The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

May 24, 2014

COOKING WITH SIMON: Celebrate Memorial Day with countryside dining

Palestine Herald-Press

— Happy Memorial Day to everyone! What a great celebration.

But when I have memories of loved ones who served in wars I remember my uncles and granddad in both World Wars, and the harrowing experiences of my great-aunt who survived prison camps during World War II.

They were all British soldiers, she a nurse, and it amazes me the hardships that some of them survived.

When I lived in New Zealand these special weekends were spent on the water – sailing, dining and eating on the boat. But in England, where I was born, and later lived for many years, the weekends were spent on the countryside near stately homes.

As you probably know there are many homes, castles and manors throughout England and they’re surrounding grounds would be perfect for a holiday picnic.

One of my favorites was the home of the Duke and Duchess of Derbyshire. Called Chatsworth house, it was set on 100 acres of what is now park land. The house had over 200 rooms and the scenery was gorgeous for a picnic.

When I watch the show Downton Abbey it reminds me of Chatsworth. Many of the old manors were turned into restaurants, inns or stores after the family was no longer able to take care of them.

Chatsworth had a great restaurant and food store where much of the local produce was sold, along with chickens, beef and bakery products.

When the new season of Downton Abbey premieres we want to do a proper English dinner at Sabor a Pasion.

How fitting and fortunate to have an English chef in Palestine to properly emulate this great and classic way of life. As portrayed in Downton Abbey, the family who lives in the manor expects proper service from the English staff and doesn’t care for the ways of Westerners.

But all in good humor, since I’ve been in Texas for ten years, the British side of me has taken a back seat.

Across the pond, I catered and served these types of dinners all the time through my restaurant in Derbyshire.

I would love to revisit all of the recipes I used to prepare in England and make sure the dinner is as proper for Palestine as it would be for Dukes, Duchesses and royalty across the pond.

But this story is about relaxing on the English countryside, or any countryside, and enjoying the view with a picnic.

I had some ladies in Tyler request a cooking class about this subject and I will be doing a class at Sweet Gourmet in Tyler that features some of my favorite British picnic recipes.

There is still plenty of room in the class, if you would like to attend. Or, if you have a group of friends in Palestine who are interested I would love to repeat the class at Sabor a Pasion.

The menu includes:

• Lamb & Potato Pasties with Mustard Sauce

•  Leek & Potato Soup with Welsh Rarebit

•  Scotch Eggs with Pickles

•  Stiiton Cream Cheese Sandwiches

•  English Cream Scones with Jam

•  Sparkling Cider & Fresh Berry Parfaits

•  Pimm’s Iced Tea

Ladies bring your hats and parasols and men should wear a seersucker suit and straw hat. It’s like a scene out of Downton Abbey, or even better, Mary Poppins. Actually, I am kidding. No particular attire required.

To get your mouth watering, here are a few preview recipes. Call 903-534-0840 to book the class in Tyler or plan a class for 10 or more in Palestine at 903-729-9500.

Cherrio! And enjoy the holiday weekend!



3 cups flour

4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 stick butter, cut in small pieces

1 cup milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt into a large bowl. Add the pieces of butter and using your hands rub the butter into the flour to create a crumbly mixture. Begin adding milk in small amounts until dough is soft, but still crumbly. You may not need all the milk. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead gently on a lightly floured surface. Do not overwork. Knead a few times until dough comes together. Roll out to about 1 inch thick and cut into triangles. Place on a lightly-greased baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden on the top.

Pimm’s Iced Tea


4 tea bags

5 cups boiling water

15 mint leaves

1/2 cup

juice 2 large oranges, plus slices to serve

juice 2 lemons, plus slices to serve

1 1/2 cups Pimm's No 1

a few sliced strawberries and plenty of ice, to serve


Put the tea bags and half the mint into a large jug, then pour over boiling water from the kettle. Leave to infuse for 10 minutes then remove the bags and stir in the sugar.  Once cool, remove the mint, add the orange juice, lemon juice and Pimm’s, and chill thoroughly. Can be made up to a day ahead. Serve over plenty of ice, with slices of orange, lemon and strawberry, and remaining mint sprigs.