There’s a long weekend on the horizon and – though the weather is unlikely to be playing ball – I’m still hopeful that there will be enough sunshine for a picnic.

Photo: Ross Giblin/Fairfax Media

This week’s Three Ways With… has a trio of picnic-friendly recipes for you to try. If all else fails, eat them while sitting on a picnic blanket in the lounge. Add lashings of ginger beer and some spy-catching for a frisson of Famous Five-style fun.

Happy weekend!

One of the happiest winters of my life was spent in Whanganui, where my lovely friend Anna and I amused ourselves with sewing, cooking, art projects and soaking in the fire bath in our garden. If it sounds all a bit Little House On The Prairie, that’s because it was. The house we rented felt very much like an idyll from the rest of the world, kept warm by the hum of sewing machines and a constantly-boiling kettle.

Life seems to have become a lot less idyllic of late, but I’ve decided there is still room in my life for little projects.  Especially slightly ridiculous ones as soothing as knitting an egg cosy.

Very Easy Egg Cosy Knitting Pattern For Beginners

Lucy’s Easy Egg Cosy

I devised this pattern after knitting my daughter a woolly hat – essentially a rectangle that you draw up at the end. This lacks the absolute charm of a more complicated pattern but it’s an excellent confidence booster for amateur knitters. The one in the picture is a little bigger than it’s supposed to be – or perhaps I bought shorter than average eggs – but this pattern should make one that’s just the right size.

You will need:

8mm knitting needles

Double knitting wool – use up any scraps you have, as long as they’re the same ply

Wool needle

Cast on 28 stitches. Knit one row, then purl the next. Continue in this fashion until the work measures 6.5cm, changing colour as your wool supplies allow.

Thread a wool needle (as in, a sewing needle, not a knitting needle) with wool and slip it through the stitches as you slip them off the knitting needle. Gather both ends of this wool together and pull tightly – the knitted work will come together like the opening of a drawstring bag. Knot together tightly.

Carefully turn the egg cosy inside out and stitch the open side together. Trim any loose threads and hey presto, your eggs will never grow cold again. For added style at breakfast time, add a tiny fork pompom on top. Instructions follow below…

How To Make Fork Pompoms

How to make a fork pompom

When I made my daughter’s hat, making the fist-sized pompom for the top seemed to take nearly as long as the knitting did (and it used nearly as much wool!)

These tiny pompoms are much faster than the traditional cardboard donut method. All you need to do is to wind the wool around the tines of a fork – I’ve used a cake fork in the image above – until you have a fat wodge of wool. Slip another piece of wool between the tines and the wrapped bundle, then tie tightly in the middle (I’ve used a different colour here for display purposes). Slip the tied bundle off the tines, then snip the ends of the pompom as usual. Be careful not to trim it too agressively if it’s a very little pompom as it may fall apart.

Have you got a winter project on the go?

It has become very fashionable for recipes to appear in the post-Easter sugar haze exhorting ways to use up excess chocolate eggs. But because I usually give up chocolate before Easter – or at least try to – and I’m a bit fussy about the chocolate I eat, any nice Easter eggs are usually cracked and dispatched pretty quickly. This year, with a 5am wake-up call from the youngest member of our household, I spent the day eating any chocolate I could get my hands on in a bid to stay upright. By Easter Monday, I couldn’t bear the sight of it.

I got fairly sick of hot cross buns this year too – spending a day making endless batches will do that to a person – and so by the time the weekend was over I wanted something light and non-fruity, but with a hint of real chocolate (not the Easter egg kind).

These fluffy brioche buns were the result. They’re most excellent with a generous splodge of cream cheese and a dollop of marmalade – and with a long weekend coming up, you should think about adding them to your repertoire.

Chocolate Brioche Buns
The instructions below detail how to make these with a stand mixer – it can be done by hand, but it’s a bit more labour intensive.  I’ve designed this recipe so the buns are ready for breakfastIf you don’t want the buns for breakfast, the dough will rise in about an hour at room temperature.

275ml milk (I use Zany Zeus ‘blue’)
500g high grade flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
50g unsalted butter, soft but not melted, diced
80g good quality dark chocolate, melted (I use Whittaker’s 60 per cent cacao)
100g good quality dark chocolate, smashed into little bits (I use Whittaker’s 60 per cent cacao)

Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp milk

Sugar glaze: 1/4 cup boiling water mixed with 1/4 cup brown sugar

Scald the milk and set aside to cool to lukewarm. Add the eggs and stir to mix.
Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and stir until combined, then pour in the egg and milk mixture and mix well.
Using the dough hook, mix on low-medium speed (about 3 or 4) until the dough is shiny and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary (turn the mixer off first!).
Keeping the mixer on medium speed, drizzle in the melted chocolate. When it has all absorbed, start add the butter, one piece at a time, until it is all mixed in.
Cover the bowl with plastic and put in the fridge overnight, during which time it will double in size.
In the morning, tip the dough out on to a lightly floured worktop. knead in more choco
Cover with a cloth for 15 minutes, while you make a cup of tea and heat the oven to 180C.
Shape the dough into 10-12 balls and place on a lined baking tray. Brush each one with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes, until risen and cooked through. Brush with the hot sugar glaze and remove to a rack to cool (though they will probably all be eaten before that happens).

