Food for friends
While a sit down reception is the classic choice for most couples, an intimate wedding breakfast for family and friends – sometimes held the day before or the morning after – is a sophisticated option that won’t blow the budget, especially if you decide to create it yourself.
Choosing the food for your wedding can be one of the toughest decisions. While other elements of your day are an opportunity to reflect your own personality and style, the food you choose needs to be something that everyone will enjoy, not necessarily your favourite Friday night takeaway.
From three-course meals and buffets to barbecues, food trucks and hog roasts, the options are endless and caterers and venues will go all out to win you over.
If you are looking for something that little bit special, or for fewer numbers, you could indulge your guests in a sumptuous afternoon tea or wedding breakfast.
Our recipes here, taken from master patissier and baker to the stars Eric Lanlard’s latest book, Eric Lanlard’s Afternoon Tea, published by Mitchell Beazley, £20, (www.octopusbooks.co.uk), are the icing on the cake for any celebration. Deliciously achievable, they also present the perfect opportunity for you to show your guests how special they are by creating chic canapes and cakes just for them.
Lemon & pepper macarons with smoked salmon
This is a great combination; the lemony, peppery macarons still taste sweet, which complements the smokiness of the salmon. The addition of grapefruit gives some extra zing without being overpowering.
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus standing and cooling
Cooking time: 12-15 minutes
• 100g ground almonds
• 100g icing sugar
• 90g egg whites (about 3 eggs)
• 90g golden icing sugar
• 1 tsp cracked black pepper, plus extra for sprinkling
• 1 tsp lemon extract
• A few drops of yellow food colouring
For the filling
• 275g cream cheese
• 300g smoked salmon, sliced
• 18-20 small white grapefruit segments
• Fresh dill sprigs
1 Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Put the ground almonds and icing sugar into a food processor and whizz until finely ground, then sift into a bowl to make a fine powder. Set aside.
2 In a large, clean, dry bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then add the caster sugar a little at a time, whisking until the mixture is stiff and glossy.
3 Using a rubber spatula, gradually fold the almond powder, black pepper, lemon extract and food colouring into the egg whites until the mixture is smooth and shiny and just falls in a ribbon from your spatula.
4 Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm diameter plain piping nozzle, then pipe discs about 4cm in diameter onto the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle a little extra black pepper over each macaron.
5 Give the base of each baking sheet a sharp tap against the work surface to ensure a good ‘foot’, then leave to stand for 10-30 minutes at room temperature to allow the tops to dry out. (You should be able to gently touch the surface of a macaron without it sticking to your finger.)
6 Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the baking paper peels off easily from the macarons, briefly opening the door after 10 minutes to let out the steam. Leave to cool on the baking sheets until almost cold, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
7 To make the filling, put the cream cheese into a bowl and beat until soft, then spoon into a piping bag and pipe a little onto the base of a macaron. Top with a slice of smoked salmon, a grapefruit segment and a frond of dill. Pipe a little more cream cheese onto the base of a second macaron, then secure at an angle on top of the filling.
8 Repeat with the remaining macarons and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours until ready to serve.
Cacao beef on pain perdu
Cacao or raw roasted cocoa beans have been used in savoury cooking for hundreds of years and are the perfect accompaniment to this rich fillet of beef. The French toast base is rich and sweet, making a perfect balance.
Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus marinating
Cooking time: About 10 minutes
• 400g beef fillet, or 2 x 200g fillet steaks
• 2 pinches of salt
• 1 tbsp cacao nibs
• 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 225ml milk
• 3 eggs
• Small pinch of ground cinnamon
• 60g unsalted butter
• 6 slices of brioche loaf, each cut into 2 x 5cm squares
• Baby watercress or pea shoots, to garnish
• Olive oil, for drizzling
1 Put the beef into a sealable freezer bag, then bash with a rolling pin or meat mallet until the meat is about 1cm thick. (Don’t be too rough or you will shred the meat – the aim is to tenderise it.)
2 Remove the meat from the bag, place it on a chopping board and rub the salt, cacao nibs, vanilla bean paste and pepper on both sides. Return to the bag, seal and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
3 In a shallow dish, mix the milk, eggs and cinnamon together. Heat half the butter in a large frying pan. Soak the brioche slices in the egg mixture for a few seconds, turning once. Carefully lift into the pan and, in batches if necessary, cook for 1-2 minutes
on each side, or until golden brown. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
4 Heat the remaining butter in the pan until piping hot, it smells nutty and the milk solids have turned lightly brown. Add the marinated beef and cook for 30-60 seconds on each side until cooked to your liking but preferably still pink inside. Leave to rest for 5 minutes, then slice into thin squares the same size as the brioche.
5 Top the pain perdu with the beef slices and garnish with watercress or pea shoots. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then serve.
Tartelettes aux fruits
Fruit tarts are actually incredibly simply to make, but they need to be made properly; the pastry must be short and buttery, the creme patissiere must be creamy, and the fruits should be sweet and ripe…and, of course, look gorgeous!
Makes: 6 large or 12 small tartlets
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus chilling and cooling
Cooking time: 30 minutes
For the pastry
• 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
• 1 tsp golden caster sugar
• Pinch of salt
• 125g cold unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
• 2-3 tbsp cold water
For the creme patissiere
• 600ml milk
• 5 egg yolks
• 100g golden caster sugar
• 50g custard powder
• 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
• 2 tsp orange blossom extract
• Seasonal fruits or berries
• Apricot glaze or sifted icing sugar
1 To make the pastry, put the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir together. Add the butter and rub in using your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add enough of the 2-3 tbsp water and bring together to form a dough, then knead briefly until smooth. Shape into a disc, cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
2 Meanwhile, make the creme patissiere. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan. In a heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and custard powder together. Pour the warm milk over the egg mixture and whisk until smooth, then pour back into the pan, bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously, until very thick and glossy. Pour into a bowl, cover the surface with clingfilm and leave to cool.
3 Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6 and grease 6 x individual 10cm diameter or 12 x 5cm loose-bottomed tart tins.
4 Roll out the pastry thinly on a floured surface and use to line the tins. Prick the bases, line with baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice/dried pulses. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes until golden. Remove and leave to cool.
5 Whisk the vanilla paste and orange blossom extract into the cold creme patissiere. Spoon the creme into the cooled tart cases and decorate with fresh seasonal fruits or berries. Brush with apricot glaze or simply dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.