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Marmalade

As soon as the Christmas decorations come down in the first week of January, my mind immediately turns to the upcoming year of planting, picking and preserving. Plans to make, seeds to plant and lovely food and flowers to produce.

The first on the list is always marmalade. Admittedly, we don’t grow the oranges, but I can certainly whip up a mean batch of the gorgeous orange breakfast staple.

The smells in the kitchen during this process are fantastic and it’s so simple to do…..

You will need:

12 Seville oranges

2ltr water

2kg granulated sugar

30 ml Whisky (optional)

You’ll need to sterilise 6 or 8 decent sized jars 

Method:

Put the oranges whole into a medium pan, with a lid, and cover with the water. Make sure the fruit is all covered by the water.

Simmer for around 20 mins, then pierce each orange. Simmer for another half an hour to ensure each orange is cooked through .

Ideally leave the pan to cool overnight with the fruit sitting in the water.

This helps to release more pectin, which helps the marmalade to set.

Next day, or once cool, lift the oranges from the water and place the water in your jam pan.

Add the sugar and heat slowly so it all dissolves.

Cut the oranges in half and scrape the flesh and pips into a bowl.

I used a sieve over the bowl and let a bit more juice drip through as I was scooping the flesh out.

A quick stir helped to push the pulp through as a thicker purée. I then added this purée into the jam pan.

Here’s another tip where a little bit of extra effort can make all the difference:

Tip the flesh and pips into a muslin square or coffee filter and tie. Hang the bag in the liquid while it boils up. 

Slice the orange skins thinly. The amount of skin added to the marmalade is personal preference.

I added it all as we like it loaded and I didn’t want to throw out perfectly good skin. I made the mistake of slicing a bit too thick last year. I was going for ‘chunky’ but we ended up with proper lumps of skin, nice to eat, but tricky to spread and cut through on toast! Again, the thickness is a personal thing, but about the thickness of a pound coin is good.

 

Give the mixture a good stir, then leave on a rolling boil for 20-30 mins. Test whether the marmalade is setting by placing a spoonful on a cold plate.

If it wrinkles as you run your finger through it, and your finger leaves a gully in the mixture, then it should be ready to pour into jars.

You can either add the whisky to the mixture before pouring it into jars, or you can put a measure into each jar before pouring in the marmalade mixture. I’m not sure which is better for flavour, so there might be need for a taste test there!

One thing to be aware of is that the added liquid to the jar can affect the final set of the marmalade, so you may want to mix it in to the marmalade before adding to the jars. Again, this is personal preference.

And job done! I do go a bit Paddington and have a marmalade sandwich as the first taste test. Thick bread, lashings of butter and still slightly warm marmalade – Lovely!

Elderflower Cordial

It’s the time of year for Elderflower cordial. I can smell the flowers as I walk by the trees at the moment and the fragrance is so evocative of summertime – fresh and sweet.

                        

The recipe is very easy, but there are a few tips I have picked up over the years to ensure you get super sweet, fragrant cordial. This is good for mixing with juice or water, or (of course) Prosecco. There is also a gin cocktail which is a favourite of mine. Recipe below.

You will need:

20-25 heads of elderflower

Zest and juice of one lemon

1 litre boiling water

1kg of caster sugar.

My lovely trug, coming into action again!

 

 

 

Always pick the flowers on a dry day and in a clean place, ie. away from a busy road.

Don’t wash the flowers, but give them a good shake to get rid of any bugs/debris.

 

 

 

Place the flowers in a large bowl (I usually trim mine from the stalk with scissors and with half inch of stem).

Add the lemon zest and pour on the boiling water. Cover with a cloth and leave for 24 hrs, stirring occasionally.

 

 

 

Using a sieve, strain the mixture into a jam pan or heavy bottomed pan. Muslin or coffee filter papers are good to use at this point, as there are still sometimes little bugs that get through.

Add the sugar and bring the mix to the boil, then turn the heat down slightly and stir until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. It’s up to you how thick you want the syrup now. Thicker is good for pouring on ice-cream/ yoghurt etc.

Decant into sterilised bottles. The syrup should keep in the fridge for a few weeks, or you can pour into ice cube trays and freeze.

