Spring Has Sprung…(Well Nearly!)

With the start of Spring comes the prospect of sunshine, warmer weather, new life and lush surroundings. This year, for those of us in the UK however, it has disappointed and confused thus far- officially 3 weeks in and I  have on as many layers of thermal & wool as I would in the depths of our Winter.

It is at this time of year that we celebrate Easter- the resurrection of Jesus and/or  a visit by the Easter Bunny, depending on which way you are inclined. Easter being a ‘moveable feast’ can fall anywhere between 22nd March and 25th April, on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon– which seems much more complicated than I had ever given it credit for. This year, it fell the Sunday before my Mum’s Birthday and so we decided to make it a family celebration and get together for an Easter Egg Hunt and Birthday Roast Lunch!

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My local flower stall is on the corner of the Portobello Road and Blenheim Crescent. It is always bursting with seasonal bouquets and bunches of brightly coloured flowers. I make up my own posies be it for gifts or special occasions and the lovely lady on the stall is always on hand to give guidance where needed. For this Easter lunch, I knew I wanted Tulips and Hyacinths and with all the incredible colour choices it wasn’t easy. The deep purple hyacinths were really too delicious looking not to go for, so I kept it simple with the fresh & clean white Tulips and a hint of yellow to add the sunshine we were in need of.  To finish I added a few clip-on nests & feathered birds from Graham & Green and placed them in and around the bouquets.

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My sister was in charge of the Egg Hunt with the assistance of our brother, who keenly emptied the packets of Mini Eggs out onto the grass (without considering their lack of wrappers!) They created a Beatrix Potter haven for my nephews to explore and seek out the hundreds of chocolate surprises planted in every nook & cranny possible. Easter Egg hunts were always a big thing in my family when I was growing up and (when the weather used to be glorious) it had a similar poignancy of a Birthday or Christmas Day. Friends from near and far would come over, be handed a little basket then hunt around in the woods at the bottom of the garden, whilst the adults partook in champagne & nibbles, ginormous VHS camcorders out at the ready.

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Today I wanted to keep the table vibrant and fun for the kids so doused the place settings with Easter themed sprinkles. I also used a selection of wools to tie up the napkins. The balls of wool were £1 each from Poundland, perfect for wrapping presents, hand tied bouquets or a decorative touch for a table. Poundland is actually a bit of a gem for finding cheap and cheery accessories, stationary and decorations. I had a really good rummage around in the store and made up two party bags for the boys- yo-yo’s, bubbles and little furry chicks were waiting for them on their chairs (always a good idea to provide kiddy things to keep them entertained at the dinner table).

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For lunch, I cooked roast chicken, roasted beetroots, honey & rosemary carrots, chipolatas, beetroot tops, petit pois, purple sprouting broccoli and roast potatoes (I have to thank Isaac, my boyfriend, at this point who is always a fantastic co-chef and saves me from the typical stresses of tricky timings and hot pans!) For the ‘newly Vegetarian’ Isaac, I turned to the fabulous Hemsley & Hemsley and found this scrumptious recipe for Quinoa and Mushroom Nut Roast. Having never made Nut Roast before I was nervous that I would get it totally wrong but the girls have created a perfectly understandable and totally delicious vegetarian dish, which was popular with all of us.

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What’s a Birthday without a Birthday cake! Red Velvet has apparently been around since  the 1920’s and although I am really only accustomed to Hummingbird Bakeries famously red & exceedingly rich cupcakes, I chose to use a recipe for a three layer Red Velvet Cake from Annie Bell’s Baking Bible. I decorated the cake with mini eggs (I just had to add a little Easter touch) and sugared daisies.

N.B. I used a red food colouring ‘liquid’ for the cake and in future would definitely take Annie’s advice and go for the ‘paste’ which will result in a much deeper red colour for the sponge.

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Making chocolate nests is so simple that it is the perfect treat to make with your kiddies. Shredded wheat, 100g Milk chocolate, 100 g of dark chocolate and 50g butter. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie (a heat-proof bowl over boiling water). I used about 4-5 large shredded wheats crushed up into oblivion. Get your paper cases ready and once the chocolate has cooled to room temperature start mixing into the shredded wheat. Finish with a white chocolate egg or two.

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Having watched copious amounts of sport and nearly digested our rather large lunch…it was time to sit down and enjoy a cuppa, cake and Mary Berry’s Lemon Pavlova, with homemade Lemon Curd- much enjoyed and looked bloomin’ fantastic (all thanks to my mum!) We were joined by these little knitted chicks. Made by a elderly lady that my mum visits, the little darlings also double as egg cosies and caused much oooo’ing and ahhhh’ing across the table.

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When all the food was eaten, all the wine had been drunk and the little ones were in bed, it was time to say Goodnight to Easter for another year.

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Full to the brim of chocolate and love.

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