Delicious mixed with pasta, stirred into a plain risotto at the end of cooking, topping a bowl of summer minestrone soup, or layered inside a lasagne with ricotta. It keeps for a week in the fridge in a jar covered with a layer of olive oil. Or freeze it in little plastic tubs. I always have some ready to defrost quickly for an easy pasta ‘n’ pesto dinner – so much nicer than the pasteurised shop-bought jars.
Such a classic English drink – it has to stay in imperial measures! Make this in May or June when elderflowers are at their peak. Pick on a sunny day in the morning and be fussy – you only want pleasant-smelling and perfect sprays, without a whiff of decay.
Recipes vary when it comes to the temperature of the water – some infuse in cold water and others in boiled; some then take the strained cordial to a boil and others don’t. Clearly, the more you heat the cordial the better it will be preserved, but in my experience boiling the cordial also affects the flavour. So below is my compromise version. It should keep perfectly well for a few weeks if not months. To keep it longer, transfer to plastic bottles or tubs and freeze.
This cake is so easy – you can throw it together in ten minutes. It always goes down really well when we make it in cooking classes. Rhubarb, orange and yoghurt make a delicious combination. But you could omit the orange flower water, or substitute rose water, or just use vanilla. Enjoy the cake warm or cold, at tea time or for dessert. It pairs beautifully with a dollop of creamy yoghurt. The recipe is adapted from one by Leanne Kitchen.
This recipe is just a guide – use whichever vegetables you have to hand and dressing quantities that suit your taste. This is a great way to use up those winter veg that might otherwise hang around in the fridge too long, and keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days. Eating them raw makes a refreshing change, too. The rainbow colours are pretty, and the salad looks stunning served in a bowl lined with the beautiful outer leaves of a large January King cabbage, which are sea green fringed with purple.
My mother sent me her favourite pea soup recipe in time for one of my Secret Kitchen dinners, assuring me everyone would adore it. I played with it just a bit, and the result was absolutely delicious. Thank you mum!
If you’re making your own vegetable stock – simmer chopped carrots, onions, leeks and celery with bay leaves, parsley stalks, a sprig of thyme, several peppercorns and a pinch of salt for an hour or more until its flavour has really developed.
You can serve this soup hot or chilled. I like it chilled, in early summer when English peas are in season. Buy a big bag, find a friend, pour yourselves big G&Ts, and get podding. (Add the pods to the stock pot.)
If you can’t quite get round to the four-day process that is elderflower cordial or champagne, let alone deal with all those buckets and bottles, then this quick elderflower recipe might be for you. Elderflowers can be consumed whole, as they are, after a brief encounter with some batter and some hot oil.
This recipe is adapted from John Wright, the River Cottage forager. It seems like it must be difficult and prone to problems, and half-way through you won’t believe it’ll ever work, but have faith – the final product will come good and taste remarkably elderflowery.
“People in Essex wanting good pasta or risotto come here,” says the Sun Inn’s proud Neapolitan chef, Ugo Simonelli. This fifteenth-century coaching inn may look quintessentially English, but the passion for good food and conviviality evoke an Italian trattoria. Owner Piers Baker says: “Sundays are mayhem: children dashing everywhere, parents reading the papers, grandparents nattering, and regulars at the bar laughing at us running around.” …
Ugo exudes enthusiasm for Italian cuisine and, encouraged by adventurous diners, has unearthed vanishing dishes. Hare with chocolate and rosemary sauce is a relic of times when boundaries between sweet and savoury were blurred, and cassuola, a Milanese cabbage and pork stew, was traditionally eaten at the end of pig slaughtering season. Pumpkin and mussel soup, raw fish marinated with smoked Maldon salt and pan-fried lamb hearts have their fans too. For more conservative palates, there is grilled salt marsh lamb with roast beetroot, pan-fried calf’s liver with melted onions and sage, and sea bass with saffron potatoes and samphire.
Between shifts Ugo tends his vegetable patch or experiments with bresaola and prosciutto curing in the cellar. He also teaches in the village school. “We make pasta, pizza and gnocchi, and the kids find they like garlic, parmesan and basil after all. I had them eating pesto by the spoonful!” he laughs …
If Tony Davies’ great-great-grandfather could see Henfron Farm now, he would hardly notice the difference. Here in the remote Elan Valley, in mid-Wales, seventeen-hundred acres of wind- and rain-swept moorland, peat bogs and heathered hillsides sustain the Davies’ resilient Welsh Mountain sheep, just as they have done for centuries …
Tony checks his flocks on horseback. “Other farmers use quad-bikes, but our men love their horses, that keep them warm, know every crease of the hillside and offer a better vantage point. On a foggy afternoon they make it back in time for tea while the quad-bikers are still going in circles,” says Angela.
Mutton was once one of Britain’s most loved meats. “Saddle of mutton … is a joint for an epicure,” wrote Dorothy Hartley, a food historian, in 1954. But around this time factors converged to start its decline: imported New Zealand lamb; working women with less time for slow-cooking; post-war affluence expanding the privilege of eating immature animals and expensive cuts. Recently, a niche market for the rich meat has appeared …