It really has been that warm. The swallows are back! And just in time for the Easter weekend which really felt like summer! Let's hope this sunshine is here to stay, if only to cheer us up from our windowsills.
We had a real treat this week with the most perfect tulips from Liz at Pipley Flowers! A weekend of tulip fever with the Sturley girls dressed up in big blousy, Frida-inspired flower crowns.
I even managed to squeeze some of these tulips into a little brass bowl arrangement that decorated our Easter table. I also filmed the process which is now on my Instagram IGTV, you can have a little look here. I'm still working on the format so it's a little rough around the edges but I'm going to be working on more as the garden starts to bloom. Hopefully the next few may be a little more polished, we'll see! One thing is certain though, it's been such a treat to work with flowers again and to come out of the quiet lull of Winter arranging with beautiful Spring flowers grown either in the garden or just down the road.
We've eaten like kings this week so there are many more recipes to come, I hope you're enjoying them! On Monday I woke up and went straight to the kitchen and I cooked for most of the day. We had a late lunch of Spring soufflé, a Jamie Oliver recipe that I adapted with the ingredients we had in the larder and a fennel and rocket salad. It turned out to be a serious crowd pleaser so I'm sharing my adapted Spring souffle recipe below. We each had a glass of Balfour, a delicious English sparkling wine that we were saving for a moment. And outside the sun shone.
Spring soufflé and fennel and rocket salad
This served 7 of us
For the salad
Bulb of fennel
Two large handfuls of rocket
Handful of pistachios
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
For the soufflé
Large handful spring onions
handful of green beans
6 sprigs of mint
1 cup of peas
A glass of white wine
30g plain flour
1 tsp nutmeg
I also added streaky bacon rashers on the side which we dipped into the sauce. It really was so delicious!! You can leave it out if you'd rather a vegetarian meal though!
Make the salad and dressing first. Finely chop the fennel salad and put into a bowl with the rocket and half the roughly chopped pistachio nuts. In a little jug, mix the olive oil, cider vinegar and honey together with a little salt and pepper. Pop the salad in the fridge until you're ready to serve, make sure to leave the dressing out on the side so it doesn't go hard in the fridge.
If you're serving bacon with your soufflé, fry it in a pan on a medium heat. Meanwhile, finely chop the courgette and spring onions then fry in either the bacon fat or a good amount of olive oil. Then chop half the green beans into little pieces and blanche the rest in hot water for 2 mins. Finely chop the mint and stir into the onions and courgette with the chopped green beans and cook for a few minutes. Add the white wine and peas and simmer down until half has reduced then set aside to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, drain the rest of the beans and slice down the centres (this is just for decoration so leave it out if you'd rather save time). Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
In a separate pan, whilst the rest is cooling, melt the butter on a medium heat then mix in the flour until there are no lumps. In little amounts, add the milk and whisk it in. Once all the milk is whisked in and it's smooth, leave to simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring every now and then. Mix in the grated parmesan, taleggio and nutmeg until smooth. Pour half of the cheesy sauce onto the vegetable pan and the rest will be left for pouring over the top of the soufflés at the table.
Separate the yolks and the whites of the egg. Once the vegetable pan is cool enough, mix in the yolks. In a separate bowl, whip up the egg whites until they form stiff peaks then fold gently into the vegetable pan, being so careful not to mix and bash out the air. Then pour the mixture into little buttered ramekins, sprinkle a little parmesan on the top and cook for 25 mins. Checking them often but not opening the oven. If you open the oven, the lovely puffed rise will fall. Warm the sauce and put into a little jug. Dress and toss the salad altogether and once the soufflés are ready, serve immediately!