Elderflower cordial recipe
Now that spring is in full voice, the mornings are filled with birdsong and the scent from the herb garden. We are lucky to have a couple of magnificent Elderflower trees that provide blooms and berries at various times of the year. The warmth and sun have brought out a fabulous display of elderflowers this year and the trees are heavy with the blossom. The delicate flowers are so numerous that we can pick plenty for this year’s elderflower cordial without making much impact on the display in the garden.
This elderflower cordial recipe has to be the perfect drink for a summer’s day, a splash of elderflower cordial topped up with sparkling ice cold water and a slice of lemon. Later in the evening a drop of the magic cordial in a glass of prosecco rounds of a hard day in the garden.
- 4kg white sugar
- 2.5lt Boiling Water
- 40 Elderflower Heads
- 150g Citric Acid
- 4 Lemons sliced, plus their grated rinds
- Shake elderflower heads to ensure they are free of insects.
- Place the water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Add the grated rind and sliced lemon with the citric acid.
- Place the elderflower heads in a bowl and pour over the boiling water.
- Leave for at least 12 hours covered with cling film.
- Sieve the liquid, to remove the solids and strain through muslin to clarify.
- The cordial is quite concentrated so only a small amount is needed to make a refreshing drink. Sterilised bottles filled to the brim and stored in the door of the fridge will last 2 weeks, if you can keep it that long!
Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia
The best thing about baking this bread is the aroma of rosemary and garlic which fills the kitchen. I use rosemary straight from my garden and at this time of year only the freshest new growth from the ends of the stems. Rosemary is so versatile and can be added to many dishes such as roast chicken, roast potatoes and vegetables. I add loads when making a stock and also add it to soups. It’s aromatic and beautiful and I wouldn’t be without this herb. Being blessed as I am with an Italian herb garden full of rosemary, I can pretty much rely on it to flavour my food all year round. At the moment it is a purple flowered bee heaven, but it is the fresh green sprigs I pick for culinary use.
Rosemary was the first herb that I wanted to plant in my Le Marche garden as it never thrived in my English garden. ‘Rosemary for remembrance’ they say and I do have a treasured memory linked to this herb about a lady who lived in my house many years ago. She sadly passed away last year but during our first weeks here, she would pass by, take my hands in her hands and kiss me on my cheek, then lead me around all the trees and plants she had planted twenty or so years before. On one such visit she openly scoffed at my small pot of rosemary I intended to plant somewhere. I needed no understanding of Italian as she led me a few paces down the road to a huge bush she had planted herself. The locals, she told me used to walk down here to pick sprigs to flavour their homemade proscuitto. Although I have indeed planted more rosemary I always use her plant in cooking as it grows in full sun and seems particularly aromatic.
- 350ml luke warm water
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 650 g bread flour or Italian 0 flour
- 2tsp salt
- 2tsp sugar
- 2 7g sachets yeast
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2/3 garlic cloves
- lots of rosemary sprigs
- sea salt
- Add to your bread machine in the above order and select dough function.
- Or mix by hand into smooth dough and allow to raise covered for an hour or so.
- Knead the dough until smooth, then roll out to fit a large baking tin. It is a very springy dough so needs some pulling and stretching to shape.
- Leave to rise for 40 minutes.
- With your knuckle make dents all over the surface.
- Sprinkle with salt.
- Spread a few cloves of mashed garlic all over and then brush on lots of extra virgin olive oil
- Finally push the rosemary sprigs into the dough.
- Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for approx 25 minutes, until lightly golden.
- Slice into strips, triangles or simply tear and share with others. Add halved cherry tomatoes with the sprigs of rosemary if you wish.
Please excuse the lack of posts but with the good weather the folk of Le Marche are pruning like there’s no tomorrow. Today the heavens have opened which gives you time to take a breather and think about something other than olives!!
There are myriads of useful plants and trees around us in the countryside and in gardens, a lot of which get overlooked in favour of more popular species. Today I wanted to write about my personal favourite and one commonly referred to as the “country medicine chest”, the Elder or Sambucus Nigra. In times gone by people would plant an elder on new plots of land before they even started to build their house on it so that it could be ready for when they lived there.
All parts of the tree can be used and have been since the times of ancient Egypt. However, all parts of the plant have the capacity to poison if not processed properly so follow your recipes to the letter to avoid unpleasant visits to the hospital!
Starting with the flowers which are highly anti-catarrhal, if you pick them when they are in their prime and dry them carefully and away from sunlight they will provide you with a useful remedy for colds in the winter, mixed with the dried flowers and leaves of yarrow, mint and camomile and made into a tisana (discard all flowers and leaves before drinking) and you can use raw honey to sweeten it.
The berries, (note, which are never eaten raw) are vitamin C rich and if you freeze them in the summer you can stew them with apples in the winter to make delicious desserts that are protecting you from coughs and colds.
Although in times gone by the leaves, bark and roots were commonly used in home remedies for everything from skin complaints to headaches, it is not recommended nowadays. Your vegetable plot will welcome the tree’s properties however and if you want an effective insecticide that is supplied by mother nature herself you need to collect a kilo of leaves and simmer in 7 litres of water for 30 minutes. Make up the water lost in steam, strain it and spray. If you add 5ml of coconut oil or 10g of pure liquid soap per litre the spray sticks to the plant better and is therefore more effective. Don’t forget to label the bottle as poison and keep it away from small children!
Focussing on something more positive than human and plant ailments I leave you with my favourite recipe using elderflowers and this is all about lazing under the trees in the heat of the summer with a cool refreshing drink and remembering what life is really about…
For every ten large heads of elderflowers you need 900g of sugar, 600ml of boiling water, 1 lemon and (from the chemist) 30g of citric acid granules.
Wash and drain the flowers. In a large bowl stir the boiling water into the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the citric acid and stir. Add the flowers and the lemon which has had the peel grated in first and then sliced up. Put a plate over the bowl to cover it and leave for 24 hours. Strain through a clean muslin or tea-towel and squeeze to get every drop out. Bottle in sterilized bottles and keep in the fridge. Use as a syrup and add (preferably cold, sparkling) water to taste. Ice cubes with borage flowers in make it a drink fit for a queen.