The chocolate and egg component make this the perfect opportunity to link up with two of my favourite bloggers, Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Dom of Belleau Kitchen. This month both Karen’s Tea Time Treats and Dom’s latest invention, Simply Eggcellent, have a chocolate theme. Click the links to find more chocolatey, eggy goodness.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they get that sinking feeling. In fact, particularly unlucky people may get it several times a week. It usually strikes on their way home from work, when they realise that they have forgotten to arrange anything for dinner.

Some people shake this off and simply order takeaways, go out to eat or become a sudden devotee of fasting. Others turn to their fridges, brush the cares of the day aside and get busy with whatever they can find.

Making a meal out of ‘nothing’ (a relative term, I know) is one of my greatest strengths. It should be on my CV. Instead, here’s an example to inspire you the next time you’re in the dreaded position of Not Knowing What To Have For Dinner.

Easy All In One Vegetarian Frittata Recipe And Image By Lucy Corry

Easy Frypan Frittata
This can be customised to suit your requirements and ingredients. It fits my criteria for an ’emergency’ style dinner – we always have eggs, cheese and potatoes hanging around – AND it involves very little attention or washing up afterwards. It’s also a good way to rehome leftovers.

6 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 peppers, cored and sliced
2 cups diced cooked potato (leftover roast potatoes are good here)
3/4 cup diced feta
two handfuls grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese
8 eggs
salt and pepper
fresh herbs, if available

Turn the oven to 200C. Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a heavy cast iron frying pan (that can go in the oven later). Add the onion and peppers and cook for five minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the potato and cook for another five minutes. Add any suitable fresh herbs if you have them.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the feta, stir lightly to mix. Add the remaining three tablespoons of oil to the pan, then tip in the egg and cheese mixture. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and season well with salt and pepper. Put in the waiting oven and cook for 20 minutes, until golden, puffy and set. Let sit for five minutes before slicing. Hey presto – dinner for four – with leftovers for lunch the next day if you’re lucky. Bon appetit!

What’s your current favourite emergency dinner?

This month the We Should Cocoa challenge has been all about making a chocolate cake for less than £1 (NZ$1.97). I have to confess I didn’t even try.

Instead, I can share with you the way to make your favourite chocolate cake taste – and look – like a million dollars. It’s this – a cloud of chocolate meringue buttercream that will make people close their eyes in bliss as they eat it. It defies all current trends in that it is resolutely full of sugar, butter and eggs. And it is worth every single mouthful.

The ultimate chocolate meringue buttercream
If you find ordinary buttercream icing – the sort you make with icing sugar and butter – too sweet and somewhat gritty, then this is the icing for you. It’s still sweet and quite rich, but incredibly light. It’s stable enough to pipe, spreads like a dream and keeps well in the freezer if you don’t use it all in one go. I have to leave the house to stop myself eating it straight from the bowl before it reaches the cake. It’s THAT good.

320g caster sugar
170g water
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
350g butter, at room temperature, sliced into 2cm chunks
2 tsp pure vanilla
150g good quality dark chocolate, at least 60 per cent cocoa solids, melted and at room temperature

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir well, then boil until the temperature reaches 118C. While the syrup is boiling, put the egg yolks and eggs in the bowl of a freestanding mixer and whisk until they are light and fluffy. When the syrup has reached 118C, carefully drizzle it into the egg mixture (beating all the time). Beat on high until the mixture is thick and pale, and the sides of the bowl are cool to touch. At this point, switch from the whisk to the paddle attachment and start adding the butter, a piece at a time, until it is all mixed in. Don’t fret if it starts to look a bit like mayonnaise, just keep beating it.
When the butter is all in, and the buttercream is very light and fluffy, add the vanilla and melted chocolate. Beat until well mixed in. You can use this straight away, or leave it at room temperature for a couple of hours (as long as it doesn’t get too hot or cold). It also keeps in the fridge for a week, though you’ll need to beat it again.

Best Chocolate Meringue Buttercream Cake Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake
If you want to make the ultimate chocolate cake, make two batches of this easy chocolate cake. When the cakes have completely cooled, chill them in the fridge for 30 minutes. Spread the surfaces of three of the cakes with good boysenberry jam, then a layer of chocolate meringue buttercream. Stack them on top of each other, then cover the lot with a thin ‘crumb coat’ of buttercream. Return to the fridge for 30 minutes to set, then cover in the remainder of the buttercream (you can go crazy here with a piping bag if you like). The cake can be left in the fridge overnight, but let it come to room temperature before serving.

Have a great weekend, everyone x