Elderflower Cordial 

There seems to be an abundance of flowers this year with their wonderful perfume of early summer. Apparently the best time to pick the flower heads is a sunny morning when the scent is is best … bananas as opposed to cat’s pee they say! So here is the recipe:

1 lemon, grated & sliced

1 oz citric acid

1 kilo sugar

750ml water

10 elderflower heads

Dissolve sugar in boiling water. Add lemon zest & slices, elderflower heads & citric acid. Leave 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Sieve & bottle. Serve with iced or sparkling water, pretty with borage flowers.  Should keep 6 months – 1 year – until the next season!

Elderflower champagne (Makes about 6 litres)

700g sugar dissolved in 4 litres hot water

Juice and zest of four lemons

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

About 15 elderflower heads, in full bloom

A pinch of dried yeast (you may not need this)

Bottles – glass or plastic (you might need to let out some fizz now & then to stop them popping!)

  • Put the hot water and sugar into a large container (a spotlessly clean bucket is good) and stir until the sugar dissolves, then top up with cold water so you have 6 litres of liquid in total.
  •  Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently.
  • Cover with clean muslin and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. Take a look at the brew at this point, and if it’s not becoming a little foamy and obviously beginning to ferment, add a pinch of yeast.
  • Leave the mixture to ferment, again covered with muslin, for a further four days. Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin and decant into sterilised strong glass bottles with champagne stoppers (available from home-brewing suppliers) or Grolsch-style stoppers, or sterilized screw-top plastic bottles (a good deal of pressure can build up inside as the fermenting brew produces carbon dioxide, so strong bottles and seals are essential).
  •  Seal and leave to ferment in the bottles for at least a week before serving, chilled. The champagne should keep in the bottles for several months. Store in a cool, dry place.

Pasta with Purple Sprouting Broccoli (serves 4)

Penne Pasta 300g

Purple Sprouting broccoli 300g

Olive Oil, 6 tbs

Garlic, 3 cloves chopped

Chilli, one dried red chopped

Salt, pepper, parmesan

Boil pasta until semi-cooked. Add PSB for final 5 minutes. Warm  the garlic & chilli in half the oil. Drain pasta & toss in frying pan with oil and garlic / chilli and drizzle on rest of oil. Serve with lashings of parmesan!

Seville Marmalade

Sevilles are here, not exactly local but certainly seasonal! Every year I forget which recipe I used but this year I think I have worked out the perfect combination to make the best mearmalade so far! By squeezing the juice & adding it toward the end of the cooking you keep the lovely tangy, citrus taste.

3lb seville oranges

3 pints water

2 lemons

5-6lb sugar

Squeeze the juice from the oranges & set aside. Thinly slice the orange rind & soak in pan with the water overnight to tenderise the rind. Next day boil slices & water for 1-2 hours. After this add the orange juice, juice from 2 lemons & the sugar. Bring to boil & cook at rolling boil for 20mins. Cool a little & fill sterilised jars. Keeps until at least thie same time next year!

In February we are mostly eating Kale! below are a few recipes from our favourite chefs:

Winter kale and Potato curry (taken from Hugh FW)

500g kale leaves, roughly shredded

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 onion, halved and finely sliced

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

3cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

1 tsp garam masala

½ tsp mustard seeds

½ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp ground turmeric

3 cardamon pods, bashed

350g potatoes, chopped into cubes

250g plain yoghurt

1 ½ tbsp tomato puree

small bunch coriander, roughly chopped

small handful of almonds, cashews or pistachios, toasted and chopped

sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and fry until just golden. Meanwhile, pound the garlic, chilli and ginger together with a pinch of salt. Add to the onion and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Tip in the rest of the spices and stir for a minute or two.

Add the potatoes and fry, stirring frequently, for 5 mins, so that they are well coated in the spice mixure. Pour in about 400ml water – enough o just cover. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are just tender. Add the kale leaves, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until tender.

In a bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, tomato puree and some of the hot liquid from the curry. Remove the curry from the heat, stir in the oghurt mixture, return to the heat and warm through very gently (if it gets too hot the yoghurt will curdle). Stir in most of the coriander.

Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Scatter over the toasted nuts and remaining coriander, then serve with rice and naan or chapattis.

Watercress Pesto - better than any you could buy!

2oz Basil or 4oz watercress/rocket
2oz nuts (pine, walnut or almond)
2oz Parmesan cheese grated
2 plump cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
5 fl oz good olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

  •  Put nuts & garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped but still granular texture
  •  Add the basil and process until leaves are chopped
  •  Then begin trickling in the oil as the processor runs until you have a fairly sloppy puree
  • Add parmesan, lemon juice, salt & pepper, whizz a bit more until it looks like pesto!
  • Serve on pasta, a little more parmesan sprinkled on top, with a green salad

Fruit Vinegar

We love jam here at Cotna, but there is only so much we can eat. But salad dressings, now that is another matter! Here is a recipe that can be adapted to any fruit & is a wonderful way to preserve the goodness of the fruit & eat it in a healthy way through those dark winter days:

 1 kg seasonal fruit (eg strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, elderberries, haws, sloes etc)

600 m cider vinegar

Granulated sugar

Put the fruit in a bowl, crush lightly with wooden spoon & cover in cider vinegar. Cover bowl & leave to steep for 3-5 days, stirring / crushing fruit occasionally.Pour the steeped mix into a piece of muslin / jelly bag over a sieve & pan (you may have to remove the vinegar mother that has formed a layer on top). Leave it to drain overnight, squeezing as needed. Add sugar to taste (approx. 300g – 450g) Bring slowly to boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil for 10 mins, removing scum with spoon. Cool then bottle & seal when cold. Use within 12 months.

Herb Butters – a really simple recipe to make the most of some of the lovely spring herbs!

4oz butter

A handful of wild herbs, eg sorrel or wild garlic

Chop the herbs finely. Soften butter a little and mash herbs in with a fork. Lovely on hot pitta or freshly baked bread, or maybe baked potatoes!

Spicy Haw Ketchup - a great recipe for all those lovely red berries around at the moment!

500g hawthorn berries
300ml cider vinegar
170g sugar
Salt & Pepper

Strip the haws from the stalks. Rinse in cold water. Put haws in pan with vinegar & water, simmer for about 30mins. Cook until flesh is soft & berries are muted red-brown. Rub the mixture through a sieve & return mixture to pan. Add sugar & heat gently, stirring until it dissolves. Bring to boil & cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Pour into sterilized bottles & use within 12 months.




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