A little taster of what's cooking...
If ever there was a good time to make a truly indulgent cake, it’s at Easter. Alternatively, you could always make it after Easter to use up the Easter eggs!
The cake itself is just a chocolate Victoria sandwich and you don’t have to use Maltesers for the top, you can pile it high with your favourites.
I always start a cake by weighing the eggs. Use 3 or 4 eggs, depending on how deep you’d like your chocolate sponge to be. Once you’ve weighed the eggs, write down the weight and make sure that you use the same for: butter, sugar and self raising flour (plus 1/2 tsp baking powder). When it comes to adding the cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate) I prefer to dissolve a couple of tablespoons with a tablespoon or so of boiling water – stir to make a paste (use a splash more water if you need it). Add this after you’ve creamed the butter and sugar together and then mix well before the next step. When the mixture has been made, it should drop from a spoon with some gentle encouragement. If it doesn’t, just add a splash of milk. Bake in two lined Victoria Sandwich tins.
You’ll need 125g of Milky Bar but don’t eat the rest, you’ll need to melt it to put on top of the finished cake! You’ll also need a small bar of your favourite milk chocolate for decorating the top, too.
For the icing, you’ll need:
175g butter, 175g icing sugar, 125g Milky Bar, 1tsp vanilla (optional)
Melt the Milky Bar and leave to cool. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cooled chocolate and beat again until really light.
Sandwich the cake together with a layer of Nutella (or similar) and using a piping bag (optional) pipe half of the icing over the nutella layer before putting the other layer of cake on the top.
Spread the rest of the icing on to the top of the cake and gently press the Maltesers into the soft icing – don’t push them too far in, it’s just to make sure that they don’t roll off. Cut some of them in half to drop into any gaps and give a different texture. Drizzle over the leftover melted Milky Bar and some melted milk chocolate. Sprinkle over some edible glitter or sprinkles (optional)
Pakora (aka Fritters) are a fantastic addition to any Indian meal or perfect to serve with drinks. As with all Pakora, they use only a few fresh ingredients, making them a great, cheap choice for parties.
Because they’re made with lentils, they are light and fluffy inside and crisp and golden on the outside. Filled with spinach, coriander, spring onions and chillies (if you ignore the fact they’re deep fried…) they’re a health food!
Spinach & Lentil Pakora – makes around 24
186g Moong dal (these are skinned, split mung beans and are available from supermarkets in the World Food section, or Indian stores)
100g pre-washed and dried, finely shredded spinach (I grab a handful and roll it up into a cigar, then finely slice my way along)
4 spring onions, washed, dried and finely sliced
Small handful of washed and dried coriander leaves, roughly chopped (you can use parsley or any other mild tasting herb, if you prefer)
2 green chillies (you can use more if you prefer, or leave them out completely)
1/8tsp (pinch) of baking powder
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
Soak the Moong dal for 4 hours in water.
Drain, rinse and put into a food processor with 4fl oz water and whizz together until smooth, light and fluffy. This should take about 5-6 minutes in 1 minute bursts. Each time, scrape down the sides of the processor before whizzing for another minute.
Mix in the other ingredients with 1/2tsp of the salt at this stage. Don’t be tempted to add any more spinach, coriander or spring onion than stated above in the recipe, if you overload the mixture the pakora will turn out to be heavy and chewy instead of light and fluffy. Taste and add more salt or chilli if it’s needed.
Fill a pan no more than half full of oil and heat to 190C, or set your deep fat fryer to 190C. You can tell when it’s ready by dropping some bread into the oil – it should turn golden brown in 10-15 seconds. Another way to find out is to put the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil – little bubbles should appear around it.
Gently slide small dessert spoons of mixture into the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan because it will make the pakora soft instead of crisp. You may be able to get around 8 pakora at a time into the pan. They should have lots of smaller bubbles around them. The photo below is of the first four pakora going into the pan which means there are a lot of larger bubbles around them. Turn your heat down slightly so that the bubbles are smaller than this, otherwise the pakora will brown too quickly.
