During my last few years of secondary school my two sisters and I used to cycle through The Hermitage, a beautiful bit of woodland just next door to us, following a winding track leading to the most amazing spot.
This special place, Pine Cone Point, is a wooden structure built to frame a view over 10 miles north and 10 miles south. On these expeditions we would pack various snacks and nibbles to sustain us.
Once we reached our destination, we would unwrap muffins, tarts, crisps and popcorn; maybe even a few squashed sarnies as the sun went down. Then we would pack up again and speed off down the hill home for dinner.
In hindsight, what I loved most was packing the picnics; I enjoy wrapping up food, and squirrelling packages away for later.
When it came to creating recipes and shooting the book I knew it would feature a picnic spread with my friends at Rumbling Bridge. This menu (rather more involved than the bashed apples and crisps of our bike rides), featured mackerel pâté, langoustines with aioli and gooseberry cake.
But I still enjoy making up simple parcels. My boyfriend James is a keen mountain biker and often requires sustenance (he actually puts in the mileage unlike the Shedden trio) and I find great satisfaction in sending him off with a few big wedges of flapjack wrapped in greaseproof paper.
Cookies also proved a hit, but even they are not as popular as these pork and sage sesame sausage rolls and asparagus and potato tartlets.
In the midst of Aran Bakery madness I am spending time planning the services we will offer further down the line. One of which, of course, will be a pre-packed picnic, prettily displayed in a basket, including a blanket.
Asparagus and potato tartlets
6 10cm tartlets
- 100g butter
- 200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- Splash of milk
For the filling
- 150g boiled new potatoes
- 150g asparagus, blanched
- 2 eggs
- 150ml milk
- 100g crème fraîche
- 2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint and oregano, chopped
- 20g Parmesan, grated
- In the bowl of a food processor, blitz the butter, flour, some seasoning and a splash of milk together to form a dough. Bring it into a ball and wrap in cling film. Allow to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Once rested, roll out on a lightly floured work surface to 2-3mm thick. Divide into six and use the pieces to line six 10cm tartlet cases, making sure you press into the sides. Trim the edges and prick the bases lightly with a fork. Return to the fridge for another 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
- Chop the cooked potatoes into small chunks, and slice the asparagus into 2cm lengths. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, crème fraîche, herbs and a little seasoning. Once well combined, gently stir in the potatoes, asparagus and Parmesan.
- Serve hot or cold with a tangle of watercress.
Sesame sausage rolls
12 small sausage rolls
- 300g pork mince
- Olive oil, for cooking
- 2 banana shallots, very finely chopped
- 10 sage leaves, very finely chopped
- Leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme, very finely chopped
- 30g breadcrumbs from seeded bread
- 250g block of puff pastry
- Flour, for dusting
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 2 tsp black sesame seeds
- Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5. Place the pork mince in a bowl.
- Heat a little olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the shallot, sage and thyme to the pan and cook for 10 minutes over a low-medium heat until translucent.
- Allow to cool for five minutes then add to the pork mince along with the breadcrumbs and a little seasoning. Mix well.
- Split the pastry block into two and roll out, on a lightly dusted surface, two long rectangles each measuring 10cm x 35cm.
- Split the pork mixture into two and make each into a sausage shape that is 35cm long. Place down the length of each pastry rectangle, in the middle.
- Brush the surrounding pastry with some beaten egg. Bring one long edge of pastry over the meat and press down against the bottom length of pastry to seal it. Press along the whole length then trim about 2mm of the pastry so you have a straight edge. Repeat with second rectangle.
- Brush the tops with any remaining egg, then sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
- Slice each roll into six even pieces and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.