Monday, 18 August 2014

Red gooseberry and lemon balm cordial recipe

Red gooseberry and lemon balm cordial recipe
The garden has been a pleasure this summer and I, for once, have been good about watering. I've used lovage and sorrel for soup, tomatillos and jalapeƱos for salsa, and found remnants of last year's potato sowings, tiny red and blue spuds, for baking. My courgette flowers have been eaten by a neighbouring cat, down to the stems, so there will be no crop, no courgettes this year. We have gooseberries but this being their first year in the garden, they haven't fruited yet. Zia Mays, my gardening colleague, donated some red gooseberries from her allotment. What to do with them? A cordial, I thought, to relish their ruby colour. I've also got around to using the lemon balm growing near the outdoor bathtub. This herb will lift the syrupy drink. I served it as a cocktail for the Hens night supper club a couple of weeks back. 
Adapted from Skye Gyngells Gooseberry and Lemon Verbena cordial recipe. 

Red Gooseberry and Lemon Balm Cordial recipe

Makes 75cl, a wine bottle's worth

400g (2 cups) red gooseberries
280g (1.5 cups) caster sugar
1 litre (4 pints) water
6 sprigs lemon balm

To make a cocktail add 15ml/half a shot of the cordial to a glass of prosecco. 
Garnish with more sprigs of lemon balm. 

Top, tail and wash the gooseberries then place in a small heavy bottomed pan with the sugar and water.
Add the lemon balm to the pan and over a medium heat, bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. 
Strain through a colander, pushing down on the fruit to release the juices.
Leave to cool then decant into a bottle.
Makes a refreshing non-alcoholic summer drink also.
Straining the red gooseberry and lemon balm cordial

Friday, 8 August 2014

Recipe: potato salad with fennel flowers

Potato salad with fennel flowers

Fennel flowers

Potato salad with fennel flowers recipe

One of the best plants we've grown in the Secret Garden Club is fennel. Not the usual sort, the bulbs, known as Florence fennel, but the flowers. They light up the sky with tall stems crowned by acid-trip fluorescent yellow flowers atop an umbrella of green stalks. You can use every part of the fennel, bulbs, stems, flowers and seeds. I love the aniseed flavour, a compound called anetole, which also flavours Anise drinks such as absinthe. This adds interest to a creamy potato salad, replacing the Scandinavian use of dill, and it looks pretty too. 

Serves 4 as a side

1 kilo of salad potatoes such as Charlottes. Peeled or unpeeled.
50g salted butter
300ml creme fraiche, full fat
Sea salt
White pepper
A large handful of fennel flowers or 2 tsps of fennel pollen

Boil the potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes or until tender. Don't overboil as they will fall apart. Drain, butter them and let them cool until you can touch them easily. Then mix them with plenty of creme fraiche, sea salt and white pepper. Pick the little flowers off the fennel stems and mix those in too. Save some for decoration. If you don't have access to fennel flowers you can buy fennel pollen from Steenbergs Organic, they call it 'Spice of Angels'. 
potato salad with fennel flowers

Blackberries and fennel flowers from the garden

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

How to be a tosser: pickled blackberry, baby leaf, radicchio, radish salad

pickled blackberry salad with radicchio and radishes

Pickled blackberry, radicchio, baby leaf, radish, oregano flower salad

Blackberries have come early, so I decided to pickle them lightly and add them to a salad. I spent the morning in my garden, picking any produce I could use for Saturday night's supper club. 
Serves 2 to 4

150g (2 cups) blackberries
100ml(1/2 cup) of fruit vinegar
1 tbsp of sea salt
3 tbsps of sugar
A bunch of heritage radishes, sliced thinly
1 Radicchio lettuce
150g (2 cups) baby leaves
A handful of Herb flowers, I used purple oregano flowers

75ml olive oil 
35ml pickling liquid
Malden sea salt

De-stem the blackberries, wash them. Put the fruit vinegar (I used pineapple vinegar from a Chinese shop) in a small pan on a low heat and add the salt and sugar. Stir until the sugar is melted. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Once cool add the blackberries to the pickling mixture. Let them steep for at least an hour.
Prepare the salad leaves. I edged the bowl with the beetroot coloured radicchio and tore a few leaves up to add to the baby leaves. Slice up the radishes thinly. This is best done with a mandoline. Go on, treat yourself. They will make your food look more cheffy.
Whip up your dressing, you can use other oils, I'm rather keen on smoked oil at the mo. You can use lemon juice or vinegar for your dressing but I use a little of the pickling liquid.
Put the leaves into a big bowl and, using your hands, toss the lettuce in the dressing. Yes, become a tosser. It's amazing how many salads aren't properly tossed, and are consequently improperly dressed. One of the reasons for this is that people try to squash their salads into very small bowls. When making a salad, say to yourself, Jaws style: 'I'm gonna need a bigger bowl'. Then you can transfer the salad into smaller bowls. If you are trying to serve 20 people sat down a long table then you need to divide it up and arrange small bowls down the table because, deep breath, people don't pass stuff along. Especially men. They don't. It drives me insane. It makes the whole sharing-plates supper club hopey-changey thing... simply not work. Necessitating a series of small bowls.