Using a slotted spoon, turn the pakora over so that they cook on both sides and fry until golden brown. Lift out onto kitchen roll to drain. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
You can cook the pakora in advance and then reheat, covered at 180C for 10 minutes, although they won’t be as crispy as they are when served fresh from the pan.
A dip would be great with these, such as raita.
I’m a huge fan of Horseradish. Like dill, just the smell of it makes me hungry and when you look at the medicinal benefits, they are both used to increase appetite!
Before chillies were brought over from Portugal, it was horseradish that separated the men from the boys. It has a completely different heat to chillies – chillie heat sticks to the tougue with it’s potent barbs – horseradish heat comes from chemical compounds being crushed together and so affects your sinuses rather than your tongue! No surprise then, that horseradish has been used for centuries to cure sinus problems.
During the 18th century, the most popular documented way to get rid of a sinus infection was to put 1/4 tsp of freshly grated horseradish on your tongue and ‘hold it in your mouth until all the flavour is gone’. It goes on to say that ‘this will immediately cut through the infected mucus and let it drain down the throat. This will relieve the pressure in your sinuses and help clear infection.’ ! I’ve never tried this remedy- it makes sense – but if you’ve ever peeled and grated fresh horseradish root, you’ll know that the smell affects your eyes and nose far more than any strong raw onions, so I think I’d only try it as an absolute last resort…
Now’s the time for you to look out for horseradish growing wild. It’s easy to spot if you know what Dock leaves look like, they’re very similar. If you’re unsure, rip a piece of the leaf off and give it a smell. You’ll know immediately whether it’s Dock or Horseradish, the leaves have the same delicious fragrance as the root.
After the first few cold nights, the soft green leaves will rapidly turn brown and die back, which means that the leaf markers won’t be there any more. So when you’ve found your horseradish plant, make sure that you mark it with something like a painted stick or stone so that when you come back to dig up your root, if the leaves have vanished you’ll still know where to start digging.
Horseradish Greens as a side dish
Most people know that horseradish root tastes amazing with most roast or baked things (including roast beetroot – yum!), but what a lot of people don’t know is that the leaves of the horseradish are delicious too. Horseradish greens are an absolute delight prepared simply or used in a stir fry. They have an irony rich cabbage flavour, but are quite pokey with a horseradish mustardy taste.
It’s best to select the newest leaves from the centre of the plant (the outer ones are completely edible, but tougher and more irony) and just take as many as you need for your dinner, they don’t freeze well.
Pick and take home just the amount you’ll need for your dinner.
Prepare them as you would spring greens, by cutting out any tough central ribs and chopping into pieces.
Remove the central rib and cut into pieces
Steam them for no longer than 5 minutes and then stir in a knob of butter, some salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg.
If you’re new to Horseradish greens, it might be a good idea to mix them with a cabbage of your choice as an introduction to their amazing flavour. The next time you cook them – you’ll want them ‘neat’!
Steamed Savoy cabbage and Horseradish greens
You can also use the leaves as a wrapper for Dolmades or to wrap pre-cooked vegetables in a cheese sauce, or rice mixtures before being baked in foil in the oven. The Horseradish leaves impart a delicate flavour to their contents.
If you’re only going to try one new thing during the next week, make it Horseradish Greens!
As a child, I loved making butter, bread and growing cress to make every part of the cress sandwich that I was going to eat. I loved all of the processes and felt very clever when I sat there eating something so simple and so good!
Butter making was my favourite bit. My Dad showed me how to make it with creamy milk, in a jam jar. We took it in turns to shake the jam jar until small, wet pearls of butter sat on top of the watery milk. Not much butter to go round, but it was delicious!
This is a great project to do with your children during half term in readiness for your afternoon Jubilee tea!
Butter making is a doddle with a food processor and from a large tub of double cream (which was in the reduced section at our local supermarket), we got a good amount of butter.
