Simple Elderberry Syrup

If you go down to the woods today… you might be lucky enough to find an elder tree dripping with deep dark red elderberries. Sorry to disappoint those with a penchant for picnics and teddy bears. But on the plus side you might not have to venture as far as the woods to find these treasures. There’s a lovely old elder tree right next to my suburban garden. 

If I catch them at them earlier in the year I love to pick the elderflowers and make homemade elderflower cordial.  I’d love to make elderflower champagne but I’m a bit worried about exploding bottles. I need to learn to live a little closer to the edge before I attempt it.

This year I missed out on the elderflowers so I was determined to get my hands on the berries.

Elderberries are absolutely chock a block with antioxidants, which give our immune systems a massive boost. So making a syrup now and digging into it over the autumn and winter months is a great way to help ward off colds and flu.

A word of caution with these berries – you really have to cook them or you might risk an upset tummy.  When raw these little berries are obnoxiously sour so you’d probably want to cook them anyway – nature’s way of keeping us safe. Also make sure you discard the leaves and stalks as these can be toxic.  A little vigilance is totally worth it for the sweet elixir you end up with.

This syrup is made with sugar but you could absolutely make it with honey, which would also cram in yet more healthy delights. I added a couple of slices of fresh ginger and a couple of cloves and the result is that the finished syrup is slightly reminiscent of cola. So when my youngest was under the weather a couple of days ago he slurped down his ‘medicine’ no questions asked. If you prefer, keep it simple and just go with the berries and sweet stuff.

You could use this as a cordial, drizzle over greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream, add a dash to a cocktail or simply down a small shot when you feel your body needs a helping immune boosting hand.

Simple Elderberry Syrup

Ingredients

  • 500g elderberries
  • 400g sugar
  • The juice of a lemon
  • Optional flavour enhancers: a couple of slices of ginger and a couple of cloves

Method

  • First and foremost make sure you remove all of the stalks and leaves from the berries as these are toxic. Also discard any green berries.
  • You can gently pull the berries off the stalks or use a fork. I really like the fork method, which also cuts down on the staining of your fingers.
  • Give the berries a wash.
  • Tip them into a pan and cover with water (the water should be about 1cm over the berries). Add your ginger and cloves if you are using them. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  • Now strain through a sieve. Pour the liquid back into the pan along with the lemon juice and sugar. Simmer over a low heat for about 10 minutes.
  • Once cooled you can either bottle this and keep in the fridge or, to make it last even longer, freeze in ice cube trays.

Luscious Lemon Layer Cake

Yesterday I asked my eldest son what kind of cake he would like me to bake. I always hold my breath sightly when I ask this as my kids often come up with some pretty inventive cake ideas.

After a little thought he asked for a lemon cake. Specifically a round lemon cake with a crunchy lemon drizzle topping with lemon curd in the middle.

With a smile of relief I thought I had all the ingredients at home but it turned out I only had a drop of lemon curd left. It was pouring with rain and frankly I couldn’t be bothered going to the shops so I also added a layer of clotted cream, which turned out to be absolutely delicious and the perfect match to the cake’s citrus burst.

This is a wonderfully zingy crunchy lemon cake the like of which I’ve never had before. I’ll definitely be making this again and again…

Luscious Lemon Layer Cake

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 210g self raising flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g room temp butter
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 3 tablespoons of milk

For the lemon drizzle

  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 80g granulated sugar

For the filling

  • 3 tablespoons of lemon curd
  • If you like add cream or butter cream too

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 C / gas 4. Grease 2 x 20cm round cake tins and line the bases.
  • Put the flour, sugar and cornflour into a food processor and blitz to combine.
  • Now just chuck in the rest of the ingredients and whiz until combined.
  • Pour and scrape the cake mixture into the prepared tins and smooth over the tops.
  • Bake for 25 minutes until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out of the cakes clean.
  • Leave the cakes in their tins to cool a little (about 10 minutes) and then turn one cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Leave the other cake in its tin.

For the drizzle:

  • Just mix together the sugar and lemon juice. Take the cake that is still in its tin and prick it all over with a fork. Gently pour over the drizzle mixture and leave to cool in the tin on the wire rack.
  • Once both cakes are cool take the bottom cake layer (the one without the drizzle) and place on a plate or cake stand. Spread with the curd and, if you’re using it, the cream and pop the crusty topped cake on top.

Sumptuous Bannoffi Pie

I don’t have to tell you that banoffi pie (banana / toffee) is already oozing with sweet, bronzed caramel so there’s really no requirement for additional caramel in any shape or form. Well, that’s easy for me to say as I confess that I am not overly keen on caramel.

However, I live in a house of rabid caramel adorers to whom there is no such thing as too much caramel. So as I was finishing this sweet treat off with an elegant grating of quality chocolate, along came my son with some chopped up chunks of Cadburys Caramel. It was declared a triumph by all.

If you have a delection for sweet sweet confection you simply have to make this pie. If you did want to tone the sweetness down a notch you could stir a pinch of salt into your caramel and of course go right ahead and omit the chocolate caramel decoration.

Sumptuous Banoffi Pie

Ingredients

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 1 can (397g) or jar of caramel
  • Optional pinch of sea salt
  • 2 – 3 bananas
  • 300ml of double cream
  • About 20g chocolate, grated
  • 1 – 2 bars of chocolate enrobed caramel

Method

  • First of all pop your biscuits in a large bag and crush them with a rolling pin until your have nice fine crumbs.
  • Mix them with the melted butter then tip them into a 20cm pie dish or springform tin. Press them down firmly with the back of a metal spoon. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  • If you have opted for the salted version, mix the sea salt into the caramel. Pour your caramel over the cool biscuit base and spread out gently so you have an even layer.
  • Slice your bananas and scatter them over the caramel.
  • Whip your double cream until it forms soft peaks. Spoon on top of the waiting pie.
  • Finally sprinkle over your chocolately adornments.
  • Chill, preferably for at least a couple of hours, before devouring.