Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower cordial made in June gives you the fragrance of summer all year round.

Our allotment site has lots of elder bushes growing around the edges which are covered with fragrant flower heads in June. There are lots of ways of using them, and elderflower cordial is our current favorite – the taste of summer all year round. We make a batch in June, and keep a few plastic bottles of it in the freezer. You can just dilute it with water for a refreshing drink, or use it more adventurously (elderflower sorbet?). My wife has used this cordial recipe for years, but now we can’t find the original on the internet any more. No matter, here is our version of it:

Pick the elderflowers on a dry morning, and try to use them within a few hours. Sniff them to find the best. Give each one a little shake to evict any insect visitors.

  • 25 elderflower heads
  • 1.5kg sugar
  • 1.5 litres of water
  • 50g citric acid (from Wilko’s for example)
  • 2 unwaxed lemons, finely sliced

Boil the sugar and water to make a syrup, stirring until it is all dissolved. Turn off the heat and stir in the citric acid, then leave it to cool. Put the flower heads in a container and pour the syrup over them and add the sliced lemons.

Cover it and leave it for two days, stirring occasionally. Then strain it through a jelly bag or muslin. You can squeeze the lemons to get a bit more zing if you like.

You can freeze it in clean plastic bottles, or use it fresh from the fridge for a few weeks.

Joe Foster

Globe Artichokes

I like the taste, of course, but I really love the leisurely ritual of eating them…

Globe artichokes have always been one of my favorite treats. I like the taste, of course, but I really love the leisurely ritual of eating them, nibbling the flesh off the base of each leaf, with lots of gaps for conversation in between (if you are not too greedy!).

In our part of the world they are ready to pick through June and July, when they have swollen to their full size, but before they get too thistle-ish. The internet has lots of fancy artichoke recipes, and even tutorials on eating them, but I like the simple way: cover them in water and boil them. You can tell when they are ready by poking a fork into the stem. Then see if one of the lower leaves pulls of easily. Cooking might take 15 minutes for younger ones, or longer when they are older.

No need to trim the tips off the leaves unless they are prickly.

Drain them well and serve with something to dip the leaves in. I like mayonnaise or melted butter best, but some people prefer hollandaise or olive oil and vinegar, etc. Keep pulling and nibbling leaves until you get near the centre. Then clear the last bits, including the fluffy stuff (the choke) away from the heart, which is the fleshy disk attached to the stem. A couple more bites, and it is all gone!

Artichokes do interesting things to the taste of other foods eaten with them. I always liked to experiment with this as a child. I still do, sometimes.

Joe Foster

Garlic Scapes

Around mid-June our hardneck garlic sends up scapes – curly stems you can eat.

Around the middle of June our hardneck garlic sends up scapes as the bulbs ripen below the soil. Scapes are like flower stems, and they are delicious, only available for a short time each year.  They are at their best when they are still curled around. They get tougher later, when they straighten out.
 
There are lots of recipes for garlic scapes on the internet – garlic scape pesto, pickles, stir fry, and lots more. My own favourite way of using them is to saute them for a couple of minutes in hot olive oil and then serve them up fresh with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Pick them up and eat them with your fingers!
 
Delicious!
 
Joe Foster
 

Garlic Scapes

 

 

Mexican Refried Beans

Frijoles refritos are easy to make, and Borlotti beans work really well.

Refried beans (frijoles refritos) go with lots of Mexican or Tex/Mex dishes, like quesadillas, huevos rancheros, burritos, or as a dip for tortilla chips. They turn out to be easy to make, and the Borlotti beans that many of us grow work especially well.

One cup of dried beans makes two or three cups of frijoles refritos, depending on how soft you want it.

  • one cup of dried beans
  • about 60ml (quarter cup) of oil or lard
  • one onion, finely chopped
  • two or three cloves of finely minced garlic
  • salt

Soak and cook the beans as usual. Drain them, but save the cooking water separately.

In a heavy frying pan, sauté the onions in the oil until they start to brown. Add the garlic, and sauté a bit longer.

Add a big spoonful of the beans, and mash them in well with the onions. Fry them for a while, then add some more beans and mash them in with the rest. Continue until all the beans are fried. This process causes a reaction between the starches and proteins in the beans (a Maillard reaction, if you want to know) which brings out the special flavour.

Now add a bit of the cooking water at a time, mashing it in as you  go, until you get the right consistency.  Make it a bit sloppier, actually, because they set firmer once they cool.  I like to make the dip version quite soft.

Salt the mixture to taste. Beans stand quite a bit of salt sometimes. Keep tasting as you go.

 

Okonomiyaki

A Japanese favourite Okonomiyaki is a cabbage ‘pancake’.

A Japanese favourite Okonomiyaki is a cabbage ‘pancake’.  It’s really delicious and easy to make.  This recipe is an Anglo-Japanese version.  Whilst it’s not totally authentic, because it uses easily accessible ingredients, it’s still close to the original, and just as tasty.

Continue reading “Okonomiyaki”

Dried Beans

It is not so hard to cook dried beans on your stove top.

Here is the method of cooking dried beans which I have refined over many years.  It is easy, and it gets rid of the indigestible substances that give beans such a bad reputation. You don’t need any special equipment like pressure cookers – it works well in a covered pan on your stove top.  In fact, I prefer doing it this way because I can monitor when they are done more easily.

