It was a rare Sunday, free of children’s cricket matches, tennis tournaments, farmers’ markets or any other commitments and the forecast was dry. Not that that stopped Mr V complaining, who is still feeding what little remains of last year’s hay to cattle grazing on arid pastures.
Still, it was a good opportunity for the first picnic of the year and a spot of kite flying – or at least that’s what we thought.What we hadn’t bargained on, up at Bo Peep Hill (no, we hadn’t lost our sheep) on the top of the South Downs overlooking the English Channel, was a wind so fierce that it ought to be off the top end of the Beaufort Scale. We ended up huddling not beside a gorse bush, but scratched inside one desperately holding on to our picnic before it took off. So it wasn’t really the climate for savouring this month’s picnic recipes.
Unless children are restrained by the elements (as they were in our case), they rarely want to sit still on picnics. These savoury Chelsea buns are perfect for them to eat on the go, while they’re running around or climbing trees. Meanwhile, the adults can lazily relax and indulge in these tartlets of poached salmon followed by delicious individual strawberry and passion fruit gateaux accompanied by some chilled white wine. And what happened to the kites? Well the severity of the gales meant that along with the napkins they were “Blowin’ in the Wind”.
Savoury Chelsea Buns
• 250g (9oz) strong white bread flour
• 10g (1/4 oz) fresh yeast
• Salt and pinch of sugar
• 150ml (1/4 pint) warm water
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the filling:
• 1 onion
• ½ tablespoon sunflower oil
• 50g (2oz) chopped sun dried tomatoes
• 50g (2oz) chopped black olives
• 12 fresh sage leaves
• 50g (2oz) grated Parmesan cheese
• 1 teaspoon sun dried tomato paste
• Sesame seeds
Dissolve the yeast into the warm water with half a teaspoon of sugar. Warm the flour and add the salt and oil. When the yeast mix is fizzing nicely mix it into the flour until you have a dough, then knead it to get it smooth. Prove in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Meanwhile, chop the onion and fry in the oil until they are beginning to brown. Chop the sage and add along with the sun dried, olives and Parmesan. Allow to cool. Knead the dough a second time. Then roll it out to a rectangle approximately 30x20cm. Spread the mixture evenly over the bread dough and roll it up. Preheat the oven to 220C (425F, gas mark 7). Cut into slices about 4cm thick and lay them in a baking dish, allowing them a little room to expand. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds. Put the tray in a warm place until the buns have doubled in size. Bake in the oven for about 25-35 minutes.
Tartlets of Salmon with Pea Puree, Chilli and Lime Mayonnaise
You will also need: six individual tart tins
For the pastry:
• 250g (9oz) plain flour
• 150g (5oz) butter
• 1 egg
For the filling:
• 500g (18oz) salmon fillet, skin removed
• 1 tablespoon white wine
• 25g (1oz) butter
• 350g (12oz) fresh podded peas
• 4 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
• 1 red chilli
• 1 lime
• 1 teaspoon sweet chilli sauce
• Freshly ground black pepper
For the pastry, rub the butter into the flour and form into a dough with the egg. Allow to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Line 6 individual tart cases with the pastry and bake them blind in the oven at 190C (375F, gas mark 5). Place the salmon fillet into an oven proof dish just large enough to fit it. Put in the white wine and the butter and cover with foil. Cook in the oven at 190C (375F, Gas mark 5) for 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Cook the peas in salted water until tender then refresh under running cold water. Mash the peas with the back of a fork and add a couple of turns of the pepper grinder. Cut the zest off the lime with a peeler and cut into thin strips or use a zester. Cut the chilli into thin circles. Mix the sweet chilli sauce into the mayonnaise with the juice of half the lime. (Depending on how juicy the lime is you may need more or less lime juice, but do not thin the mayonnaise too much). To assemble: Place the pea puree into the bottom of the tart cases. Flake the salmon on top (keeping it fairly chunky). Spoon some mayonnaise onto each one and decorate with the lime zest and chilli.
Individual Strawberry and Passion Fruit Gateaux
You will also need: six mini individual sponge tins
• 3 eggs
• 75g (3oz) caster sugar
• 75g (3oz) plain flour
• Butter/caster sugar for coating tins
• 1 tablespoon strawberry jam
• 300ml (1/2 pint) double cream
• 225g (8oz) small strawberries
• 3 passion fruit
• 110g (4oz) icing sugar
Prepare six mini sponge tins by rubbing the insides with butter and coating with caster sugar. Whisk the eggs and 3oz caster sugar together to a ribbon stage (really thick and aerated). Sieve the flour and fold it into the egg/sugar mix. Pour into the sponge tins and bake at 190C (375F, Gas mark 5) for 15-20 minutes until cooked. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool. Whip the cream. Split the sponges and sandwich together with some jam, cream and thinly sliced strawberries. Cut two passion fruit in half and scoop out the seeds into a food processor. Whizz them up and sieve to remove the seeds. Make an icing by mixing enough passion fruit juice with the icing sugar to a consistency that is just runny. Spoon it over the sponges, then place a dollop of cream on the top of each one. Decorate with halved strawberries and with the final passion fruit, spoon a little pulp on the top of each one.