 

Gin and Elderflower Cocktail

1 part Gin

1 part Elderflower syrup

Tonic or lemonade or soda

Pour over ice and lemon and enjoy

 

Pasta with Spring Greens and Hosta shoots

The first recipe I flicked to in James Wongs book was one for Hosta. I knew about some edible weeds, ground elder, nettles etc, and I knew about lots of edible flowers; borage, nasturtiums etc. But Hostas? How exciting!

I needed to try this. We had some fresh pasta, I finally had some time to pick a few leaves, and it was probably my turn to cook (blue moon and all that). There was obviously some trepidation from the guinea pig, I mean husband, about eating random plants, but I was all set.

I’d almost missed the start of the hosta plants, given that you have to pick the leaves as buds before they start to unfurl. I only had about nine shoots. Luckily, I spotted a few ground elder leaves to supplement the greens. 

The recipe in the book is basically a pasta primavera with tagliatelle. I made a few changes, but the result was pretty much the same. 

The picture shows:

Mint and Lemon Balm

Hosta shoots

Ground elder (pick the small, newer leaves)
which were all from the garden

Broad beans, asparagus, peas and broccoli not from the garden.

Garlic, hazelnuts, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice.

I also used some Chicken Stock to blanch the greens before adding them to the pasta. I then removed the greens and cooked the pasta in that stock.

Fry off the garlic and greens in some oil, add the cooked pasta, then finish with lemon juice and zest, Parmesan and hazelnuts.

I don’t know whether to go into lots of detail about technique here, as it’s not really what I’m about, I’m more interested in the experimenting and discovering new things. I’m not that great a cook, and let’s face it, if you did a search online for ‘Hosta recipes’ there will be loads.

I’ll just show you what I did, hopefully give you a bit of inspiration to try for yourself, and if I have posted this, it means I haven’t given myself, or hubby, food poisoning, so it must be OK to try! 

Rhubarb Syrup

This is a simple syrup that is great for cocktails or soft drinks, but can also be made a little thicker so it can be added to ice-cream, porridge or pancakes.

I’ve used home grown, but as a basic rule when shopping for rhubarb, make sure the stalks are firm and crisp and not old or slimy. Thinner, pink stems will be sweetest, but lighter coloured stalks (which are slightly tarter) are OK for this recipe, because of the amount of sugar involved.

Ingredients

1lb Rhubarb

1pt water

8oz sugar – I used granulated.

Method

Make sure all the stems are washed and chop off the ends. Chop into pieces about ½ inch long.

Place in a saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer for about 15 mins. Give it a stir to help break the pieces up. Skim any foam that rises to the top.

After 15mins the rhubarb will have broken up and become mushy. It will have lost most of its colour, but the water will be a bright pink. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve. I strained mine into a measuring jug, rinsed the pan and put the liquid back in, but you can use a clean pan.

Once you have all the liquid you can get rid of the rhubarb pulp (although there’s nothing wrong with it, I ate mine with some strawberry yoghurt. Waste not want not!)

Put the liquid back on the heat and slowly add the sugar. The liquid needs to boil, but keep stirring to dissolve all of the sugar. You can also be checking for what consistency you want the syrup. For a thicker syrup, boil for a bit longer to reduce the consistency.

Let the syrup simmer for 5 or so minutes and skim off any more foam that rises.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Pour into a sterilised glass container, seal and refrigerate. The syrup should last for several weeks – if you can leave it alone!

I made a rhubarb cocktail with mine (just to test it of course.)

1 measure Gin

Rhubarb Syrup

Lemon juice

Pour over ice and top up with soda or tonic.

I can vouch that its also very good with prosecco!!

The Recipe Section

As an introduction to the recipes section, I think its worth explaining that my main motivation is about making the most of what I can grow, forage, beg, borrow and steal (or get given). So some recipes on here will contain ingredients that are perhaps not that everyday – unless you are a hardcore forager/gardener!

One of the ideas behind this blog was to write about food and the garden from a perspective of less waste, foraging and making the most of the plants that we have. I’m growing a lot for floristry and flower arranging, but we have some veg as well. A big influence is a book I picked up by James Wong  (@Botanygeek) called The Homegrown Revolution.

I’ll be referring to this on occasion, but also websites, blogs and books by other writers. I will always reference where I have got ideas from, and would also love to hear from people that have suggestions for ingredients or recipes.