Sunday, 13 June 2010

Homemade Elderflower Cordial

Yay, it's that time of year again that our gorgeous Elder tree blooms heavily with hundreds of fragrant flower heads.  Elderflower cordial makes a really refreshing drink. Use enough cordial to sparkling or soda water to taste and with plenty of ice and some mint sprigs if you fancy too. It is also delicious with a swig of gin or vodka or added to bubbly. Also use the cordial to make jellies, sorbet or ice-cream or use it to sweeten gooseberries or rhubarb. When our friends were here with us last week we got the kids to help out making our first batch of the summer. Here's what we did...

Makes about 2.75L 

(you will need enough stopper or screw topped bottles to take this amount)

2kg caster or granulated sugar
1.2L water

about 40-50 freshly picked elderflower heads
3 unwaxed lemons
75g citric acid*

- Stir the sugar and water together well in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Bring very slowly to the boil stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. 
- Meanwhile, gently rinse the elderflower heads to get rid of any bugs and pick off any leaves or brown flowers. Place the flowers in a really large bowl or bucket.
- Using a peeler or small knife to shave a few pieces of zest from each of the lemons and stir them through the sugar syrup. Thickly slice the lemons and scatter them over the flower heads.
- Stir the citric acid into the sugar syrup until dissolved and then carefully pour the mixture over the flowers and lemon slices. Stir everything together to make sure it is well immersed. Cover and leave in a cool dry place to soak for 24 hours.
- After this time, you are ready to finish and bottle. It's important to sterilise the storage bottles (to avoid any nasty growths) so wash them in hot water and then dry them out in a low oven (about 170C) for about 15 minutes (or alternatively, run them through a hot dishwasher without powder).
- Strain the soaking flowers through a very fine sieve lined with a piece of clean muslin, j-cloth or coffee filter into a large jug. Squeeze out as much of the syrup as possible from the flowers (but not so much the lemon slices) so as not to waste a drop!
- Then the easiest way to bottle the cordial is though a funnel. Then pop the lids on tightly and store in a cool dry place for a few months (although some people say up to a year - just keep a check out for any fur!). It can be frozen too but perhaps use smaller bottles so you can defrost a little at a time and use plastic instead of glass bottles (leaving a good gap from the top to allow for expansion on freezing). Once opened it should be stored in the fridge.

* The citric acid in the recipe helps preserve the cordial. It can be bought in pharmacies or health food stores (but you might have to search a few as not all stores sell it - it is said to be used by junkies also!). Read the label carefully as it can cause irritation to the skin if not handled correctly. A bottle of cordial is an ideal gift to give to friends. 

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Garden Glory

Painted in Cuprinol's 'Seagrass' (& the trim in 'Pale Jasmine ') from their Garden Shades collection

Hurrah, we have a garden at last! We have grass and a path and all sorts of crazy things like that. It has been a long slog and to be honest the boy has done most of the hard graft out there (thankfully he loves it). There were days battling brambles, getting the tree under some sort of control, digging deep for unrulely roots and unearthing everything from bed springs to bones. Lots and lots of bones. We're hoping those of nothing more sinister than animals. 

The stages our poor garden has been through over the last few years

So, Mart is now a happy man to see nice new grass growing at last. No more mud slides for us. It's the simple things in life eh? Now, for the planting planning for the ultimate garden glory....

Anyhow, I don't have an 'after' photo to show you yet as the weather has been so grim out there. So for now I've posted a photo of our newly painted shed which is down the bottom of the garden tucked just under the tree. I love it! I was inspired by beach huts (one day, *dreams*) and love how this colour combination turned out. If only inside was a dream world of stripy deck chairs, hanging seashells and floppy hats. 

P.S. Are those elderflowers I see bloomed on the tree? I feel some cordial coming on...

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Big Noodle

So, you know the way Americans call the boss The Big Cheese? (or is that just in the movies..?) Well, in Asia they call them The Big Noodle. Maybe you had to be there, but this really made me giggle when I first heard. Mind you, that was in my travelling days when I had nothing more to do only giggle at such silly things. Would I giggle if told now in this so called 'real world'? Hmm....Oh well, it still puts a smile on my face and brings me back to those happy and carefree days daze.

Some travelling memories from the Friendly Cottage photo album


I love nothing more than this quick and easy noodle salad for a tasty and healthy lunch or light supper. Swap the prawns for cooked chicken strips or for a vegetarian version, something like toasted cashews or tofu. Don’t toss everything together until ready to serve to avoid things becoming soggy.

Serves 2

175g thin rice noodles
100g mange tout
150g cooked & peeled prawns
1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced
2 spring onions, chopped
handful mint leaves, torn
4 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander

Place the noodles in a wide shallow dish and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Leave to soak for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain, rinse in cold water to refresh and drain again.

In the meantime, prepare the dressing in a large bowl. Whisk the sunflower oil, light soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander together and set aside.

Blanch the mange tout in a small pan of salted water until just tender. Drain, refresh in cold water and drain again before cutting diagonally in half.

Tip the noodles into the dressing with the mange tout, prawns, mango, spring onions and mint leaves. Toss everything together really well and serve at once.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Pimms O'Clock

Happy bank holiday weekend! And what a fab sunny time it's been too (well, except for the rain today, that we just won't talk about). We had some friends and their kids over from London for the weekend and so have been hanging out with picnics in the park and hose downs in the garden (the kids now believe that here in Ireland we have to shower and water the garden at the same time to save water!). To keep the grown-ups (I use the term loosely) cool, we've been sipping on Pimms cocktails. What better drink to 'chink' the start of summer to.


I couldn't have said it better myself so here's a definition of Pimms o'clock according to the urban dictionary...Time for Pimm's (posh cocktail made with pimms, lemonade, and fruit). Implies lazy, happy days sitting in the sun with nothing to do and no need to worry about time. 

My friend Louise reckons she isn't a great cook and so gets people drunk so they 
don't notice the food. She makes a pretty rocking Pimms if you ask me!

large serving jug of ice
300ml Pimms
1L lemonade
large handful mint leaves
1/2 cucumber, sliced
150g strawberries, hulled & halved if large
2 apples, cored and diced

Pour the Pimms and lemonade over the ice in the serving jug. 
Stir the mint, cucumber, strawberries and apples through.
Serve at once.