The spring and summer cause great issues for foragers in the fact what do we pick first? There is so much ready all at once that it drives me mad, I work on average this time of year 18 hours, plus a day, the phone rings off the hook with many friends, family, and customers with news of a find, a new secret place to forage or they do indeed a glut of fruit that needs picking and of course (anyone who cooks will tell you this ) they all demand, new and interesting for recipes along with special tips and new ideas! I do my best and there’s the garden to tend too. Would I change it? No! Do I love it yes.
However this year I am picking Rowan berries before elderberries that is a first for me. Elderberries need cooking before you eat them they can make you ill if uncooked.
The Leaves and stems mustn’t be used and these too can make you quite ill. So cook them first. So yes you can make an amazing syrup, jam and jelly but here I like to tell you about a soup.
To get to the soup we first have to travel back in time to Barland Estate in Powys Wales and into Garden Cottage. In the garden the plums are ready to pick, loganberries are ripping fast each day against the walled garden space dripping with flavour, the apples are promising a bumper crop and I am still picking raspberries, strawberries and of course, the currant cage is not giving in just yet. Our freezers are full and the larder is filling up. It’s early August and the kitchen hot from the Rayburn. A constant smell of cooking fruit fills our house.
A large bowl of water with a small hint of wine, is on the heat, the air is filled with warm smells, first the fresh fruity aroma, then a whisper of cinnamon with undertones of honey fill the air in between and remind me that the summer not going to last forever, my choice of school has been my undoing. I will at the end of this month get back on the bus and although my days will be busy, I not be with my mum & dad, my little brother and of the mad dog “hop along Cassidy” and I will miss them all so much along with the garden full of fruit and flowers, dinner will become just food. I indeed missed them more than I ever told them. (Turn back the clock).
My mum’s storytelling was always fascinating and all the time she was passing on everything she learnt, she had a thirst for knowledge, and her desire to pass on everything she knows was so important. She was like a missionary spreading and sharing the word! Especially when she was in the kitchen, so as she cooked she told stories, and apart from cooking lessons we had, history lessons, art lessons and life lessons! Why, and how certain dishes came about why we forage and the importance of not forgetting what we once knew.
My mum was and is still my hero, she could cook anything and did indeed cook everything, and could make a meal from nothing. Her heart still beats in mine and although I miss her every single day I know she is with me every second. She made me who I am today, she taught me the love of life, passion and of course cooking. She was outstanding at everything especially making soups, from all most anything from the garden. Even the hardened meat eater couldn’t resist her delicious green and bean soup. So as the seasons changed and slowly moved on so did the recipes and the soup. I not sure I could even to this day give you my favourite choice if I was to choose? Then I would choose them all a small tiny cup of each starting with the pea, then cold fennel, but always finishing with the Elderberry soup.
Elderberry Soup recipe
1.5 litres of water
500g of Elderberries
2 tablespoons of Lemon Juice (one large lemon)
100ml of white wine
1 stick of cinnamon
A little arrowroot to thicken or you can have this without if you would like a thin soup.
- Place on the heat water, wine, lemon juice and spice.
Pick the elderberries off the stalks, discarding any leaves and stalks.
Add carefully to the warm water, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for 10-15 mins
The fruit will so mushy, Add a teaspoon of honey at this point.
- Strain the fruit and press out the juice. Then return the soup to the pan. (Discard the pulp)
If you would like a thicker soup, mix the arrow route with a drop of cold water and the rest of the lemon juice and pour into the soup and now season to your taste.
- Return to a soft heat and slowly bring to a light boil to cook the arrowroot and thicken the soup.
Serve with roasted ground cobnuts and sourdough bread croutons drizzled with honey.
Possible side effects (Autoimmune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Elderberry might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid using elderberry.)
Its been a rather busy year and I just wanted to show you what I built:
In January I moved out of my old unit in search of something a little more me, I look high and low and nothing suited, until I come across, a place that at the time was not resemble anything like a kitchen, it was a furniture shop!
I worried, I questioned and even argued with myself and I did just wonder if it was the right move. I spoke to the very nice man(landlord) Mr Stuart Bailey who said it could be anything you want, if your like it then go a head and change whatever you want to make it yours.
I looked and looked and walked around this little place, then I noticed the garden, a place for me to grown my own fruit, a greenhouse, and even a place for my next project bee keeping. So I signed on the dotted line and armed with a plan, a sledge hammer, and lots of hours learning DIY on YouTube. I set off to turn it into a commercial kitchen that I could cook in.
So here is the story in pictures .
Before, The wall is covered in wallpaper
Stage 1 rip out every thing!
Wall paper off! Plaster board off the walls.
hole for the fan
View from the hole
The Bee Team
A still moment in time that I hope to be able to visualise in my heart for ever, for a photograph can only ever hold an image. It may rekindle memories but it could ever convey the my magical moment of sitting outside with a blanket and a hot cup of tea and a very confused cat!
It’s 2.15 and I am watching the sun eclipse the moon on a clear night so bright I can read the stars like a recipe. For the first time ever I looked up and without a map I knew exactly what each star in this night sky is and I was so excited, I could barely hold onto my voice and not shout out their names, at last it’s sunk in! So crystal clear and I can see everyone . I look back at the moon,and it has the appearance of someone draping a hearth rug over her while she sits by the fire, that gives her this earthly glow. Not wanting to move a muscle as not to miss a second of such beauty I stare and breath in this extraordinary moment. I have to share this time, but who dare I ring at such a late hour? I conect with a few friends, just knowing that we are together looking, dreaming and experiencing the same sight fills my heart, wondering just how they feel.