Enough for 2 or 3 people, and combines well with one tin of tomatoes:

  • One cup of dried beans
  • Water
  • Salt

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water.  Ok, you do have to think ahead a little. If you have to leave them a second day, just drain them and give them fresh water until you are ready to cook. Remember, they will swell to more than twice their original volume. When you are ready to cook, drain the beans. Bring a pan of water to the boil, and tip in the beans. Get them boiling again, and boil for a further two or three minutes. Drain again and discard the water. This gets rid of most of indigestible stuff without losing the flavour. 

Now cover the beans in new water and simmer with a lid on the pan until they are done.  Keep an eye on them so they don’t dry out and burn. And how do you know when they are done? Lift a few beans out on a wooden spoon and blow on them. If the skins start to split and peel back they are about ready. Let a couple cool down and taste them. Repeat until you are satisfied. If the skins split in the pan they are a bit over done, but it is not a disaster. Near the end of the cooking, adjust the salt to taste. Salting them at the beginning is supposed to slow down the cooking, but I don’t know if this is really true. As a guide, our beautiful white Aztec beans (a kind of runner bean, really) take about 20 minutes.  Borlottis take 30 or 40, and red kidney beans a bit longer. Beans that have been stored for a long time take longer to cook.

Now drain them, and carry on with whatever recipe you are using.

Joe Foster

 

Beetroot Tarte Tatin Recipe

A beetroot recipe which is both different and delicious.

At certain times of year allotments offer an embarrassment of riches for us growers.  Finding new and exciting ways of cooking our favourite vegetables can be as challenging as keeping the couch grass at bay.

Here’s a beetroot recipe which is both different and delicious.  Easy to make, but impressive enough to garner you plaudits from the family, it’s a great way to use up some of your beetroot harvest.

"photo

Thanks to The Guardian’s 10 best beetroot recipes 23rd Feb 2013: Original recipe by The Fabulous Baker Brothers: Glorious British Grub by Tom Herbert and Henry Herbert (Headline)

Serves 4

75g golden caster sugar

40g of butter

A splash of red wine vinegar

1 tsp of honey

7 thyme sprigs

4 fresh beetroot

250g of puff pastry (ready-made life’s too short to make puff pastry!)

4 slices of goats cheese

salt & pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.  Place a smallish, heavy, oven safe frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the sugar to the pan and stir till it dissolves, then add a big pinch of salt, all the butter and a splash of red wine vinegar.  Keep stirring till it has turned mahogany brown.  Take care not to let the sugar burn.

2. Add 1tsb of honey to the pan.  Pick the thyme leaves from the stalks and add them too.

3. Cut the cooked beetroot into nice fat slices and carefully (so you don’t burn your fingers) arrange the slices on top of the caramel to fill the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry so it’s big enough to cover the beetroot, then place it on top, tucking the edges down into the pan. Put the whole lot in the oven for 30mins or until the pastry is golden brown.

5. Wearing oven gloves, place an upturned plate over the frying pan (it should be bigger than the pan) and, holding the two together, flip the lot over.  Leave it for 30 seconds to let the caramel fall from the pan onto the plate, then slowly lift the pan.

6. Serve by the wedge while still warm, with a disk of cheese on top and, if you fancy, a drizzle of honey.

Sue Stones

 

 

Swedish Crispbread

Jayne brought some to our work parties. Delicious!

(Jayne brought some of her Swedish crispbread to one of our work parties, and it was delicious. I’ve converted her deciliter units to cups. Joe)

Here is the recipe for the Swedish crispbread.  Our corn flour isn’t as good as the Swedish Risenta corn flour (majs mjol) but polenta flour may work.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups cornflour
  • 2 cups seeds – for instance : 
    • 0.5 cup linseed
    • 0.5 cup sunflower seeds
    • 0.5 cup pumpkin seeds
    • 0.5 cup sesame seeds
  • 1.5 cups boiling water
  • 3/8 cup sunflower or rape seed oil
  • 1/2 teasp salt.
  • flake salt for topping

Method: 

Mix flour and seeds, add boiling water and oil and mix thoroughly. 

Take half of the mixture and place on sheet of baking paper the size of oven shelf.  Place another sheet of baking paper on top and press or roll mixture until flat.  Take top piece of baking paper off and place in oven. 
Bake at 150 degrees C for 45 minutes.

Try to do all the mixture in one go as it doesn’t sit very well.

Jayne Harnett

Greek Baked Giant Beans

I wondered if our white “Aztec” beans would work in this…

Fasolia gigantes are very large white beans much loved in Greek cooking, and I wondered if the white-seeded “Aztec” runner beans that some of us grow would work instead in this recipe which I found in Rena Salaman’s book Greek Food.  I tried it out on a Greek friend of mine, and the result was “just as it should be”.

Serves four people as a main course.

  • 2 cups dried “Aztec” beans, or about 4 cups of fresh ones
  • Half a cup of good olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 tins of tomatoes or about 1kg of fresh ones
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

If you are using dried beans, soak them overnight, drain, then boil until just tender, but not too soft. Fresh beans just need boiling for a few minutes and draining. Heat the olive oil and fry the onions, garlic and dried herbs until they start to be golden. Add the tomatoes and their juice and a bit of water and mash them up a bit and cook for 30 minutes or so, until the sauce starts to thicken. Spread the beans across the bottom of a nice oven dish or casserole. Mix the parsley into the sauce, pour it over the beans and mix them all together.  Sprinkle a bit of oregano and black pepper on top and bake at 180 degC for 40 minutes, until they start to look a bit crisp on top.

From Joe Foster