetables
A Different Tuna Salad with an Anchovy Dressing
French Green Beans, Tomatoes and Olives
Lemony Flaked Salmon with Lots of Vegetables
Green Beans and Peas with Goat’s Cheese
Cucumber and Avocado Salad with Red Onion
Chicken, Mushrooms and Peas over Pasta
Roasted Cauliflower, Arugula Salad, Bean and Feta Salad with a Sumac Dressing
BOOK OF THE MONTH – Insatiable by Gael Greene
Insatiable has been described as a ‘napkin ripper’! Greene was an early foodie back in the days when ‘Every New Yorker over the age of 6 did not consider him or herself a food critic’! She became the restaurant critic for New York magazine in the late 1960’s – the heady days of Cosmopolitan magazine and the influence of Helen Gurley Brown – and wrote articles with provocative titles, such as, ‘Everything you always wanted to know about ice cream but were too fat to ask’. She writes wittily about both her life as a critic and her rather lively private life as well as providing a social commentary on the second half of the 20th century.
MOVIE OF THE MONTH – Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles
This documentary follows chef Yotam Ottolenghi on his quest to bring the sumptuous art and decadence of Versailles to life in cake form at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This 2018 exhibition – Visitors to Versailles 1682 – 1789 (which I would dearly love to have seen) displayed hundreds of examples of portraits, sculptures, costumes, tapestries and decorative arts. Versailles was at the pinnacle of its influence – everyone wanted to know what the Versailles way of doing things was so that they could copy the trends and everyone, literally, from foreign dignitaries and ambassadors to ordinary people (provided they were suitably dressed) could enter Versailles and marvel at the opulence inside. The patisseries were also extravagant. They were almost created just to be looked at – a demonstration, if you will, of what the patissier could achieve with the ingredients at his disposal, including the newly available sugar, which could be worked in different ways – sculpted, spun, made into fondant icing. The cakes in this documentary are breathtaking and push the boundaries of what is possible in the baking world. The participants, all famous in their own realm, were charged with making a cake that would reflect an aspect of Versailles – the garden, the fountain, architectural features. These amazing creations were served to guests on the opening night of the exhibition. What Louis XVI didn’t realize was that when ordinary folk saw the wealth, decadence and wastage inside Versailles it revealed just how great the gap was between the Court and the rest of France which ultimately led to the Revolution. Available on Amazon Prime.
PRODUCT OF THE MONTH – Flessenlikker
Do you have a flessenlikker? Do you even know what a flessenlikker is? Well, it was news to me too. I feel I am fairly thrifty but with a flessenlikker your jars/bottles will be sparkly clean and you will find just how much of your jam, etc. you have been wasting. Some say it was invented in Norway, others in Holland. Is it worth it to buy one at $10.99? Amazon thinks so.
RECIPE OF THE MONTH – Chicken Tagine
A tagine is a traditional Moroccan dish – stew like in appearance. It can be made with chicken, lamb, fish or be completely vegetarian. Serve it with couscous, quinoa or rice to sop up the juices. My version of a tagine contains fruit – dried apricots – which provide the sweetness, green olives – provide saltiness, ras el hanout – a gentle spiciness, a little harissa paste adds a tiny bite, chickpeas are the vegetable and lemon juice added at the end works to heighten the flavors. It makes a lovely, rather different entree, and is not often found in restaurants, at least where I live, so worth giving it a try (and you don’t need an actual tagine pot to cook it in).
2 tbsp. olive oil seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound of chicken breasts – cut into bite size pieces
1 good size but not enormous onion – diced
2 large garlic cloves – grated
1 lemon – zest and juice
A 2 inch piece of ginger – grated
1 tbsp. mild harissa paste
2 tsp. ras el hanout
2 cups of low sodium chicken broth
1 can of chickpeas – rinsed and drained
1/2 cup of dried apricots – cut into quarters
1/2 cup pitted green olives – cut in half
Cilantro for garnish – finely chopped
Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large skillet on high heat so that the chicken will sear to a nice brown. Tip in the chicken and cook until browned on the sides. Remove chicken from pan using a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.
Pour the other tbsp. of oil into the skillet and, when sizzling, add the onion. Let soften and brown before adding the garlic. Cook for a another couple of minutes.
Tip in the lemon zest, ginger, ras el hanout and harissa paste. Stir and cook for a few minutes – you will begin to smell them.
Then come the rest of the ingredients, followed by the chicken.
Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, pour in the lemon juice and stir.
Sprinkle with cilantro.