Our butter, decorated with pretty Borage flowers
How to make butter
Pour the cream into the food processor and turn it on. You’ll hear it slosh around a lot and then all of a sudden the sound will change to a dull thud when the butter ball bumps onto the sides of the processor bowl. The liquid that has separated from the butter is buttermilk and this (handily!) can be used in scone making. Pour off the liquid and put to one side. We were going to use the butter straight away, but if you want to keep it for any length of time you need to wash the butter to remove every last trace of butter milk or it will quickly go rancid. To wash the butter just pour some very cold water (if the water is even slightly warm, you will melt the butter) into the processor bowl with the butter and process again for 15-20 seconds, strain and repeat the process until the water is clear.
Everyone has their own scone recipe and butter milk can be substituted in any recipe for the liquid that you would normally use. Our recipe is: sieve together 225g (8oz) self raising flour and 1tsp baking powder in a large bowl or in the bowl of a food processor. Add 40g (1 1/2 oz) butter and either rub it in, or process until the butter has disappeared. Add 150ml (1/4 pt) buttermilk and 1tsp vanilla extract and pulse or stir gently until a soft, sticky dough is formed. You may need a little more or a little less buttermilk, depending on the flour.
Tip out onto a floured surface and roll out to 2cm (3/4 inch) and cut out circles with a glass or a cutter. Put onto a baking tray lined with paper. Bake at 220C (425F) Gas 7 for about 10 minutes until golden and risen.
Fresh from the oven.
We made a very small amount of low sugar strawberry jam, which didn’t set very well but tasted heavenly! We kept the rest of it in a jam jar, in the fridge and used it on ice cream.
If I had best china and a best teapot, we’d have got it out for this occasion! Instead we sat out in the garden with our wonderful cream tea and huge smiles on our faces!
It seemed rude not to add the obligatory clotted cream – we didn’t make it though!
One of my passions home and abroad is looking in supermarkets/shops that cater for local communities. It’s an ideal time to have a chat with other Mums who are shopping to prepare family meals – there have been plenty of times that I’ve been invited back to their homes for a cup of tea and a chat, while they show me what they are making out of various ingredients that I’m not familiar with.
I had a wander round our local shopping area this morning and came back to work to have a good, old fashioned ‘Show & Tell’ time!
This kind of ‘Ready Steady Cook’ shopping makes you think outside of the box when it comes to deciding on dinner! Three of these ingredients (beef ribs, Bangladeshi Lemon and herbs) have come together to enable me to make a wonderful slow cooked Beef Shatkora Curry for tomorrow night – can’t wait… (recipe to follow)
Bangladeshi Lemon (Shatkora)
These are very similar to Kaffir Limes and if you can’t get hold of a Kaffir Lime if you’re making something like a Green Curry, you won’t go far wrong by using the skin of a Shatkora instead. They’re actually lemons, but you usually buy them unripe, like these. They eventually go yellow. Their fragrance is absolutely beautiful! The lady in the shop said that the smell reminds her of her Mum – they had a Shatkora tree in their back garden in Bangladesh and her Mum used to make a beautiful Lime Pickle with them. She says she’ll pass the recipe on to me!
I have absolutely no idea! I had to buy them though – I’ll let you know…
Bunches of herbs
Nothing overly unusual about bunches of herbs, but the substantial bunches that you can buy in Asian shops, compared to the feeble ones in supermarkets makes you realise that in other cultures, herbs are used as an essential part of the diet – not just as a garnish or as a mild flavouring.
A cut of meat that is coming back into fashion. Everyone uses pork spare ribs, but not so many people use the beef variety. They take a lot of cooking as you’d imagine, but for around £6 for all of this meat, it’s well worth the time spent slowly cooking them until they’re soft, silky and falling away from the bone.
Errrrm – a type of herb!
