FOLLOWING the mild, but very wet winter, it feels like we could be in for an early spring this year; the little ears of wild garlic, our usual verdant harbinger of the end of winter, put in an appearance in mid-February and went immediately onto The Star’s menu.

Easter also comes early this year and the children will be breaking up from school very soon, so it’s time to start planning some dishes to carry us over the bank holiday weekend.

My first recipe this month is nursery food at its best - soft-boiled egg with little toasted crab sandwiches for dipping and lovely little pink shrimps. It’s a great opportunity to dig out the Humpty Dumpty egg cups from the back of the cupboard and revert to childhood.

The second recipe, which would be fantastic for a bank holiday meal with family or friends, has a bit of added theatre and fun, especially if brought to the table, still surrounded by the hay, garnished with the bacon rolls, and served with a pot of potatoes and spinach on the side.

Soft-boiled Reggie’s Duck Egg with a Toasted White Crab "Sandwich", North Sea Brown Shrimp and Blade Mace Butter, Celery Salt (serves two)


100g unsalted butter

5g mace blade, ground

50g brown shrimp, peeled

5g dill, chopped

2 slices brown bread

50g white crabmeat

Zest of half a lime

10g cucumber, finely diced

2 tbsp mayonnaise

2 duck eggs

A sprinkling of celery salt



First make the crab sandwich, by adding the lime zest and cucumber to the crabmeat and binding together with the mayonnaise. Toast the bread and cut to rectangular shapes. Season the crab mixture to taste.

Add the mace blade and butter to a pan and clarify, add the shrimps at the last minute along with the dill.

Drop the duck eggs into boiling water and low to simmer for approximately eight minutes. Remove from the water and serve with the sandwich, shrimp butter and celery salt.

Hay-baked ‘Loose Birds Chicken with Swaledale-baked Dauphinoise, Smoked Saddleback Bacon Rolls, Buttered Spinach

(serves four)


1 large oven ready free range chicken

200g hay

4 slices smoked bacon

200g spinach

A pinch of nutmeg

25g butter


For the Dauphinoise

6 baking potatoes

300ml whipping cream

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 sprig of thyme

25g butter, melted

100g Swaledale cheese



Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Season the whole chicken and wrap in the hay. Place in a roasting tray and put in the oven for approximately one hour 15 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the Dauphinoise potatoes. Peel the potatoes and slice thinly. Bring the cream to the boil and add the thyme and garlic. Layer the potatoes in an ovenproof dish, adding seasoning as you go. Pour over the cream and grate the cheese on top. Bake for 45 minutes. Either serve in the cooking dish or cut out "rounds" with a pastry cutter. Keep warm.

For the bacon rolls, cut each bacon rasher into three, roll up and hold in place with a cocktail stick. Bake for 10 minutes in the same oven.

Wilt the spinach in a frying pan with the butter and a little seasoning. Add the nutmeg.

Once the chicken is cooked, take to the table in the hay. Carve, serving with the bacon rolls, a stack of potatoes and the spinach on the side.