This weekend we’ve been treated to a rare four day public holiday to celebrate the jubilee of the Queen. When three Michelin star chef Clare Smyth, originally from Bushmills, cooked the wedding feast for Prince Harry, it was a celebration of the best of British food. Abernethy dulse butter featured on the menu – two traditional foods whizzed into one trend setting product. English sparkling wine now overtakes Champagne in international wine awards and whiskey, cider and beer from here is considered first class. Cheeses from here, once scoffed at by established cheese making nations, are now winning global awards and our beef, dairy, lamb and seafood are considered among the best in the world.
This week I’m taking influence from the past for some party food creations to mark this special weekend. Cherries Jubilee is a classic dessert invented by celebrated chef Auguste Escoffier to mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. The original recipe was just cherries, a favourite of the monarch, cooked with a little sugar and flamed with brandy. It has been modified in many ways but the premise is the same – good cherries, sugar and the drama of a bit of flamed alcohol. The version here is for cherries flamed in rum and served with an orange cheesecake cream but feel free to substitute brandy or whiskey.
Coronation chicken was originally invented by food writer Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume, founder of Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in London. They were preparing the food for the banquet of the coronation and came up with a simple dish of cooked chicken and a simple curried mayonnaise with the addition of dried apricots. Nowadays it’s still a popular salad and sandwich filling. It’s also a reflection on how much our food has changed over the past seven decades. Restaurants and chefs from these islands have gone from being disparagingly called “Le Rosbifs” by the French to being pioneers in the culinary world.
Taking inspiration from Coronation chicken the sandwich in this party food feast is grilled chicken combined with a sweet spiced red chilli, ginger and lemongrass jam, sour cream and mayonnaise. Italians make a simple sandwich in white bread called a Tramezzini and here I’ve substituted brioche toast. All the flavours of the Asian subcontinent, French bread, Italian inspiration in a traditional British snack.
A party was never considered complete in the past without the inclusion of a vol au vent. Often the filling for these light pastry cases was some meat or mushroom suspended in tinned soup. Here they’re filled with locally grown asparagus tossed in a lovage cream with the addition of some breasola. This is an Italian cured beef fillet charcuterie and is produced in Northern Ireland using our great local beef. Asparagus and beef is a classic luxurious combination and it’s made even better with crisp pastry and the lush cream sauce.
500g cherries, stoned ( use frozen if you can’t get fresh)
75g castor sugar
½ tablespoon cornflour dissolved in a couple of tablespoons of water
50ml spiced rum
Place the sugar and cherries in a pan and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rum and a splash of water. Cook for a minute and thicken with the cornflour.
Orange cheesecake cream
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
50g castor sugar
350g full fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Boil the sugar with the orange zest and juice until syrupy. Cool and whisk into the cream cheese with the vanilla.
Place the cherries in glasses and top with scoop of the cream.
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons oil
1 stick lemongrass finely chopped
25g grated ginger
1 red chilli, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon garam masala
50ml cider vinegar
50g sour cream
Handful chopped coriander
1 brioche loaf
Brush the thighs with a tablespoon of the oil and season with salt. Cook on a hot griddle pan or bbq until cooked through. Rest for 15 minutes and shred. Heat the remaining oil and cook the lemongrass, ginger, chilli and garlic until soft. Add the garam masala, sugar, vinegar and water and cook to a thick jammy consistency. Cool and mix in the chicken, mayonnaise, sour cream and coriander.
Toast the brioche, fill with the chicken mixture and cut into finger shaped sandwiches.
1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry
1 egg yolk
6 spears local asparagus – rough ends trimmed off
2 shallots, finely chopped
100ml white wine
200ml double cream
Handful chopped lovage
12 slices breasola
Cut the pastry into 12 squares.
Place on a lightly buttered baking tray. Trace a border within each square – not going through the pastry. Brush with egg yolk and cook in a 200oc oven until golden and crisp – about 12 minutes.
Cut out the middle square from each pastry.
Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes or until a knife goes through easily. Drain.
Cook the shallots in the butter until soft and golden. Add the wine and boil to reduced by half. Add the cream and boil to spoon coating consistency. Add the lovage and season with salt to taste.
Slice the asparagus and add to the lovage cream. Spoon into the shells and top with some breasola and the pastry top.