Easter is our favourite time of year – a time for families to come together and great food to be enjoyed. We took the opportunity to speak to our brand founder, Jenna Clifford, about her entertaining tricks and great easy recipes to keep things simple but chic and most importantly, relaxed.
Describe your Easter entertaining style?
I love to entertain and I have found that the secret to stress free entertaining is to involve all the family in the process – preparing the table, drinks bar and cooking. My house is very casual and for this reason we don’t always set formal tables with prescribed seating but instead do a buffet style meal where all guests come up to the kitchen island to help themselves to food and a pocket style serviette with a knife and fork. They can then sit wherever they like in our home - on the patio outside or in the dining room which is an open plan space not far from the patio, filled with lots of natural light. A few hours before guests arrive we setup a drinks station with sufficient glasses, a bucket of ice, chilled water, sliced limes, lemons, mint and grapefruit. This way, on arrival we pour our guests a drink and suggest that they help themselves when they next want a drink. It takes out all the fuss and really leaves the guests feeling relaxed and at home. ON the table I decorate with lots of colourful foil wrapped Easter eggs displayed in crystal bowls and I fill mismatched tea cups with roses and other flowers from the garden.
What do you like to cook for Easter lunch?
As enjoyable as Easter weekend is, cooking for 10+ people can be quite stressful. It was only after years of entertaining that I learnt to cook dishes which work for a larger crowd, are quick and easy that don’t compromise on flavour or nourishment.
This year I’ve decided to do my family’s all-time favourite beef fillet with my signature blue cheese exotic mushroom sauce.
What do you serve on arrival?
A great welcome drink and a savoury snack – here are two of my favourite recipes in these categories;
Dex’s “Legend of the Lowveld” G&T – Welcome Drink
My husband loves an interesting G&T and over the years he has developed a reputation in the Lowveld for his unique tasting gin and tonics. We use fresh mint from our garden, and have recently planted pink and white grapefruit trees, pomegranate trees, lime trees and dragon fruit trees to make sure we have sufficient stock for these divine G&T’s over Easter!
Prep Time 2 minutes
- 2 sprigs of fresh mint or coriander
- ½ large grapefruit
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds
- 2 black whole peppercorns
- 2 tots Tanqueray gin
- Fever Tree or equivalent artisan tonic water
- Use a large wine/goblet glass (best kept in the freezer for up to 30mins before serving so that the glass is iced)
- Measure your gin and pour into the glass
- Slice the ½ grapefruit into two and squeeze the juice of the one quarter into the glass
- Put the other quarter (skin on) into the glass after stabbing it a few times to open some of the segments and release the juice
- Put in the pomegranate seeds and peppercorns
- Top up the glass with crushed ice, pour in the tonic and lastly add the mint to the top of the glass as a finishing touch
Granny Riphagen’s Dutch Cheese Straws
This recipe was passed on to me by paternal grandmother, Mona. I just love anything that combines pastry and cheese, and these cheese straws are not only easy to make, but a great hit with guests on arrival with their first drink.
Serves 8 - 10 people
Prep time 15 - 20 minutes
Cooking time 10 -15 mins
- 3 cups plain flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 100g softened butter
- 6 cups finely grated mature cheddar
- 1 heaped teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt (I use Pink Himalayan crushed salt)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup cold (refrigerated) water
- Finely grated parmesan for sprinkling
- Optional: A pinch of Cumin, Poppy or Caraway seeds for sprinkling
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius
- Lightly grease 2 baking trays
- Measure the flour into a bowl and run in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the grated cheddar.
- Reserve a little of the egg yolk for glazing and stir in the remainder. Bring the mixture together to form a dough. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes.
- Roll the chilled dough out on to a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of about 5mm. Cut into neat strips about 1,5 cm wide and 20-25cm long.
- Leave the straws straight, or twist the straws repeatedly or use a star shaped cutter to make festive themed stars
- Place on the prepared baking trays, brush with the remaining egg yolk and sprinkle generously with the grated parmesan.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
- Lift off the baking trays (with great care) and leave to cool on a wire rack
- Serve in a serviette lined basket
Jenna’s Signature Blue Cheese Exotic Mushroom Sauce served with beef fillet & campfire potatoes
There are few people who don’t love a good beef fillet. I like to make this as my husband will cook the fillet on the braai, and I prepare the sauce in the morning before the family and guests arrive which allows me to relax and enjoy being social over lunch time. My signature blue cheese exotic mushroom sauce has been a firm family and guest favourite for years. I really do believe that a good sauce is a cook’s winning secret which can magically enhance a beef fillet dish in an extraordinary way. The best thing about this main meal is the simplicity of it, and the fact that the husband and wife are involved in the preparation and cooking of it, making for a team effort on the day. I like to serve the fillet with either oven roasted potatoes and vegetables or “campfire” potatoes filled with butter and then wrapped in foil before being cooked on the braai. This wonderful sauce can be enjoyed on the fillet and on the campfire potatoes.
Serves 6 – 8 people
Prep time 15 minutes
Cooking time 10 minutes
Note: I source my exotic mushrooms from Woolworths as they usually have a great selection. You could also find these in a local Asian supermarket. The below mushrooms can be substituted for a mixture of exotic mushrooms (at least 2 types), but you do not have to use exactly what is prescribed below.
- 150g Shimeji Mushrooms
- 150g Shiitake Mushrooms
- 150g Maitake Mushrooms or any exotic mix mushrooms which you can find
- 100g butter
- 1 tablespoon of flour
- 2 egg yolks
- 500ml – 700ml cream
- 1 cup finely grated extra mature cheddar cheese
- 250g block of blue cheese (whichever takes your fancy)
- Pink salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Tablespoon sherry or brandy
- Optional: chopped parsley or spring onions for presentation
- Wash and dry your mushrooms thoroughly and finely grate your cheddar cheese.
- Using a big pan, melt your butter and gently fry your mushrooms adding salt and pepper to taste. Once your mushrooms are cooked al dente, drain the pan of the remaining butter and set aside the mushrooms in the pan to rest
- In a separate pan, make a roux
- As the roux is thickening, slowly add the egg, cream, cheddar cheese, blue cheese (broken into large chunks) and cook slowly taking the pan on and off the heat (the sauce must not simmer or boil)
- Once your cheese sauce is ready, add the mushrooms into the pan containing the cheese sauce and gently mix the ingredients together without breaking the mushrooms
- Just before you are done cooking the sauce - throw in a tablespoon of brandy or sherry
You could cook this sauce in the morning and set it aside covered with a lid until lunchtime, and then gently reheat it just before serving. Make sure you do not overcook the sauce – it should never boil. Mastering the basic how to of a roux is very important in making this recipe.
For the fillet – baste, seal and cook on the braai or pan fry
For the potatoes - poke each potato several times all over with a fork. Smear each potato with 1 tablespoon of butter, then double wrap in aluminum foil. Bury the potatoes in the hot coals. Allow to cook for 30 to 50 minutes until soft.
Bon Appetit and wishing all of you a very happy Easter weekend!