Category Archives: Recipes

Elderflowers & Bicycles

Homemade Elderflower Cordial

Homemade Elderflower Cordial

 

I think it is fair to say that I am not good at taking compliments.  I don’t think I am very different from most women, but I do seem to have a particular knack of brushing them off, belittling or ignoring them.  When your confidence has taken a bash or two, it is hard to remember that the things you are good at, never really leave you.  You are still the person that did the things that you used to, you just haven’t done them for a while.  But blogging is not a bicycle.  You can’t just jump on again. Can you?

Three years have gone by since I made my last confession. A lot has happened. To start with, we no longer live in Seattle, but in London. We have moved continents, countries, homes and schools at least once over the last several months and the toll of starting afresh has weighed us down.  We said goodbye to people and places we loved.  I kissed farewell to my teaching kitchen and business, and we moved back ‘home’ to a place that felt very different to the one we left almost a decade ago. Finding our feet in a furiously busy city made us realise how accustomed to sedate Seattle life we had become. Living on top of each other in a teensy rental with one bathroom for 18 months would be a test of the best of marriages. Ours only just scraped by, thanks to a husband with a sense of humour that is particularly tickled by all things toilet.

 

Freshly Picked Elderflowers and Sorrento Lemons

Freshly Picked Elderflowers and Sorrento Lemons

 

We built a house in Kensal Rise, that took two years to nearly complete (we still have a list of ‘to do’ items).  And I got sick. My family had to muddle through while I tried to get better, and then I got sick again.  It has been a long road, but I am finally able to say that I will be well again.  I know it in my bones, even though my head does not always feel it.  Meningitis is jealous guest, refusing to share its host with others, and never entirely leaving.  The ‘hangover’ as I have taken to refer to it, waxes and wanes to its own rythm.  An unrelenting fog that occasionally lifts enough to give me a glimpse of what is around the corner, but more often than not, it settles in for weeks at a time. The anxious vulnerability that comes with an illness that leaves you distrusting your fickle memory and vacillating strength can become crippling. It becomes impossible to make plans, when you don’t trust that the good days will stay. Anyone familiar with a migraine will wince at the memory of what I am hinting at.

I don’t like to talk about it though, because I feel that to do so, gives it oxygen.  It has taken up enough of my families’ time over the last year and a half, and any additional discussion simply gives it further attention, that is wholly undeserved. My undivided efforts are to be better. To stay better. And to finally get back to what I do best.  To what I love. To cook.

The journey has been a winding one, with much to learn along the way.  Foods that harm and foods that heal are a constant topic of thought and discussion.  Getting back to basics, to old ways, and simpler things has always been what Heirlooms & Wooden Spoons was about.  Sharing learning, skills and my kitchen have always brought me joy. I may be a little bruised, but I know more today than I ever did, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will teach me. With the unrelenting support of my husband and little family, I intend to gently build back up my fledgeling enterprise. Starting here.

The fragile and fleeting Elderflower seemed an appropriate topic for my first post in a while. In the most surprising corners of this throbbing city, tiny delicate white flowers can be found bursting into the sunshine.  Each head lasts little more than a day and must be picked and cooked when it has just flowered. The heady aroma as it steeps in syrup fills my kitchen with the scent of a promise of things to come.

Perhaps, one day, a Teaching Kitchen in London? Hmmm …  Cooking Classes in Kensal Rise anyone?

Elderflower Cordial

2 litres water

2.5 kg organic sugar

250g elderflowers; rinsed, shaken out, stalks removed (approx 25 heads)

3 lemons; remove zest with peeler in strips. Remove pith and use only flesh and zest

85g citric acid

 

Summer in a Bottle

Summer in a Bottle

 

Bring sugar and water to the boil, stirring occasionally to stop it from catching. once boiling, turn it off and throw in elderflowers, lemon and acid. Cover and leave to cool for 48 hours, then bottle. Quintessential England, in a bottle.

It can be kept it in the fridge for about five weeks, you can freeze it or jar it and use a water bath ‘canning’ method to store it at ambient temperature for longer.

Use in cakes, over icecreams, in cocktails or simply serve with sparkling water on a hot day.

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Filed under Everything!, Spring Recipes, Summer, Sweet

Orange is the new black…

 

Everything is Orange.  Or gold.  Or turning orangey-gold.  The sun is shining, and setting fire to every rust and russet that shimmers in the breeze, clinging without real hope to sleepy trees.  The frost adds a certain magical sparkle to anything that doesn’t quite meet my glittery requirements. Pumpkins of various hues adorn every doorstep in the neighbourhood, and the twinkle of fairy lights are slowly becoming ‘de rigueur’.  It is official . . . winter is coming.  My nose is red and my cheeks are more so, I blend well with the colours of autumn and the Michelin style oversized down jacket has made its’ annual reappearance.  Carmex and Coffee are not a winning pairing, I note, as my first sips of morning Americano are tainted by the scent and slick of menthol lipsalve.  But a little frozen hand is thrust in my spare one, and I make a decision. I like November in Seattle.  I like it very much.

