Elderflower Cordial

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Such a simple drink to make, using only 5 ingredients.  Elderflowers are synonymous with the start of the British summer and are in season for such a short spell of time, that it’s a shame to waste those fragrant blossoms when making cordial from them is such a simple thing to do.

Elderflower Cordial

You need to pick the elderflowers on a warm, dry day, allowing any dew to evaporate before picking. Make sure that you only pick heads that have just opened and are still the beautiful creamy colour, without any of the flowers starting to turn brown. Find a nice country lane or hedgerow, away from busy traffic routs that could taint and the delicate blossoms with chemicals.

  • 1.5 litres water
  • 2kg granulated sugar
  • 2 Lemons
  • 20 Elderflower heads
  • 85g Citric acid
  1. Pick the heads and very gently shake any bugs free from them.
  2. In a large saucepan, add the water and the sugar.  Gently heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Using a potato peeler, pare the lemon zest from the lemons and slice the lemons into ½cm thick rounds.

Elderflower Cordial

4. In a large bowl, add some cold, clean water and gently swish the elderflower heads to remove any remaining insects.  VERY GENTLY shake the excess water off them.

5. Snip the elderflowers from the stalks (to leave too much stalk on them can leave a bitter taste).

Elderflower Cordial

6. Bring the water and sugar syrup to a boil and turn off the heat.

7. To the sugar syrup, add the elderflower heads, lemon zest, lemon rounds and citric acid.  Stir well.

8. Place the lid onto the saucepan and leave, covered and undisturbed, for 24 hours.

9. Line a colander with two layers of muslin and drain the cordial through into a clean bowl.

10. Squeeze the muslin to extract all of that delicious cordial. Discard the lemons and elderflowers.

11. Pour the cordial into clean, sterilised Kilner bottles.

Elderflower Cordial

This will keep for up to about 6 weeks in the fridge.  You can also freeze the cordial in ice cube trays/bags for use later.

To sterilise the bottles, you can either wash them and dry them, upside down in a warm oven, or wash them through your dishwasher cycle.

My Perfect Barbecue

It’s getting to that time of year, when the evenings are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer and we’re all realising that we can cook and enjoy the outdoors again.  With this in mind, and in association with the Central England Co-Operative, I’ve come up with some delicious ideas that you can use to cook yourself a tasty meal to enjoy outdoors with a cheeky glass of wine (or two).

Beef Burgers:
500g Lean minced beef
1 medium red onion
¼ Red pepper
¼ Orange pepper
Bunch coriander
Salt and Pepper to season
30ml Double Cream

1. Finely chop the onion and the peppers.
2. Chop the coriander.
3. Place the mince, chopped onions, pepper and coriander into a large bowl.
4. Add the cream and season with salt and pepper.

5. Mix together thoroughly and shape into 6 burgers.

6. Chill for 10 minutes in the fridge.
7. Cook on the barbecue until thoroughly cooked through.

Sausage Wheel:
1 Pack of Cumberland Sausages
3 long metal skewers (or use wooden ones that you’ve soaked in water)

1. Untwist the individual sausages and distribute the meat evenly throughout the skin.
2. Roll gently into a spiral.
3. Skewer through from one side, through the centre and back through the other side, evenly using your three skewers.

4. Brush the surfaces with oil and barbecue until cooked through.

Chicken, Pepper & Red Onion Skewers

1 Chicken breast, cubed
1 Red onion
¼ Red pepper
¼ Orange pepper

1. Cut the top and bottom off the onion, then stand it on one of the flat edges.
2. Slice vertically through the onion into 6 wedges.
3. Cut the peppers into pieces the approximate size of your onion wedges.
4. Thread the pieces of chicken, onion and pepper alternately onto the skewers.
5. Brush with a little oil and barbecue until the chicken is cooked.

Pineapple Salsa:
175 Pineapple in natural juice
4 Spring onions
50g Red pepper
15ml Cider vinegar
15ml Dark brown sugar
60ml BBQ sauce
5mm Root Ginger.

1. Chop the pineapple, onions and pepper.
2. Grate the ginger.
3. Place all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat through for 10 minutes.

4. Serve hot or cold with your cooked burgers and sausage wheel.

Soured Cream Mint Dressing:
100ml Soured cream
15ml Concentrated mint sauce

1. Mix the soured cream and the mint sauce together thoroughly.
2. Serve with your cooked meats and salad.

I served my burgers in warmed pitta breads, which I spread with the soured cream mint dressing and stuffed with salad.

I was provided with vouchers from the Central England Co-Operative to purchase ingredients to make my BBQ meal.

Unilever Picnic Challenge Honey Mustard Crispy Chicken

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I was invited to take part in the Unilever Kitchen Picnic Challenge and was sent the most amazing hamper

 Which came complete with some fabulous ingredients with which to create my picnic recipe.
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 I came up with this chicken recipe that can either be enjoyed hot or left to cool, sliced and enjoyed cold with a salad on your picnic.
1 Egg
1tsp Maille au Miele (honey mustard)
1 Knorr chicken stock cube
2 slices of bread, toasted and left to cool
4 Chicken breasts
Bertolli spread
2 tbs Hellmans Mayonnaise
2 tbs Colemans sweet chilli & mango sauce
1. Beat the egg and the mustard together and place onto a dinner plate.
2. Blitz together the toast and the stock cube to become crumbs, then tip onto a separate dinner plate.
3. Place a chicken breast between two layers of cling film and beat until about 1cm thick all over.
4. Repeat with the other 3 chicken breasts.
5. Dip both sides of the flattened chicken breasts in the egg & mustard mixture and then coat on both sides with the toast crumb and stock cube.
6. Heat the Bertolli spread in a frying pan and cook each side of the chicken breasts until golden brown and cooked through.
7. Mix the mayonnaise with the sweet chilli & mango sauce.
8. Serve the chicken hot, or allow to cool and then slice into strips about 2cm wide to serve with your picnic salad.
I served mine hot with fried sweet potato, a fresh leafy salad and a chunk of warm ciabatta.
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Perfect and enjoyable served either way!

Northampton Clandestine Cake Club Meeting July 2012

What a wonderful evening last night. We held our 3rd Clandestine Cake Club meeting for the Northampton district. Our theme was (appropriately with the weather) a Summer Garden Party and that’s exactly what we had!

We met at our ‘secret’ location which was the beautiful and characteristic home of one of our members in a beautiful Northamptonshire village. The sun was shining and her garden looked truly amazing – the perfect setting for a garden party.

There was a vast array of incredibly beautiful cakes, brought to our meeting from every corner of our county by lovely ladies (and even some gentlemen too!).

You can see the two tables, full to bursting point of these incredible cakes here:

For my cake this month, I decided to have a bit of a play with flavours that are evocative of a summer day; namely elderflower. Sadly it wasn’t homemade elderflower cordial that I used, but one that I buy all year round from Belvoir Fruit Farms. I adapted a plain, ground almond sponge recipe that I use by adding elderflower cordial in place of the majority of the milk to add a subtle flavour that I hoped wouldn’t bake out. Once the cake was baked and still hot from the oven, I mixed some granulated sugar with some more elderflower cordial and used it as a topping, which when dried would have soaked into the sponge leaving a wonderfully fragrant and flavoursome topping to my cake. I’m really pleased to say my recipe experiment worked perfectly too!

For decoration I cut lots and lots of tiny white flowers and stuck them to a flattened ball of fondant to simulate an elderflower head, which I surrounded by leaves, before adding two more much smaller flower heads to the cake.

A lovely evening filled with cake, friends, laughs and setting summer sun; perfect!