Last, but not least – this is a herb that you don’t see very often with a very off-putting name! It literally translates as ‘foul smelling thistle’, which I think is a little unfair! It’s otherwise known as Mexican Coriander and the taste is like very strong coriander. I reckon going into any shop and asking for a bunch of ‘Stinking’, is risky! It’s worth looking out for – once you’ve tasted it you’ll be back for more.
I’ve always appreciated fresh ingredients and know that the fresher they are, the better your cooking will taste. I go to the market once or twice a week, so that I can choose the best possible ingredients for the kits that we produce and I always look forward to going at this time of the year – not only because there are so many lovely fruits and vegetables in season right now, but also because of the new short season Brazilian Ginger.
I excitedly brought some back with me yesterday morning. The first thing that you notice about it is that it’s much smaller than the regular Chinese ginger, the tubers aren’t as thick. It’s a lot more dense because it’s tightly packed with vibrant, hot lemony juice! It also has amazingly smooth, shiny skin.
Another way to tell if you have Brazilian ginger is to cut into a piece. You’ll notice that the ginger either has a blue/grey tinge to it, or a blue ring just underneath the skin. This is why Brazilian ginger is sometimes called ‘Blue Ginger’.
This marking should make you confident that what you’re getting is ginger at its very best – juicy with a beautiful hot, spicy flavour.
We immediately celebrated with a cup of ginger tea! Add a teabag of your choice (one that you can drink without milk) to a cup of hot water and add as much sliced ginger to it as you can bear. Leave to steep for as long as possible and then enjoy.
If you’re lucky enough to find one of these in one of our kits at this time of the year, you know that you’re in for a treat!
www.ocado.com – search for Hare’s Moor
It’s getting towards my favourite time of the foraging year – harvest! Just like an allotment, the fruits of nature’s labour are nearly ready to go out and pick.
Last week end after a good bout of sunshine, the blackberries had started to ripen. Big, juicy ones this year because of the good watering they’ve had. It wasn’t long before we’d got a basket full – enough to make jam and a crumble with.
We managed to find a few wild plums, but only enough to eat as a snack along the way. Sweet and sour all at the same time, just gorgeous!
Lovely hedgerow snack!
Plantain is readily available at this time of the year. When I was small, I liked to wind the stem around the more common Ribwort Plantain and pop the seed heads off to see who could get theirs to go the furthest!
The longer stems of the Greater Plantain weren’t so entertaining, but they hold the most seeds, so they were the ones that I used to pick to munch along the way!
It’s either of these plants that I turn to when I get stung rather than dock. Just peel a few of the ribs on the leaf down to extract some of the juice and rub it straight onto the sting. The pain and itching is gone before you count to 10. It’s a very easily recognised plant with prominent ribs running down the back of the leaves.
Look for the long ribs down the back of the leaves of the ribwort family to identify it clearly.
The leaves have been used for centuries to combat infection and aid healing. The most common way of using the leaves was as a ‘spit poultice’ which is exactly what it sounds like – take a leaf and chew it until it’s completely broken down before putting it directly on the wound! I’ve never tried this, but you never know – this information may come in handy one day!
The young leaves can be cooked or used in salads, but today I was looking for the seed heads. The seeds are packed full of nutrients, essential oils and vitamins and are lovely eaten straight from the stem as a snack. If you can’t find any seeds on the stem, it may be that the birds have beaten you to it and it’s obviously important that you leave some for them!
I wanted to gather enough seeds to roast and grind to add to the flour that I was making the blackberry crumble with. They’re also really yummy just added raw or toasted into biscuits or trail bars, or just thrown onto salads.
Getting them off the stalks is quite tedious work, but it’s worth it when you taste the nutty difference that it makes to the crumble.
Strip the stems and then place on a metal tray.
Ribwort seeds stripped from the stems
Bake in a hot oven for a few minutes and let the kitchen fill with their gorgeous peachy, biscuity smell. Keep an eye on them and don’t let them burn.
