A spring holiday feast

Cynthia Stone
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The first excuse of the year to put a big bird or ham or roast beef or leg of lamb in the oven calls for some thought. But if you’re still undecided what to serve tomorrow, I’ve got a couple of last-minute suggestions to turn any meal into a feast.

Mushroom toasts

If you don’t choose to roast a beast, simply starting your meal with an appetizer transforms whatever you serve afterwards into a special event. As a bonus for stressed cooks, the topping for these delicious morsels can be made a day ahead. If you have leftovers, it also freezes well. This recipe makes enough for an entire baguette, so, depending on the courses that follow, it serves 8 to 10 people easily.

6 cups fresh mushrooms, finely chopped

1 medium onion, minced

3 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (divided)

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 French style baguette with olive oil to coat

Fry mushrooms and onion in butter and oil until mushrooms release their moisture and it completely evaporates — you want no liquid at all left in the pan and the mixture should be golden brown. Add salt, pepper, thyme and goat cheese. Cook, stirring, until mixture is hot through and spreadable. Stir in half the Parmesan together with pine nuts and parsley and set aside to cool slightly. Slice baguette on the diagonal into about 20 thin slices. Brush with olive oil and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast until golden brown in a 375 F oven. Divide the mushroom mixture among the toast slices, spreading it almost to the edges. Return to oven at 375 F about 8 minutes or until heated through.

Potato rosemary scallop

Ham might come to mind first when you read the name of this recipe, but I have to tell you that this fantastic potato dish goes with absolutely any meat or fish you choose to cook. The saving grace of this one is it will stand in a warm oven for quite a while, then on the counter a while longer, while you get the rest of your meal together. Try that with boiled potatoes. This amount serves 4 generously, but doubles if you’ve got a crowd coming.

1 medium onion, minced

2 tsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)

1 sprig fresh rosemary (no substitutions here)

2 lbs. yellow-fleshed potatoes

1-1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese (or cheddar)

Fry onion in olive oil in a heavy pot until soft but not brown. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in broth, whipping cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; add rosemary. Bring just to a boil and set aside. Scrub (or peel if you’d rather) potatoes and slice as thinly as you can. Layer about half in a greased casserole dish. Pour over half the cream mixture — discard rosemary. Repeat with remaining potato slices and remaining cream mixture. Sprinkle cheese evenly over top. Cover and bake at 375 F for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake another 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling hot and golden brown.

Rum glazed maple pecan bundt cake

If guests leave with goofy smiles because of your fabulous dessert, then it doesn’t really matter what came before, does it? Serve this sublime cake with a scoop of the very best vanilla ice cream you can buy, and it will turn whatever is on the dinner table into a feast. And what better ingredient to invoke spring than maple syrup?


1-1/4 cups soft unsalted butter (no other)

1-1/4 cups sugar

5 eggs

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 tsp. vanilla

1-3/4 cups pecan pieces

2-1/4 cups cake-and-pastry flour (divided)

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Rum Glaze:

1/4 cup unsalted butter (no other)

2 tbsp. each maple syrup and whipping cream

3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted

2 tbsp. rum

pinch salt

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and light in colour. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in maple syrup and vanilla. Toast pecans in a dry frying pan until fragrant, about 5 minutes — be careful not to scorch them. Cool and place in the food processor with 2 tbsp. of the flour. Pulse until finely ground; set aside. Sift together remaining flour, baking powder and salt and add all at once to creamed mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in ground pecans. Pour batter into generously greased and floured bundt pan and bake at 350 F for 1 hour or until golden brown and a tester in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. For the glaze, melt butter in a small pot and add maple syrup and whipping cream. Heat until not quite boiling. Remove from heat and add icing sugar, rum and salt, stirring until smooth. Cool about 10 minutes then drizzle slowly over cake.


Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, N.L., A1E 4N1.

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