Live in the moment – make elderflower champagne!

elderflower-champagne-in-the-making

Oh how I love to live in the moment – and what a moment this time of year is. The wonderful scent of elderflowers is in the air and they are at their best to make Elderflower Champagne. Only 8 heads are required in this tried and tested (very old) recipe. If you can do it this week it will be ready in time for the Wimbledon finals!

You will need –

A clean bucket, tea towel, funnel, old pair of tights (for straining) and some fizzy water/lemonade bottles

8 heads of elderflowers
4 litres of boiling water
1 1/4 lb of sugar
2 sliced lemons
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar

In the bucket, pour the boiling water over the sugar; stir and leave to cool. Cover it with a clean tea towel. When cold throw in the flower heads, lemons and the vinegar. Give a good stir and let stand for 24 hours covered with the clean tea towel. Strain into the fizzy water bottles and place in a cool dark position covering with a bin bag or cardboard box (just in case it explodes).

It will be ready to drink in 2 weeks and gets extremely fizzy so take care when opening the bottles.

Lovely for picnics, with a splash of sloe gin or orange juice 😉 Take care if you are giving this to children, anyone driving or on medication as it is alcoholic. I would guess between 5 and 10% – I have tried to use the hydrometer to check but that’s a whole new post!

Mango & Avocado Salsa

Mango-Avocado-Salsa-Recipe

I can’t get enough of this salsa! I first tasted it on a ‘Safari Supper’ at a neighbours house in our village – she served it with salmon steaks. Since she gave me the recipe I have slightly adapted it and served it up on top of toast and with a jacket potato! It’s a really great way to eat your fruit and veg.

Ingredients

1/2 red onion, chopped
1 mango, peeled and chopped
2 avocados, chopped
1 chilli, seeded and chopped (chilli flakes or chilli oil)
The juice of 1 or 2 limes
2 tbsp fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped
salt, black pepper, olive oil to taste

Put it in a bowl and mix up. Leave it in the fridge if you have time for the flavours to develop. It is probably nice the next day too, but ours doesn’t last that long.

Top Tip – for those green fingers out there – grow your own cilantro (coriander). Get cilantro seeds because the coriander seed is to grow coriander seed heads (used in Indian/eastern recipes) and the plant grown for it’s leaf is cilantro. It tastes 100% better than it’s shop bought cousin and you really only need a bit, the flavour is so powerful.

 

January Gin

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Well at last dry January is almost over… and so far I can’t say that I’ve felt any benefit whatsoever. My husband has managed to stay awake at night time and so he doesn’t miss the last 10 minutes of every tv programme ; ) but that’s about the only benefit we’ve found.

I felt convinced that my liver would feel clean and my skin glow, but it just hasn’t been the case. My body hasn’t craved alcohol but I have felt denied. It has been a good time to explore non- alcoholic drinks but I find that many contain too much sugar for my taste. Give me a nice glass of red wine any day!

In the yogic tradition good food and drink is thought to be that which still has ‘life force’ or prana in it. Ie a tomato picked straight from the garden. Also given as an example is beer and wine as it has the yeast which is a live organism in it.

Anyway, as part of my clean living January, I thought I’d try to make my own gin syrup, a healthy alternative for January. So I tried a rose hip syrup and juniper berry infusion. It’s not gin, but it’s not that bad and on the positive side it contains ingredients that might do you some good! The vitamin C (high in rose hips) may help to fend off colds. Juniper berries can be good for you in small quantities helping the digestive tract and acting as an antioxidant. They are not advised for pregnant ladies or people taking prescription medication though – so if you do decide to give this a try please look up the health benefits and precautions of taking juniper here https://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk/natural-health-guide/benefits/juniper-berry

January Gin
Ingredients
200 ml Rose Hip Syrup
2 desert spoons of Juniper berries
1 Chai tea bag

Pour the syrup into a small saucepan and then fill up the bottle twice and add the water to the pan (400 ml)
Grind up the junipers in a mortar and pestle for a bit (until your arm aches) so that the berries are quite squashed and release their fragrance. Add them to the pan.
Drop in the tea bag and heat stirring all the time. Do not let the mixture boil, but wait until you can see a bit of vapour coming off. Turn off the heat or move to a warm spot and leave the mixture to infuse for a couple of hours. Strain off and bottle. Keep in the fridge and use within a month.

To serve – place lots of ice into a glass, add your gin syrup, tonic water and slices of lemon and orange. Toast – GOOD HEALTH!

Roasted Sprouts

roasted sprouts

Love ’em or hate ’em there is no escaping the Brussels Sprout at this time of the year.

In actual fact, I always find they are not as bad as I remember and think we should have them more often. When you look at the nutritional facts there is a lot to be said for the humble sprout… high in vitamins, minerals and fibre and amazingly low in calories. They also contain small amounts of vitamin B6, potassium, iron, thiamine, magnesium and phosphorus.

So as with most vegetables in the past month or so I’ve given the sprouts the roasting treatment… just chuck ’em in the oven with a good glug of olive oil and perhaps a bit of garlic. 25 – 30 minutes later a wonderful dish awaits. A couple of tips.. I prefer to half them but I’m sure whole would work with a little more cooking time… a few shavings of parmesan also enhances the flavour. Enjoy!

