Yellow Vanilla Cake With Chocolate Ganache Frosting
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Elderflower Cordial (A Step-by-Step Adventure)
A couple of weeks ago, I was foraging Cowslip in the nearby woods, when I spotted a few elders! It made me very happy and I could not wait for them to bloom, because I do love elderflower cordial and its fresh, subtle scent of sunny Spring days! I wanted to finally try my hand at making it myself.
So this weekend, a gorgeous weekend of cloudless blue skies and sunshine (you want to pick elder flowers on a sunny, dry day!), I picked my basket, a pair of secateurs and my Mum’s trusted, old Wild Flowers and Berries book. I am, after all, rather new to foraging and if my Grandpa (Mum’s dad) made the most delicious elderberry jam, foraging for the little black berries in the Summer, he, like my Mum, was a keen botanist. Any stroll we’d take in the countryside, he’d lean and tells us children about all the flowers we’d encounter, latin name and all. And I remember him insisting about the elderberries being toxic if eaten raw. As for the flowers, one should be careful and pick the flowers from black elders (sambucus nigra) as the roots, stems and leaves of the red elder (sambucus racemosa) are poisonous.
Black Elder (sambucus nigra)
Thus, I spent a lot of time studying the botanical drawings and pictures in my Mum’s book, both before going foraging and once there. There is little chance to mistake the red elder flowers with those of the black (and blue) ones, though. The former are cone-shaped, whereas the sambucus nigra flowers are flat-topped and resembles little parasols or umbrellas. (That said, when it comes to foraging, the golden rule is, I guess, if you’re not sure, abstain.)
Here is a closer look at black elder flowers. In the Summer, the green stems becomes a bright red colour, and the berries are black. I picked about 30 flowerheads, on different trees. You don’t want to take all the flowers on the same tree; you should always leave plenty for the bees!
Once you’ve foraged and come home, don’t let the flowers sit for hours on end. Start making the cordial when they are fresh. Here is what you will need.
Ingredients (makes about 2 litres/2 quarts):
25 freshly picked ederflower heads
2 large (unwaked) lemons
1.5 litre/1.5 quart boiling water
705 grams/1.55 pounds caster sugar
Proceeding with one elderflower head at a time, shake it to make sure there are no insects on it. (Do not rinse them, as it will weaken their fragrance). Then pick the flowers off the stem and place into a large bowl. Do that with all the elderflower heads. Then, thoroughly grate in the zest of both lemons.
Finally, pour the boiling water over the flowers and lemon zest. Give a good stir, to mix.
Cover with cling film, and let it steep and infuse overnight (24 hours).
The nex day, line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth (or coffee filters) and strain elderflower water into a large pot. Add caster sugar. Thoroughly squeeze the juice of both lemons, and stir into the pot.
Heat over medium-high heat, stirring often until sugar dissolves completely. Once the sugar is dissolved, bring to a simmer, and allow to boil, a couple of minutes.
Using a funnel, strain Elderflower Cordial into sterelised glass bottles and close tightly. Allow to cool completely, then store in a cool, dark place. Once opened, it keeps up a month (and even a bit longer) in the refrigerator; but it certainly won’t last that long!
You can use Elderflower Cordial in lots of recipes, from a refreshing Elderflower Gin and Tonic to a stunning Lemon and Elderflower Cake. It also lifts up a Blueberry and Elderflower Pavlova or a Summer Fruit Salad!
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What's your favorite type of donut?
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Nettle and Spinach Pancakes
Not only do these Nettle and Spinach Pancakes give some purpose to sting-inducing weeding, the nettles and spinach in them pack them with iron, they also are this cheerful bright green colour and delicious, especially when eaten in the garden on a sunny Spring morning! Happy Saturday!
Ingredients (makes 10):
1 cup freshly picked nettles (wearing gloves) and thoroughly washed under cold water (wearing rubber gloves!)
1 cup baby spinach, rinsed
1 cup buttermilk
1 ¼ cup plain flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
In a blender, combine nettles, spinach and buttermilk. Whizz until smooth and perfectly blended; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, caster sugar, baking powder and salt. Give a good stir. Dig a well in the middle and break in the eggs. Whisk, gradually adding nettle-buttermilk mixture until well-combined. Cover with a tea towel, and leave to rest, at least an hour.
