Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Elderflower cordial

All last summer I was eyeing off our neighbours elderflower bush trying to work up enough gumption to go and ask them if I could pick the elderflower heads. Last year however, my shyness got the better of me and before I knew it the flowers had turned into berries and the berries fell to the ground.

This year was going to be different and a couple of weeks ago I found myself eyeing off our new neighbour's elderflower tree. Thankfully though I didn't have to overcome my shyness. On Sunday, after weeding the carrots, chard and radishes I sneaked over to the allotment opposite ours and into the elderflower bush (protected by a whole lot of stinging nettles). There were so many I figured that they wouldn't miss a few. I gathered at least 30 elderflower heads and I brought them home dreaming of elderflower cordial and all the things I can do with it. I'm thinking elderflower cupcakes, elderflower charlottes, elderflower granita... the elderflower possibilities are endless. I might have to go and pick some more.

Elderflower Cordial

30 heads of elderflowers
2 litres of water
1 kilogram of sugar (I used half golden granulated and half demerara)
2 limes, peeled and sliced
1 orange, peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons cream of tartar

Into a large saucepan (I talking big), place the flowers, sugar and citrus fruits. Stir together and leave to sit for 2 hours. Add the cream of tartar (which prevents crystallisation). Boil the water and pour over the flowers. Cover and leave to sit for at least 24 hours (although I let ours sit for 48).

Filter through a J cloth into sterilised glass bottles or plastic bottles. If freezing in the plastic bottles leave some space for expansion.

As a flavouring for various dishes I'm going to reduce the cordial down for a more intense hit.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Rocket & Spinach Pesto

Ideally the first harvest of our allotment would have adorned the top of a pizza, been thrown through a salad or stirred through a risotto. But I wasn't the only one with the same idea. When I went to harvest the rocket the other night, I had found that it had been absolutely ravaged by slugs and other hungry insects. I don't blame them personally because the rocket is absolutely spot on. Peppery and fresh. And anyway - I should've put the milk out sooner.

Rather than waste it I thought it was a good opportunity to make a batch of rocket pesto from the stems that were left over and the few leaves that had made it through the slug storm. I bulked it out a little with the spinach that we had. I'm freezing a bag for us to use on the odd occasion - slicing off a block to stir through winter stews or to add to a toasted panini. Another frozen bag will be for Sabrina and Tim, my allotment buddies, who are currently in Australia and may otherwise miss out on the dilapidated crop.

Rocket & Spinach Pesto

Take a handful of rocket and a handful of spinach with one clove of garlic, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons of pine nuts and whiz it all together in a blender. Pulse and don't over blend to much. That's it. Bob's your Uncle.

NOTE - Notice that there's no parmesan here. It's actually because I forgot it. But the rocket spoke for itself because when I tasted it I mustn't've thought it needed anything. Might try it with next time...

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