Seeds golden from their toasting in the oven
Empty them into a pestle and mortar and grind up.
Finely ground in a pestle and mortar
When making your crumble topping, just rub the butter into the flour and then stir in the ground seeds when you add the sugar. Any crumble recipe will do, just make sure that you take into account the weight of your ground seeds when weighing out your regular flour.
The jam made a bit extra than the three jars I’d got ready for it, so I stirred the still runny jam into the blackberries before I baked the crumble.
The crumble was nutty and golden from the ribwort, sweet and tangy from the juicy blackberries – I think I’m going to love autumn this year!
You will need:
280g strong white bread flour (or plain flour)
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp oil (olive, rapeseed, sunflower)
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add the oil and stir. Add 3/4 of the water,stir, then squeeze the dough with your hands to form a rough ball. If the dough seems dry, add some more of the water (and more if you think it needs any) You need a pliable dough but not sticky. Knead for 2 minutes to combine. Put the ball of dough back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel for a couple of minutes.
Lightly sprinkle your work surface with flour and put a frying pan on a high heat to get nice and hot.
Split your ball of dough into two, then split each of those pieces into 4, to make 8 pieces of dough. Roll one of the pieces into a ball shape inyour hands, then put on your floured worktop and squash slightly. Using a rolling pin, roll your piece of dough out as thin as you can get without it tearing. You might need to sprinkle some more flour on the dough as you work if it starts to stick. Put your rolled out dough into the pan and turn the heat down to medium.
Cook for 1-2 minutes until bubbles have formed all over the surface of the tortilla. Have a look underneath the tortilla to see if there is any colour appearing. When slightly browned, turn the tortilla over to cook the other side. Bigger air bubbles will start to appear. With a spatula, push down on the air bubbles gently to push them around. The idea is to get the whole tortilla to puff up!
After 30-40 seconds check to see if the other side of the tortilla has browned. If one side has browned more than the other, you can flip them back over to cook the other side for another 30 seconds. Put the tortilla to rest on a piece of foil and cover to keep warm. If you’re tortilla didn’t puff up a lot, they may not be thin enough so you may need to roll the rest a little thinner. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
Exciting times at Hare’s House – we have a huge box of dried Mexican chillies to play with! We’ve been selflessly trying out recipes for Fajitas for a couple of months now (it’s a tough job sometimes) and now we’ve all decided that they’re ready to fly the nest.
If you like fajitas (who doesn’t?), your only option at the supermarket seems to be to buy a packet of hydrolised stuff with maltodextrin and ‘flavour’ and sprinkle it all over some chicken. Hardly traditionally Mexican, is it? Authentic Tex Mex food doesn’t involve sprinkling anything other than spices and herbs. I wanted to bring a kit to you that lets you experience some of the drama of proper Mexican cooking.
Our new Mexican kits feature Tex Mex Chilli or Fajita. Both take a little more work than opening a packet and sprinkling, but both are authentic and much, much tastier! You will need 3-4 chicken breasts/steaks of beef or pork or vege equivalent such as 2 packs of paneer/Quorn/vegetables, 1 tblsp white vinegar (cider, white wine, rice wine, distilled), salt and sugar to taste.
This is what’s in your Fajita kit
First of all, dried chillies can be a little dusty so it’s good to give them a wipe with a piece of damp kitchen roll and straighten out the ancho as much as possible. Heat a dry frying pan/griddle/tava until hot and then put the dried chillies, fresh chilli and the whole, unpeeled garlic cloves that are in the kit, onto the pan. Press the dried chillies down onto the hot pan with a spatula, you may hear it crackle as the oils in the chilli are forced out.
Turn the chillies over and do the same with the other side. You aren’t looking to cook the chilli, just briefly toast it. It will turn a lighter tan colour and shouldn’t take much more than a minute before it’s done. Don’t let them burn!
Toasted ancho chilli, just starting to blister and turning a lighter shade of tan.