Put the dressed leaves into the smaller bowl and scatter the radishes, blackberries and purple oregano flowers.
blackberries just picked in a basket

pickled blackberry salad with radicchio and radishes

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Hen night supper club recipes: lovage and sorrel soup with hay smoked oil


House-made Red gooseberry Cordial with Lemon Balm and Prosecco
Lovage and Sorrel soup with hay-smoked oil

Watermelon, Feta and Mint spears

Croustades with Tomatillo & Jalapeno salsa

Courgette Flower (soo expensive right now) Tempura stuffed with Cream Cheese and Summer Truffle drizzled with Honey

Vine-leaf wrapped Baked Salmon

Potato Salad with Sour Cream and Fennel Pollen flowers

Radicchio with Baby Leaves, Pickled Blackberries and Heritage Radishes

Tiered Pavlova with Violet, Rose and Orange Blossom Meringues, Strawberries and Cream

Lovage and sorrel soup

 Lovage and Sorrel soup with hay-smoked oil

Lovage is an old English herb, reminiscent of celery, sometimes known as 'love parsley'; Sorrel is a lemony leaf. The combination makes a refreshing summer soup. I garnished it with some hay-smoked rapeseed oil I bought in Denmark.
I have lovage and sorrel growing in my garden. I tried to use as much as I could from my kitchen garden for this meal. Julys good weather has meant that the garden seems a little confused about the season; my blackberries, jalapenos and tomatillos are ready early. 

Makes about a litre (enough for 6 people)

500g (2 or 3 cups) lovage
100g (1 cup) sorrel leaves
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
250ml (11/2 cups) creme fraiche
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
A few drops smoked rapeseed oil

Wash the lovage and sorrel, remove the thick stems. Make the stock, and in a powerful blender mix a little of the stock and the herbs together until finely blended. Then add the rest of the stock and the creme fraiche. Blend until smooth. Season and when serving add a little flavoured oil.
If you want a thicker, heartier soup, add half a kilo (4 potatoes) of boiled potatoes to the stock and blend that in.
Lovage and sorrel soup

The next Secret Garden supper club is on September 21st. 
Tickets here:

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Video: two easy camping recipes

This is the time of year for camping and festivals, and this video aims to show how camping cookery can be more exciting than baked beans and quick cook pasta. The two recipes I show here are Baked Apples (because, let's face it, it's often chilly in the evenings when camping) and Grilled Pear and Blue Cheese Salad.
I've used a 'Dutch Oven' technique to bake the apples on a camping stove. Using a heavy casserole dish such as Le Creuset, with a tightly fitting lid, means you can imitate oven cookery on the stovetop.

Baked apples recipe:

Serves 4

For the Mincemeat:

100g (2) apples, grated
50g (half a stick) butter
80g (1/2 a cup)raisins
50g (1/3 cup)sultanas
50g (1/3 cup) currants
50g (1/3 cup) mixed peel
100g(1/2 cup) soft dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp mixed spiced, ground
1/4 tsp nutmeg, ground
a swig of brandy

4 whole apples, cored
200g (1 cup) caster sugar
2 vanilla sticks
A glass of white wine

300ml (1 1/2 cups) double cream

Grate the apples, no need to peel. 
Melt the butter in a heavy Dutch Oven style casserole then add grated apple and dried fruits.
Mix well, add the sugar and spices.
Allow to simmer until sugar is dissolved and the fruit is nicely combined.
Add the brandy and simmer for ten minutes.
Set aside this mixture into a bowl.

Meanwhile core 4 apples. Stuff the holes with the mincemeat mixture.
Using the same pan, place the apples inside so they fit tightly.
Add the sugar, vanilla sticks, white wine and fill the pan up with water until it reaches halfway up the apples.
Close with the lid and simmer for 20 minutes. 
Serve the baked poached apples with cream. 

Pear and blue cheese salad

This is a classic combo. 

Serves 2 to 4 as a starter

2 pears, sliced
A knob of unsalted butter
150g blue cheese, sliced
150g (3 cups) rocket leaf salad
50ml (1/2 cup)Olive oil
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 tsp of Malden sea salt

1 loaf Crusty bread

Core and slice the pears. Warm up the pan and add a little butter. Griddle the pear slices until slightly golden.
Add a bed of rocket leaves on the plate. Lay  out the slices of blue cheese on the lettuce. Then add the warm pear slices.
Make the dressing in a cup. Pour the dressing over the pears/cheese and salad
Add a sprinkle of crunchy sea salt
Serve with bread

Other camping cookery suggestions: