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.)
I look out of the windows and the skies are still dark from the night, the clouds are racing in from the west, broken one looks like a pearl diver, searching into the bright patches of blue from the east. But the grey is catching up, and as I watch the sunrise quickens highlighting the horizon, the blue is now engulfed by the grey, the warming colours of the sun shines behind each shade giving edge lines as if I had drawn them with a charole pencil. Will the east wins over the west? and blue and pink sky fill the day? but the wind is stronger and the blue is slowly dismissed as the clouds take advantage of the head wind.
I stare and listen to the wind I can hear the seagulls I look into the deeping sky and marvole at its beautify, gulls litter the skyline standing out like cut out silhouettes, they coast on the thermals as they take advantage of the wind.
The sycamore at the end of the garden towers and I watch crows perch and shout out their ownership of the tree. I scan my garden and the children’s climbing and swing frames are like skeletons that are rarely played with now, but I hold on them, so to recall last summers moments as if its an insurance, that if frames stay I will not forgot the days. Each swing, bars fills my heart with their young giggles, but soon the frames will have to be re-homed as time moves and the very fact my lovelies are too big for them to play on them.
The whole garden looks cold, wind swept and lonely, or perhaps its my guilt of not really doing much with her this winter using the excuse that its too wet to walk on the grass. Its to wet to mess with her for fear of doing her damage. When really its my lack of time that has kept me away from the her.
I turn and the cherry tree is in need of a pruning and so are the other fruit tress, but dare not, as I see buds! This mild winter, has confused nature as it has confused me, what to do? I wait, and I watch I’m sure nature will let me know the right time. I pop out into the green house, I tidy and plan, I dream and image of what delights of the spring.
The day is here and I am now on my second coffee pot, and while I watch the world awake on the social internet marvelling at attention to nature and photos of morning everywhere and just how we the love of the Earth. I return to my cooking books looking for inspired post Christmas treats, it is Saturday after all, and as I read into one, my attention is held by “a Summers day biscuit” recipe with rose and almond two of my favourite things. I return to prune the roses, but with within minutes I am back in the kitchen. Its started to rain!
I need some comfort today and I don’t mean a Casserole, although an cassoulet would be nice for lunch. I dive into my cupboard bring out the rose infused sugar I made last summer so now I am going to make these biscuits and enjoy then when the children finally rise out of bed! Bring moments back of last summer into today.
The Book Nigel Slaters a year of good eating:
Find the recipe look no further than on pg 206 of Nigel Slaters a year of good eating. I will substitute the caster sugar in the almond filling for rose sugar and for the decoration.
I post the photos of the delight later on naked jam facebook page.
I would like to apologies yet again, i’ve been so busy foraging & picking that I’ve not written about all the thoughts, times and moments I have witnessed this past spring & summer months.
Mainly due to the fact that I have just lost myself in the moment where the beauty can’t leave the eyes, and no words or photographs could never really capture the artistry unfolding around me.
So I can recommend that you stop and let the moment fill the eyes, let them absorb the world’s natural beauty. Then your understand, the reason I got lost when the spring turned into shades of new summer green and the fresh the new summer sun wrapped around me like a friendly arm, I simply just got lost in its beauty,letting myself observe and drink in the first sights of elderflowers trees with its delicate white flowers that pack a punch with its heady aroma. Then suddenly the first prickly gooseberries shouted out, reminding me of younger days picking them with my mum and one day inparticular when it was cold and each fruit seemed to attack me with a small nasty thorn. How I complained , and how I would do anything to be back in my garden with my mom.
It always surprises me just how things grow it’s so overwhelming, the redcurrants have given up their bounty and how the black and white currants have followed suit.
The harvest is in full swing and I have to be honest I don’t always make jam with the fruit I just eat them.
Then there’s the bee project and how they made me danced in the field while I watched the swarm, its exciting. Did I mention the new flavour combinations?
I have mostly been lost in new berries and new flavours. Each morning I have been getting up with the larks, relishing in just how wonderful the dawn chorus is. Did you know here in Barton -on -Sea they wake me up at times as early as 3:45am but on average its between 3:59 am and 4:09 am every morning and boy what a wonderful sound. I have started to recognise the birds themselves!
Did I mention the cherries? what a year for cherries, I almost crashed the car yesterday looking at the cherries in the hedgerows and then the plums they are early and it’s all coming at once, my poor pans are worked to death , they can’t stop and the kitchen is getting overcrowded with ideas about new jam recipes, jam related recipes and well jam.
So apologies I’ve just been capturing the moment and living the dream. Being inspired by nature. inspired by the growers and even the TV!! Especially one particular chap whose inspiration to date fills my every day, that is of course Nigel Slater, and his current TV programme Eating Together ( a family who eats together stays together!) has just exploded onto my plate and has really got to me and wow just wow, what an amazing chef, cook, person, he truly is very remarkable (Yes for all those who know me, I can now achieve turning on a TV set without the help of my children!)
So where have I been? breathing the air, laying under my window at night watching the stars appear in the night sky. Starting out as a turquoise blue deeping as the night moves into morning a colour only the summer sky can bring. Sometimes just watching the clouds filling the blue sky leaving no room for words. But mostly i’ve been climbing trees, I can recommend it! So if you can and you get a chance climb a tree and see my world, it is rather magical. (BE CAREFUL)
see you soon.