Live in the moment – make elderflower champagne!


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


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.


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.


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


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!

Simple Creamy Mushroom Biryani

mush biryani

If yours is a mad house in the evenings like mine, you need food that is easy to prepare, tasty and fully flexible – suitable for reheating when someone comes in late or you all come home at different times.

This Biryana ticks all the boxes… make it ahead, the time it rests allows the flavours to develop. Reheat all together or in parts and you can always cook a chicken leg or grill some bacon for those who fancy some meat on the side.

Creamy Mushroom Biryani

Ingredients (serves 4 big helpings)

Mushrooms – 300 gms

Oil – 2 tbs
Onions – 4 sliced thinly
Basmati Rice – 2 cups
Coconut Milk – 1 cup

For the Marinade

Plain Yogurt – 1/2 cup
Garlic – 2 or 3 cloves minced

Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Salt + Pepper to taste
Coriander leaves – handful, finely chopped

For the seasoning

Ghee – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Fennel seeds – 1 tsp

Add 2 tbsp oil to a large wok and fry the onions in it till brown and crispy.

Remove half the onions to a dish, add the mushrooms and marinade ingredients. Leave covered for 30 minutes.

Wash rice in 4 cups of water and leave to soak for 30 minutes.

Remove mushroom mix to plate, wash wok out.

In the wok add ghee and saute the seasoning for a couple of minutes.  Add the plate of marinated mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes or till the mushrooms start shrinking. Mix in the coconut milk and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Drain the rice(reserve the water) and mix in carefully. Add in salt and pepper. Add the water in which the rice was soaked and bring to boil. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes.

The water should be fully absorbed by now – leave it undisturbed for another 15 minutes.  Fluff up and serve with the rest of the fried onions.

I leave the wok to go cold and then re-heat as the family need (it’s like having a running buffet!!). Take a portion off and reheat in a smaller saucepan. Fluff the rice with a fork, mix lovingly with a few of the fried onions and serve with a smile!

‘Tis the Season… to make marmalade!

orange marmalade

We’ve had the season to be jolly – now we have the season to make marmalade… If you’ve never done jamming/preserving before but fancy giving it a try, marmalade is the easiest , most satisfying of jams. I’m always amazed at how many jars of the stuff you get for so few oranges.

The secret to a really tangy marmalade is to get the Seville oranges that are only available at this time of year. You do have to have a bit of patience with the slicing of the skin, but the results are worth it. The flavour of your marmalade is super-tangy and you can use it to give an orangey zip to all kinds of cakes and sauces.

My favourite recipe is from Delia – but like all of us, I adapt to what suits and the time I have available. You will need a big preserving pan as when the mixture boils it froths up no end. If you have only a large saucepan I suggest using half the ingredients listed below.  This recipe makes about 6lb of marmalade so you’ll need some glass jars which have previously been storing jam, honey or marmalade – don’t use pickled onion, olive or any savoury jars as they may impart a nasty taste. The other odd thing you’ll need is a square of muslin fabric – this is used a bit like a tea bag – I think the foot of an old pair of tights (clean of course) works just as well, providing there are no holes!!

Ingredients –

1kg Seville Oranges

1 lemon

2.5 litres water

2kg sugar (I use normal granulated)


1 Measure water into the pan.

2 Cut oranges and lemon in half. Squeeze juice out using a juicer and add the juice to the pan.

3 Collect all the pips and pith from the insides of the skins to a square of muslin (or clean tights foot). (Also here you can be creative with your marmalade – adding flavours to the pip/pith bag such as fresh grated ginger, crushed cardamom pods, chai tea, cinnamon stick and so on (NB not whisky at this stage) – you have to play around with the quantities to get the pungency of these additions that suits your taste.) Tie up your square to make a bag of magic and suspend this in the pan by tying it to the handle so it floats about in the water/juice mixture.

4 Now cut the orange peel into quarters and then thin or thick strips. This is tedious and can be done with a food processor – but you get ‘bits’ rather than pretty ‘strands’. Personally, I sit at the kitchen table and try my best to do all the skins but more often than not I end up doing 3/4s and calling it a day. I certainly haven’t got the spit to do the lemon peel – but you can do if you want.

5 Add the shreds to the pan and bring it up to the boil.  Allow it to simmer gently for about 2 hours, filling your kitchen with a wonderful fruity aroma.

6 Place a tea plate or 2 in the fridge – this will be used later to test the set of your marmalade.

7 When the peel is soft Remove the bag of magic and allow it to cool in a dish.

8 Add the sugar to the pan and continue to cook over a low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar in the liquid until all the crystals have gone and it looks clear – this takes a little while, so have patience.

9 We need to extract the ‘pectin’ from the bag of magic – the best way is with your hands, but if it’s too hot or you don’t want to dirty your hands, you can use another dish squashed down into the first. The thick, sticky substance is to be added to the pan – as much of it as you can muster. If you have added flavourings to the bag, this process will bring more of them out too.

10 Now put the pan onto your biggest ring and turn it up full. When the mixture starts to boil set the timer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally – don’t leave your marmalade unattended at this point.

11 Meanwhile, wash your jars and lids thoroughly in hot soapy water. (You’ll also need a jug to use to fill the jars so wash this thoroughly too.) Put the glass jars onto a baking tray and into the oven – turn it on to just over 100 degrees. This will sterilise them and help to keep your marmalade from going mouldy. Leave for at least 15 minutes.

12 When the timer beeps, drop a couple spots of your extremely hot mixture onto one of the plates from the fridge. Put it back into the fridge for a minute or 2. You can turn the heat down on the marmalade while you wait for the results.

13 After a few minutes, see if a set has been achieved by pushing the blobs of mixture on the cold plate – if it wrinkles then you have done! If not you’ll need to boil up the mixture for another 5 minutes or so. You may need to test 2 or 3 times – it’s not an exact science as the amount of juice, number of pips, evaporation surface area of your pay etc varies. I have found that it works pretty much first time, and compared with making jam from strawberries is an absolute breeze. When happy with the ‘set’ turn off the heat and allow the pan to settle down and cool.

14 (neally there) Get the jars out of the oven – this part is quite dangerous I find, as the marmalade needs to be bottled into hot jars while it is still hot.  Again this helps to preserve it so that it will keep well. Take as many precautions as you need to – I work using the jars still in the baking tray placed on a trivet onto the table and then place the pan next to it on another trivet and use a measuring jug to scoop up the marmalade pour it into the jars.  Any spillages go into the baking tray so it’s easier to clean up – or you can use the tray to make a bread and butter pudding (wipe out the jug and pan with your slices of bread, arrange and then pour over your milk and egg mix).

15 Put the lids on your jars when still hot. Clean and label when cold, then store in a dark place.