Festive Couscous

couscous

I was inspired by Nigella Lawson for this recipe. Anything that looks like rice gets a massive thumbs down in our household as my husband thinks it tastes like gravel. So with rice and particularly couscous I have to work very hard with the flavours. And … he also finds pomegranate ‘over-rated pips’! As these are in the original recipe I substituted them with cranberries for a very favourable result.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment

INGREDIENTS

200g couscous
200ml boiling water
2 tablespoons EV olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
100g sultanas
50g dried cranberries
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon each of paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Instructions
Place couscous into a heatproof bowl add salt, spices, raisins and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Mix to combine and then pour over the boiling water.
Let sit for 5 minutes or so until all the water is absorbed.
Fluff up with a fork adding in the remaining ingredients.
Serve warm with a parsnip and chick pea tagine or cold with savoury pasties and salad.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Carrots are very good for you. The contain beta carotene which is converted into vitamin A in the body and this is most excellent for your eyes and for your immunity. So lets get crunching..

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 pound carrots, coarsely grated (about 4 cups)
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
    • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, mashed or minced
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
    • Pinch of salt
    • About 1/2 teaspoon harissa (Northwest African chili paste), 1 tablespoon minced green chilies, or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days to allow the flavors to meld and permeate the carrots. Served chilled or at room temperature. Easy peasy.

Date and Walnut Cake

This is a super-moist and sweet loaf, ideal with a cuppa in the afternoon…

Ingredients
Serves: 10

  • 200 g (7 oz) stoned dried dates, chopped
  • 30 g (1 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 240 ml (8 fl oz) boiling water
  • 140 g (5 oz) light muscovado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 280 g (10 oz) plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • pinch of salt
  • 115 g (4 oz) walnuts, chopped

Method
Prep:20min  ›  Cook:1hr15min  ›  Ready in:1hr35min

  1. Place the dates in a bowl with the butter and bicarbonate of soda. Pour over the boiling water and stir until the butter has melted. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF, gas mark 4). Lightly grease an 18 cm (7 in) round deep cake tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.
  3. Place the sugar and eggs in a large bowl and beat well to combine. Add the cooled date mixture, then sift in the flour, baking powder, mixed spice and salt. Add the walnuts and stir together until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top. Bake for 1–1 1/4 hours or until the cake is risen and nicely browned and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  5. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool. The cake can be kept, wrapped in foil or stored in an airtight container, for up to 5 days.

Nearly Saag Paneer

I was inspired on a recent meal out to 8848 in Stamford – I had a Saag Paneer – a curry made from spinach with bits of cheese in it. I have had the dish before but the cheese in this version reminded me of haloumi as it had been grilled before being added to the curry. So I was off into my veggie patch to pick some of the chard that had been bashed about by the wind and a wigwam of runner beans that had fallen over and the result was very nice – why not have a go yourself? I served it with rice but you could have it with flatbread or naan bread.

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 tablespoons of oil

1/2 teaspoon each of cumin seed and coriander seed

1 onion chopped

4 medium chopped tomatoes

1 or 2 chillies – chopped

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon Garam Masala

2 cups or handfulls of chard or spinach chopped (tightly packed)

225g halumi or paneer cut into pieces and grilled

Method

Fry the seeds in the oil until they begin to sizzle. Add onion and saute. Add tomatoes and cook till softened. Add chillies,  turmeric and Garam Masala and stir well. Add the chard and put a lid on so that it all steams together nicely.  (I like it a bit juicy because I serve it with rice – but you can take the lid off and let it evaporate to your own consistency). Serve with the grilled cheese pieces on top.

 

I’m not sure just how authentic this recipe is – but it tastes just like the one at the restaurant!!

Chickpea and Mushroom Burger Recipe

For a healthy alternative to the beef burger, why not try these? This is my own version of a BBC Good Food recipe – a bit more tangy with the Ras El Hanout and spices and more ‘meaty’ texture with the addition of the aubergine.

Ingredients (makes about 6 burgers)

2 tblsp olive oil

1 onion – chopped

2 garlic cloves – finely diced

200g closed cup mushrooms – chopped

1/2 aubergine – chopped

2 tsp Ras el hanout

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric

1//2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)

salt and pepper

400g chickpeas, rinsed, drained, mashed

2 tbsp bread crumbs

Whisked egg

Method

Heat oil and add all the ingredients except the chickpeas.  Cook on a low heat, stirring to prevent sticking, for about 20 minutes. Mix in the mashed chickpeas, bread crumbs and egg and hope that everything sticks together!!  Use your hands to form into patties and leave in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

To cook – if you are going to put them on the BBQ then use a sheet of oiled foil underneath.  For best results I cook them in the oven for about half an hour. You could fry them in less time if that’s your preference.

To serve – let your imagination run wild! I do a ring of leaves with a burger in the middle (on or off a half bun). Adding natural yoghurt and sliced cucumber on top of the burger as a final flourish!

Cure that Cold

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It is true that you are what you eat – this is one of the principles of Ayurveda – yogas sister therapy. When you feel yourself going downhill with cold and flu symptoms pay particular care to what you eat. Orange juice will help you by providing vitamin C – this will boost your immune system. Also, try out the recipe below for ‘Spicy Tomato Soup’, it contains a fairly large dose of garlic, ginger and chilli – the garlic and ginger have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities and the capsaicin in chillies is a natural decongestant. So move over Night Nurse and get yourself some natural food-medicine that will do you the power of good.

Spicy Tomato Soup

1 pint stock

6 fresh medium tomatoes chopped (or a 400gm tin)

1/2 tube tomato puree

1 onion chopped

1 carrot chopped

1 stick cellery chopped

2 chillis finely chopped

1/2 cm fresh ginger finely chopped

4 garlic finely chopped

1 tsp dried herbs (optional)

double cream (optional)

Bring the stock to the boil. Add all the ingredients and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Blend with a hand blender and add boiling water to come to your desired thickness. Add a dash of double cream – this can ‘tame’ a really hot soup and can make it taste delicious.