Though feeling hopelessly romantic about this particularly pretty moment, I know that imminently I will be plunged into 50 shades of grey depression, brought on by short gloomy days.  Too cold and wet to venture outside, except to pick up and drop off damp grumpy children.  Meals become larger, heavier, and wetter too, often echoing the colours of outside in an effort to bring some colour into the kitchen.  But, god help me, I am bored of squash. I cannot bear the thought of one more Butternut soup, Pumpkin Pie, roasted Spaghetti or Delicata.  I am ‘pumpkined’ out and I haven’t even started thinking about Thanksgiving – and the ubiquitous pie that cannot be avoided.  I think I shall be serving pumpkin ice cream with crunchy amaretti biscuits and a little shot of Theo’s Chocolate hot cocoa.  Anyone got any better ideas?

I have not given up on everything orange, though.  Well, not quite.  Carrots are still abundant at the farmers market and deliver all the earthy notes and smoky sweetness that I crave at this time of year, without the sugary, creamy richness of its rounder second cousin.  Throw it in an oven that is just a little too hot, with plenty of garlic and spices, and you have something robust and hearty enough to take centre stage at the table, not simply stand humbly beside the main event.

In this recipe the combination of hot, caramelized (even slightly burnt) roasted carrots and a cool, creamy, tangy cheese is one I find refreshing.  The clash of textures awakens the palate, and hails perhaps just a hint of Spring on the distant horizon with the perky, clean additions of fresh coriander/cilantro and tart, rich cheese.

My guilt about berating the Butternut will undoubtedly ensure an imminent recipe.  Watch this space…

Dukkah

The ingredients below are relatively numerous, but don’t be put off. Make a batch of Dukkah and you won’t be disappointed – it can be used in so many ways; a crust for fish or poultry, an addition to vegetables, dip a hard boiled egg in it or just serve it with warm, crusty bread and a slosh of very good olive oil when supper isn’t quite ready and you need to keep your guests at bay!

I like to use the stunning organic rainbow carrots grown in California, paired specifically with Yarmuth Farm’s French Creek Cheese; a bloomy, creamy cheese with a distinct tart kick – I believe they are still at the University District and Ballard Farmers’ Markets throughout the winter.  However, any tangy creamy cheese will strike a good balance – use your favourite and get creative!

Ingredients For Dukkah

50g flaked almonds
20g pistachio nut meats
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 ½ tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp dry green peppercorns (or white, as an alternative)
3 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds
½ tsp Sea salt flakes
1 tsp Za’atar
1 tsp dried oregano
a pinch of sumac 

 

Dukkah Method

Gently roast the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds in a hot cast iron pan until they start to pop – this will take about 30 seconds. Remove and put into pestle and mortar. Turn off the heat and allow pan to cool a little, then tip in the nigella and sesame seeds, constantly stirring, and remove when the sesame starts to turn golden. Add them to the seeds. Lightly crush until coarsely ground with the peppercorns.

Finely chop the almonds and pistachios and add to the mix with the final ingredients. You should end up with a coarse, dry, well combined mixture. Store in an airtight container.

Maple Roasted Carrots with Dukkah and Goat’s Brie

Roasted Carrots

15 medium sized carrots, halved or quartered if larger
2 TBSPs Good Olive Oil
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 TBSP coriander seed
1 TBSP cumin seed
1 TBSP fresh lemon zest
2 TBSPS Maple Syrup
2 TBSPs Dukkah
a large handful of fresh coriander/cilantro
One small, ripe, Goat’s Brie, or similar

 

The Dressing

1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Olive oil
S & P
1 tsp maple syrup

 

Method

Pre heat oven to 450F

carrots on a tray ready for roastingGrind the coriander and cumin seed with a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic, lemon zest and maple syrup and slowly add the olive oil as you continue to grind to a loose paste. Toss the carrots in the paste with your hands in a large bowl, ensuring all are evenly covered in the mixture and lay out on a parchment lined cookie sheet/oven tray.

Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots take on really good colour, even becoming a little burnt around the edges. Remove and drizzle over the dressing, allowing to cool slightly, before composing the dish. Pile the carrots jauntily, adding coriander/cilantro leaves and fat slices of the brie as you layer them slowly upwards. Sprinkle liberally with Dukkah and serve immediately.

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Everything!, Savoury, Winter