Melt a little of the butter in a large, flat, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
Spoon as many ladles of nettle- spinach pancake batter as you can in the skillet, spacing them a little as they will grow. When bubble start forming on the edges of the pancakes, flip pancakes on the other side. Cook, a couple of minutes, then transfer to serving plate keeping them warm. Repeat, adding a little butter to the pan between each batch, until you have eight beautiful pancakes!
Serve Nettle and Spinach Pancakes with soft goat’s cheese or yoghurt and berries, or other fruit and honey or Maple Syrup ...
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Apple and custard impossible pie
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Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Vegetarian)
I never went to Parma, but the first time I had Melanzane alla Parmigiana was in Italy, when we had a family holiday between Roma and Napoli. Ever since I’d bought beautiful aubergines at the market the other day, I promised Jules I would make the cheesy gratin. I kept postponing it, for I was too tired after work to give it the care and love it deserved. And it was just as well, because, when I baked it in the weekend, serene and happy, singing Via con me with Paolo Conte (who, incidentally, studied law at the University of Parma!), it was flavourful and indulgent, and absolutely delicious!
Ingredients (serves 2 to 3):
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small fluffy sprig fresh rosemary
half a doen leaves fres basil
1/2 red onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
5 Whole Peeled Tomatoes, with about 1/3 cup of their juice
1/2 cup good red wine (like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo)
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 large aubergines, rinsed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
250 grams/8.8 ounces Macsarmone cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
100 grams/3.5 ounces fresh Mozzarella
2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning Breadcrumbs
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat olive oil. Finely chop thyme, rosemary and basil leaves, and add fresh herbs to the oil. Allow to infuse, 1 minute. Peel and thinly slice red onion, and add to the saucepan. Cook, until softened, about 3 minutes. Then, stir in garlic, and cook, 1 minute more. Increase heat to medium-high, and add Whole Peeled Tomatoes, crushing them with the wooden spoon. Finally, stir in Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, 15 minutes, giving a stir every now and then. Before turning of the heat, stir in sugar until dissolved. Remove from the heat; set aside.
Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Cut aubergines into slices, lengthwise. In a small bowl, combine olive oil and dried basil. Working in batches, brush aubergine slices with basil oil on both sides, and place them on the grill pan. Cook, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until grilled and softened, and transfer to a plate. Set aside.
Spoon Mascarpone into a medium bowl, and whisk energetically to soften. Grate in about 1/3 cup Parmesan and season with salt and black pepper. Give a good stir to combine.
Preheat oven to 210°C/410°F.
Grate about one cup Parmesan.
Lightly oil a baking dish with olive oil. Spoon about 4 tablespoons of the tomato sauce at the bottom of the dish. Arrange a layer of grilled aubergine slices. Then, scatter dollops of Mascarpone and Parmesan cream liberally on top. Sprinkle generously with 1/3 cup grated Parmesan. Top with a layer of tomato sauce. Repeat with another layer of aubergines, remaining Mascarpone and Parmesan cream, 1/3 cup Parmesan and the rest of the tomato sauce. Top with remaining grilled aubergine slices. Tear off chunks of Mozzarella and scatter liberally on top. Sprinkle with remaining grated Parmesan and Breadcrumbs, and place in the middle of the hot oven.
Bake, at 210°C/410°F, 25 minutes until beatifully golden brown on top.
Serve Melanzane alla Parmigiana hot, with a glass of earthy Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
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Very simple and quick to make, this Tomato Concassée elevate beautifully ripe and red tomatoes into a flavourful sauce.
Ingredients (makes about 1 1/2 cup):
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
half a fluffy sprig fresh rosemary
a large garlic clove, minced
3 ripe tomatoes, rinsed
1 tablespoon Modena Blasamic Vinegar
1/2 tablespoon caster sugar
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.
Finely chop thyme and rosemary leaves and add to the oil. Cook, 1 minute. Add minced garlic.
Dice tomatoes and add them and all their juices to the saucepan. Increase heat to medium-high, and bring to the boil. Stir in Balsamic Vinegar, and boil rapidly, a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat back to medium-low, and simmer, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in caster sugar until completely dissolved.
You can use Tomato Concassée hot as a sauce for pasta, rice or polenta, as the base of a stew or soup. You can also let it cool and spread generously onto Pizza Dough...
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Ina Garten’s Blueberry Crumb Cake
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i LOVE Hope Lovejoy
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Peanut butter pancakes
Ginger cookie sandwiches with lemon mascarpone