Take the chillies out and leave them to one side to cool. Continue cooking the fresh chilli and garlic cloves until they are covered in black spots and well charred and soft. Put to one side to cool and then slip the skin off the soft garlic and remove any loose skin from the chilli.
With a pair of scissors, cut the stems off the top of the chillies (taking care not to take too much of the chilli with the stalk) and then cut down one side of the chillies to reveal the seeds inside. Empty the seeds out and take out the inner membrane if you want to reduce the heat in the final dish.
Cut both of the dried chillies into 2cm (ish!) squares and put into a small saucepan. Cover with boiling water and bring to the boil. Take off the heat, cover and leave for 15 minutes to soak and rehydrate.
After 15 minutes, drain the chillies into a sieve and rinse with fresh water. Put into a mini chopper or similar along with the toasted garlic, 1 tblsp cider vinegar (any clear vinegar will do – rice wine, white whine, distilled or even lime juice), 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar and the Mexican herb/spice pack. Process until smooth, adding a tiny splash of water if necessary. Taste. It should be a little too salty and hot (it’s got a lot of meat to flavour), the vinegar flavour will disappear when cooked. If it’s not hot enough, add some/all of the toasted red chilli to taste and process again until smooth. Taste again and add more salt/sugar if you think it’s necessary.
You can bake/grill/fry your fajita. If you’re going to bake/grill, leave the chicken/steak whole. If you’re going to fry, cut the chicken/steak into strips. Either way, put into a large plastic zip lock/tie handle bag along with the chilli paste.
Through the bag, massage the paste into the meat until thoroughly coated. Tie or zip lock the top of the bag and leave in the fridge for as long as possible – preferably overnight, but for at least 20 minutes.
Grill/bake/fry as per instructions (if grilled or baked, slice the chicken/steak into strips before serving) and serve with whatever you like to eat with your fajitas: sour cream, pickled chillies, peppers and onions, grated cheese, guacamole (see my blog entry for Stef’s guacamole recipe), salsa (see my blog entry for a traditional toasted salsa) and soft flour tortilla.
Seriously. What’s not to like?!
Elderflowers are wonderful and quite underused nowadays. Their lovely frothy, creamy white flowers can be seen everywhere during June/July. If you decide to go and pick a few choose a lovely sunny day – elderflowers picked on a damp or rainy day will taste bitter and in some cases will develop a mould if you’re using them to make champagne. They love the sun as much as we do and on a sunny day will taste sweet and smell of Muscat grapes.
I was always told that when the elder is in full flower summer has arrived and it ends when the berries are ripe. Maybe now that we only have a week of summer, it isn’t as true as it seemed when I was a child!
I was also taught that you should give a respectful nod to the Elder as you walked past and when you understand why it has always been held in such high esteem, you can see why it commands such respect – not only for its usefulness, but also its musky fragrance. It was believed that if you fell asleep under an elder tree when in flower, you’d never wake up as its scent was so intoxicating! It was used for a great many things apart from the uses we still know about (flowers and berries) – musical instruments were made from it’s wood, as the central part of the stems contain a woolly substance that is easy to push out and so leaves you with a perfect pipe. No small boy would have been without his Elder Pea Shooter! The leaves if bruised don’t smell very nice and because of this they were bruised and put around delicate or precious plants to deter mice and prevent insect invasion. They are also said to ward off midges and biting insects and so people used to rub the leaves on their skin to prevent them from being bitten. It’s leaves and roots were used as dye. The fungus that traditionally grows on Elder is called Jew’s Ear or Jelly Ear Fungus – it has the shape and texture of a human ear! It’s perfectly edible, but is more popular in China than in Europe but was used centuries ago as a medicine. It seems such a shame that we’ve forgotten about nearly all of Elder’s uses.
Jew’s Ear fungus or Jelly Ear as it’s called now
A basket full of elderflowers
Elderflowers can be eaten straight from the bush – the pollen that collects on them is sweet, while the flowers themselves are tart like grape skin. A lovely combination. They’re beautiful when sprinkled over deserts or green salads and add an extra dimension.
