9 August 2002

Scotch eggs with a difference

help make a

tasty picnic

The school holidays are here and if

the sun shines there is nothing

nicer than to go on a picnic.

Philippa Vine packs mini Scotch

eggs and tasty pies into her

basket and makes a blackcurrant

meringue cake to come home to

WHATS inside it?" asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity. "Theres cold chicken inside it," replied the Rat briefly. "Cold tongue, cold ham, cold beef, pickled gherkins, salad, French rolls, cress sandwiches, potted meat, ginger beer, lemonade, soda water."

"O stop, stop," cried the Mole in ecstasies. "This is too much!"

Another mouth watering treat that Rat and Mole could have enjoyed in their Wind in the Willows picnic is tiny lamb and mint Scotch eggs. We are fortunate in having Greenham Quail Farm on our doorstep and not only do quails eggs provide a perfect bite size portion when used in this months recipe, their meticulous peeling beforehand provides an engaging activity for children during the school holidays. The art of peeling these hard boiled eggs is to gently roll them on a hard surface to crack the shell and then remove the shell with the tough inner membrane – it reminds me of peeling a Satsuma.

&#42 Jellied stock

Although I would readily make a jellied stock for a raised pie during the rest of the year, time is precious during the summer holidays especially as the changeable nature of an English summer dictates that picnics are often last minute events. At such times I make chicken and pork pie which is my easier version of a traditional jellied raised pie.

Another special is gardeners vegetable pie, a tasty and portable way to enjoy the abundance of vegetables summer brings and it even uses up those surplus courgettes which everyone seems so keen to give to everyone else. I made this first when I wanted to make good use of our summer vegetables other than in a salad and for a picnic.

The sharpness of seasonal blackcurrants and the sweetness of meringue make a striking combination of both taste and colour. The idea of the meringue recipe given here, using half caster sugar and half icing sugar, is that it makes a lighter and more tender meringue than using caster sugar only. The mixed sugar combination has coincided with a new oven in the Vine kitchen and so I am not sure whether the texture of the meringue is down to the sugars or the change of oven. The sweet toothed and sweet talking Mr V claims that more sampling is needed to make up his mind on the subject!

Lamb and Mint Quail Scotch Eggs

Although this is not a traditional Scotch egg, it still works well, and because of the size is easy to eat.

12 quail eggs

350g (12oz) lean lamb, minced

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs

sprig of fresh mint, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Seasoned flour, for dusting

1 egg, beaten

2-4 tablespoons dried white or golden

breadcrumbs or sesame seeds

Sunflower oil for frying

Place the whole quails eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, stirring gently to centre the yolks. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, then run cold water into the saucepan until the eggs feel cold. Shell them carefully. Put the meat, chopped onion, herbs and spices into a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. Season well with salt and pepper. Divide this mixture into 12 portions. Toss the peeled eggs in seasoned flour. Shape a portion of lamb mixture around each egg, using lightly floured hands. Dip each egg in beaten egg and then thoroughly and evenly in the breadcrumbs or sesame seeds. Shallow fry in hot oil, turning the eggs until they are golden brown all over. I use two forks for this. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve cold.

Chicken and Pork Pie

When making the pie it is important not to get the mixture too wet, just add enough liquid for the meat

to bind together nicely.

Serves 6

2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces

225g (8oz) lean pork, chopped into bite sized pieces

225g (8oz) smoked bacon, chopped into small pieces

2 bay leaves

4 sprigs or fresh thyme

1 small onion, chopped

50g (2oz) butter

50g (2oz) flour

2 tablespoons double cream

Freshly ground pepper

For the pastry:

250g (9oz) flour – half wholemeal and half plain

130g (4 1/2oz) butter)

Cold water to mix

1 beaten egg (for egg wash)

You will also need:

21cm (8in) loose-base deep sided sandwich tin.

First make the pastry as you would to make shortcrust pastry. Refrigerate while you make the filling. Place the chopped meat, herbs and freshly ground pepper into a pan. Cover with water, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain off the meat, and reserve the stock for the sauce. (The excess stock can be used for other uses or frozen to make soup). Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the chopped onion and cook gently until it is transparent. Tip in the flour and stir to form a roux and cook for a minute or so. Add just enough liquid from the meat to make a thick sauce, then add the meat and just enough cream to bind the meat together. Check the seasoning. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F, Gas Mark 6).

Roll out about two-thirds of the pastry and use it to line the base and sides of an 8in (21cm) loose-base, deep sided tin, or a plain flan ring on a baking sheet. Spoon the mixture into the tin and cover with the remaining rolled out pastry, wetting the join and crimping it to seal. Brush with the egg wash and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven, cool down for a little and very carefully lift up the pie to remove the side of the tin then return it to the oven for 10 minutes until the pastry is golden. Serve either warm from the oven or cold with a salad.

Gardeners Vegetable Pie

As my mother said when she first tasted this pie: "Different but delicious."

Serves 6

For the shortcrust pastry:

250g (9oz) flour – half wholemeal

and half plain

115g (4 1/2oz) butter

Cold water to mix

Filling:

225g (8oz) carrots

225g (8oz) courgettes

2 small raw beetroot

2 tablespoons pine nuts or peanuts

200g (7oz) Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons single cream or

top of the milk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 beaten egg

You will also need: 8in (21cm)

loose-based sandwich tin.

Make the pastry in the usual way. Roll out about two-thirds of the pastry and use it to line the base and sides of an 8in (21cm) loose-based sandwich tin, or a plain flan ring on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F, Gas Mark 6). To make the filling peel and coarsely grate the carrots, beetroot and courgettes keeping each type separate. Put the courgettes in the bottom of pie, sprinkle with nuts. Coarsely grate the cheese and mix with the cream and salt and pepper. Put half of this on top of the courgettes followed by the beetroot then the carrots on top. Finally spread on the remaining cheese mix. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut into narrow strips. Arrange these over the top of the pie, overlapping to form a lattice or for a professional look, use a lattice cutter. Press the edges down well and trim with a knife. Brush with the beaten egg and bake for about 50 minutes, or until golden brown. Cover with foil half way if browning too quickly. Serve either warm or cold with a salad. (If you serve this when it is still hot you may find you will have some liquid in the bottom from the vegetables. Once it is cold and kept in the fridge it will set).

Blackcurrant Meringue Cake

I got the idea for this recipe from the popular raspberry and hazelnut meringue cake that I know. It produces a light and tender meringue.

Serves 6

For the meringue cakes:

4 large egg whites

100g (4oz) caster sugar

100g (4oz) icing sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the filling:

500g (1lb) blackcurrants, stripped of their stalks

2 heaped tablespoons caster sugar

300ml (1/2 pt) double cream, whipped

Icing sugar

Line baking trays with plain baking parchment paper and mark on it two 22cm (8 1/2in) diameter circles. Whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar and ground cinnamon until it forms soft-peaks then gradually add the caster sugar, continuing to whisk until glossy and the meringue holds in very stiff peaks.

Fold in the sifted icing sugar with a spoon. Spoon the meringue onto the two marked circles, smoothing it evenly. Bake for about two hours at 130C (250F Gas1/2) or until crisp. Transfer to a cooling rack after cooking. For the filling, cook the blackcurrants, (reserving a few for decoration) gently with the sugar until soft. Cool, then liquidise in a blender. Sieve the blackcurrant puree into a bowl and leave until completely cold, or if you want a more textured cream dont bother to sieve the fruit puree. Fold the fruit into the whipped cream and spread on to the surface of one of the cakes. Carefully press the other cake on top and sift some icing sugar over the surface. Use the reserved blackcurrants for decoration together with a few sprigs of mint.