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.

Express Iced Coffee

Hands down this is one of the best things I’ve discovered this Summer. I love iced coffee but I never seem to plan ahead adequately to brew a pot of coffee and leave it to cool so that I can sip this when I fancy it.

The other thing I used to find a tad irksome is that once you add ice to cool your coffee right on down, it ends up too watery. Disappointing, especially after all the forward planning.

My son suggested brewing the coffee then freezing it in ice cube trays. Simple. Ingenious. And it works a treat, any time I need a caffeine boost on a warm day I can pop a couple of frozen coffee cubes into a glass and top up with milk.

For a sweeter finish on occassion I’ve dribbled in a little maple syrup. You could use your favourite coffee syrup or even whisk in a spoonful of instant hot chocolate powder.

To be honest this isn’t really a recipe, more a guide to your own homemade iced latte. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s express iced coffee any time you fancy.

Express Iced Coffee

  • Brew a pot of coffee or make a couple of espressos. You want your coffee nice and strong.
  • Cool, then pour into ice cube trays and freeze.
  • Once the coffee cubes are frozen I recommend you pop them out and transfer them to a tub with a tight fitting lid or a freezer bag. This way your coffee stays fresher for longer in the freezer.
  • When you’re in the mood for a cool brew just put a couple of coffee cubes in a tall glass, add any syrups or sweeteners you like and top up with cold milk.
  • Stir and sip.

Simple Summer Smoothie

Simple Summer Smoothie

I won’t take the credit for this, my youngest came up with this last Saturday afternoon. You know that time of day when you’re getting a bit peckish after breakfast but it’s not yet reasonable to eat lunch? That’s when we made this.

I love it when the kids take charge of a recipe, they can come up with some fantastic flavour combos. Although there have been times when I’ve had to step in – no I don’t think I want maple syrup on my spaghetti! Thanks for that one Elf.

There is no need for any fruit chopping here so this really is ideal for kids of any age to make all by themselves. Just make sure they’ve secured the lid on the blender properly before they switch it on.

This smoothie is light and refreshing, which makes it an ideal summer refreshment. If you don’t have / like coconut milk you could try apple juice instead.

Simple Summer Smoothie

Recipe, serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large ripe banana, peeled
  • 1 orange, peeled and broken into segments
  • A handful of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • About 4 strawberries
  • 250ml coconut milk

Recipe

  • Just pop all of your ingredients into a blender and whizz until smooth.
  • Slurp straight away through your favourite straw.

Banana Breakfast Smoothie

Bananas are perfect for delivering that much needed energy boost first thing in the morning.

My kids are going back to school soon and I predict a struggle in the morning. They’ve not had to rise from their beds before 9am since March! So a quick and easy smoothie will be just the ticket for a quick brekky before bolting out the door.

All of my children have hearty (that’s putting it mildly) appetites but if there are any first day back butterflies it might be easier to stomach a fruity drink than a hearty meal.

You can use any kind of milk for this: coconut, soya, cows milk, whatever you have in the fridge really. I added about a tablespoon of honey but to be honest it was a little too sweet for me. Just go with what you fancy.

I would hugely recommend a teeny bit of cinnamon and if I was using cows milk I might add a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or extract.

Banana Breakfast Smoothie

Makes 4 glasses

Ingredients

  • 500ml coconut milk (or whatever kind if milk you favour)
  • 2 ripe yellow bananas
  • A tablespoon of honey (optional)
  • A pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or extract (optional)

Method

  • Put all of your ingredients into a blender and whizz until smooth.

Super Healthy Pina Colada Smoothie

I was in the supermarket the other day and a bag of frozen pineapple was winking at me. I just had to pop in my shopping basket, oh the delicious times we would have together. The reality was that once it was back at home in the depths my freezer I couldn’t really decide what I wanted to do with it.

I’m starting to think that the best recipes are accidental, not at all planned or thought through. Or perhaps that’s just me.

This smoothie is a true delight. A delicious 3 ingredient, wonderfully refreshing drink. It is perfect for / with breakfast but the coconut milk adds the requisite smooth and creamy note for this to be a true treat at any time of the day.

I’m sure you could use tinned pineapple chunks for this and of course if you prefer use fresh pineapple. Frozen pineapple make this very quick, easy and pretty reasonable in price.

The coconut milk is not the tinned rich and creamy stuff but rather the cartons of milk you buy as a dairy alternative. As such this is fresh, light and less hefty in calories.

A final thought on ingredients: if you use a nice ripe banana it will bring a little more sweetness to the party, which is welcome here. I’m not talking about the kind of brown spotted banana you would throw in a banana loaf, just one that is nice and yellow with no tinge of green left.

Super Healthy Pina Colada Smoothie

Makes 4 medium sized glasses

Ingredients

  • About 250g frozen pineapple chunks
  • One large ripe banana
  • About 150ml of coconut milk (you may add more once you’ve blended)

Method

  • If you have time take the pineapple out of the freezer for 10 minutes before you start. This will make it easier for your blender to deliver a smooth smoothie.
  • Just put everything into a blender and blitz until smooth.
  • If it seems too thick add more coconut milk.
  • Slurp and enjoy.

A nice Cup Of Chai. My perfect way to Start The Day

A nice cup of Chai

My ideal way to start the day is, hands down, with a hot cup of chai tea. I love all kinds of tea but chai is my morning go to and I always have a full tin of chai teabags in my cupboard.

When the weekend comes around, however, I elevate my chai indulgence to the next level with my spicy homemade chai. This tantalises the taste buds with the delicious warmth of cinnamon and ginger, the deep and meaningful notes of cardamom and clove and is kicked up a notch with black peppercorns.

As this simmers away on the stove the house is infused with its deliciously comforting fragrance. For a morning cuppa verging on a hug in a mug, I sometimes make this with half water, half milk. I always add a generous spoonful of golden honey.

Try playing around with all of these ingredients, adding more of things you love or pulling back on the elements you aren’t so keen on.

Homemade Chai Tea

Makes 2 big mugs

Ingredients

  • About 700ml water
  • 1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
  • About 2cm of ginger, sliced
  • 3 or 4 cloves
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 4 cardamom pods, gently bashed to release their inner aromas
  • 1 teabag (black tea is perfect for this but Rooibos also works well)

Method

  • Put all of your ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Pop a lid on your pan and simmer for at least 5 minutes. I like to leave it a little longer but 10 – 15 minutes should do it.
  • Add your teabag, turn off the heat and leave for 3 – 4 minutes to steep.
  • For a little morning sweetness you can add honey or sugar. Remember to use a tea strainer to pour into your cup. You can serve with or without milk (plant or dairy).
  • Retreat to a cosy spot, sip and let the warming spices wash over you.