There are lots of things that you can do with the flowers. I wanted to make some elderflower cordial and some very easy elderflower vinegar.
Elderflower vinegar is especially lovely to use in the winter – it reminds you of Summer. It’s easy to make and can be used in the same way as any other vinegar. It has a lovely floral, grape like taste which is quite sweet. The vinegar will keep for a year or more.
Ram as many elderflowers into a clean jar as you can, pushing them down as much as possible. Fill the jar with light vinegar such as cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or rice vinegar until all of the blooms are covered. You may have to take some out if they won’t cover. Put the lid on tightly and leave on a sunny window sill for a couple of weeks, shaking it all every day.
After a couple of weeks, strain through 2 layers of kitchen roll and then strain again through another 2 layers of roll (or new j cloths) to get rid of any sediment. You probably won’t get all of the sediment out – it’s mostly pollen and this will settle at the bottom of your bottle.
Put into pretty bottles and label.
Fill the vinegar to the top of your jar
I don’t like my cordial too sweet, so feel free to add a little more sugar if you’d like. I also add lemon and orange to my cordial which lifts the heady muscat flavour without it becoming lemonade. If you’d like to just use lemons to make a Elderflower and Lemon cordial, feel free. You could also leave the citrus out, but I’ve found using just Elderflowers can be a little bland.
Pick 25-30 elderflower heads on a bright, sunny day and shake them as you do to dislodge any bugs. When you get home, put 1.7litres (3 pints) of boiling water into a large saucepan, along with 900g (2lb) granulated sugar. Stir well until dissolved (you may need to put a very low heat under the saucepan to assist with melting, but don’t let it simmer or boil). Turn the heat off and leave to cool while you prepare the 2 oranges and 2 -3 lemons. Use un-waxed fruit if you can get it, but if not make sure you scrub the skins with hot water and washing up liquid to remove the wax before using them. Rinse well and dry. Peel the oranges and lemons and add the peel to the hot sugar water. Cut the peeled lemons and oranges into thick slices and add them to the water.
Next plunge in the elderflowers and stir everything together. You’ll need 50g (2oz) citric acid which you can buy from chemists (you won’t find it on the shelves, you’ll have to ask for it and you might be asked what you want it for! It can also be used in the preparation of drugs…). Citric acid will prolong the life of your cordial. If you can’t get hold of any, you can make the cordial without but it will only last a couple of weeks in the fridge, but you could freeze it in portions.
Add the citric acid and stir everything together. Cover the pan and leave in a cool place for 24 hours, stirring every now and again. After 24 hours, squash everything in the pan with a wooden spoon to extract as much flavour as possible and strain everything through a sieve lined with 2 clean J cloths. Bottle and keep in the fridge. It will keep for around 6 weeks, maybe more. If you see any kind of mould floating on the top of your cordial – it’s time to throw it away! Dilute with fizzy or still water and serve with lots of ice. Also lovely added to fizzy wine on a hot day!
You can use the cordial in lots of ways – add it to fruit crumbles, make a different kind of drizzle for lemon cake – 4tblsp syrup, 4tblsp caster sugar. You can also add a couple of tblsp to your normal biscuit/cookie/cup cake recipes.
Elderflower Salad Dressing
Combine your vinegar and cordial to make a lovely, light summer salad dressing put 3tblsp light tasting oil such as mild light olive oil, rapeseed oil etc into a clean jam jar, along with 2tblsp elderflower vinegar and 2tsp elderflower cordial or light honey. Add salt and pepper. Put the lid on the jar and shake until well mixed. Taste and add more salt/pepper if needed.
You can’t possibly need any further reasons to get out there and pick some lovely elderflowers. Be sure to leave some on the bush though, so that you can go back at the end of summer and collect their lovely berries. And remember to show it the respect it deserves when you walk past, with a little nod!