Then it begins a heartbeat so loud almost deafening, I almost jump out of my seat looking around I steady my nervous its my heart its has started to race with the excitement of the event. I breath in and smile all at the same time the air is motionless as it the world has stood still, and we watch her performance. My thoughts begins to accelerate, are you meant to wish upon the moon or do I sing a song of love or do I ?? What might my mum have done? she would have chosen a wish, then wished to see her daughter and I too would have wished to see them both.
I pour another cup of tea from my flask wondering how mad I must look in an English garden with a blanket and flask of tea a stone’s throw from my kitchen. Mrs moon how you make me laugh I look up at you above the cherry tree, where you have settled into your rug, and how very much you remind me a christmas bauble, and how surreal this all is, then without thinking my mind is in the vegetable plot! and without a moment to lose I jump up, I grow biodynamically this is perfect for planting! I plant as many winter salad seeds I can see with the world’s smallest touch and red moon light.
I laugh hoping not to wake the neighbors, they truly would then think that I was completely nuts! mmm then I start to think about Jam… wondering just how the fruit will set tomorrow, and although I have grown by biodynamic methods, I have yet to note the setting points of jams by this method, so a project begins!
So this morning at first light I picked as many blackberries as my basket could carry and set off into the kitchen to cook the delights. After a few hours my basket was bare so I was off again, finding plenty more hedgerow bounty, each fruit seemed fuller and juicier than before. The I remembered the mushrooms I picked the day before, and off course I truffle hunt biodynamically!!! why O why had I not thought of it in all of my fruit foraging !! So without fail I produced a little chart to record the results. (I Love my reserch!) So if and when I get tangible results of biodynamic setting points in jam I shall let you know. In the past I have recorded humidity measurements, it has and does affect, the jam setting point no matter the recipes. In the meantime a little blackberry jam recipe.
- 2kg of blackberries
- 2 kgs of sugar
- juice of one lemon
- Wash and hull the blackberries
- Sit the blackberrie in the sugar over night
- Pop a small plate into the fridge to check for setting point.Wash jars and place in an oven dish and turn your oven to 150C. Put your timer on for 12mins to remind you to turn off the oven.
- Place the contents in a jam pan and cook on a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved
- Once the sugar has dissolved and the blackberries have started to cook (about 35mins) bring the pan to a rolling boil
- Remove from heat & check for setting point.
- Carefully remove jars from oven.
- Ladle jam into jars seal with clean lids
- Label once cool.
Recipes from BBC Radio Solent chat with Katie Martin
Mixed Garden and Hedgerow Fruit.
Mixed Garden Fruit Jam (naked jam garden mixed fruit Available at the Chewton Glen Hotel).
A mixture of all your berries, from the garden or your nearest pick your own. I used the following from the Garden.
Soft Fruit Jam
1 kg of Gooseberries( topped and tailed)
200g of Blackcurrants
200g of Cherries (de stoned)
200g of Red Currants
200g of White Currants
2kg of Sugar.
200ml of water.
I used slightly less sugar than the normal ratio of a kilo for a kilo, but i feel for those who may not be fully confident in the kitchen stick to the rule of a kilo of fruit for a kilo of sugar.
Sterilized your jars by washing them and popping them into the oven. (for about 15 mins temp 150)
pop a small plate and spoon into the fridge to use for setting point.
Place the fruit in a large malsin pan add the water and slowly start to warm the fruit through, try not to overcook your fruit, after about 15mins or just when the fruit starts to break up slowly add your sugar. Sprinkling in the sugar ensures it dissolves quickly.
As soon as you are sure all the sugar has dissolved slowly bring the pan to a gentle boil stirring all the time, this process last about 25-35 mins. But if your fruit very fresh it can be as quick as 15mins so be watchful of the pan. You will be able to feel the jam begin to thinkin with your spoon. Remove from the heat and check for setting point. (test with a cold spoon and a plate that has been cooled in the fridge). Once the jam has set to your desired consistency pour into your sterilized jars seal with a wax paper seal and lid. label and store in a cool dark place upto 12 months. You can use Gooseberry or use any other soft fruit.
1 kg of soft Fruit.
1 liter of vodka
5 tablespoons of raw white sugar
If using large fruit such as gooseberries prick and place in a large clean “kilner style” jar shake and leave for about 6 weeks. The add the sugar over a few weeks (about 2) adding a small amount at time (about half of tablespoon, each time) Every time you add the sugar shake the jar, to help it dissolve.
Once you have added the all the sugar and it has all dissolved. Filter the drink through a muslin cloth or jelly bag. Decanter into a clean sterilized bottle and leave (if possible ) for about 4 months. Shake the bottle before serving over crushed ice.Now the fruit you have been soaking in vodka all this time is too good to throw away, so i suggest you use it for a layer in a trifle
1 liter of Water
400g of Sugar
Place the fruit in a large pan with the water and slowly bring to the boil, reduce the heat and gently simmer for 20 mins when the fruit starts to lose it colour and you can smell its wonderful aroma.
Strain the fruit through a sieve and place back in the pan with the sugar, once the sugar has dissolved gently bring to a soft boil, bottle in clean sterilized jars seal and store in a cool place.
This can be used in cakes, ice creams and of course with prosecco or a buck naked matin.
Buck naked Martin
A citrus flavor vodka works with this.
Vodka, Elderflower juice,
naked Strawberry syrup or Jam,
Place all ingredients into a large glass shake and strain into a martini glass
Cocktail glass add a Strawberry and enjoy
If for some reason this all seems to much pop along to the White Buck pub in Burley and ask them for there house cocktail buck naked.