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.

Claire’s Loaded Veggie Breakfast Stack

Thank you scrumptious Claire for tickling my taste buds with this pile of savoury favourites… eggs on halloumi on avocado on chilli jam on focaccia. Be still my beating heart!

After a particularly punishing morning HIIT workout in Claire’s garden, my legs were trembling, my arms were aching, my stomach was rumbling, nay roaring! This hearty stack of deliciousness is what she treated me with.

Digging a little deeper into this plate it turns out it didn’t only bestow pleasure on my taste buds. Each of the ingredients is massively helpful to us after a workout. The protein in the eggs helps to repair and build muscle; the avocado is dense in nutrients and fibre, which is really important for our metabolic health; and of course we needed carbs to replenish all the fuel we’d just burned, hello foccacia.

When you stack these awesome ingredients high it’s quite a challenge to open your jaw wide enough to eat this so Claire helpfully served this in 2 halves, making it less exhausting to devour, especially in polite company.

The focaccia was a herby delight but any bread or toast would be welcome to join this party stack. I’m thinking sourdough, bagels or wholegrain toast.

So get veggie stacking this weekend. Workout optional.

Claire’s Loaded Veggie Breakfast Stack

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 generous slices of focaccia or bread / toast of your choice
  • 1 packet of halloumi, thickly sliced
  • Chilli jam
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 – 4 eggs (depending on how starving you are)
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  • First of all heat your oven to about 120C / gas 1 and slip in an oven tray. This is for keeping the halloumi warm once cooked.
  • Heat a frying pan and once it’s warm cook your halloumi slices. You will not need oil for this. Once the liquid has evaporated and the halloumi is golden flip over and cook the other side, the 2nd side cooks much quicker than the 1st so keep an eye on it. Transfer to the warm oven tray to keep nice and warm.
  • Now add a little oil to your pan and fry your eggs (1 or 2 each).
  • While you’re waiting for the eggs to cook you can spread your chilli jam on your toast / bread and slice your avocado.
  • Arrange the avo on the bread / toast, followed by the halloumi and eggs. Sprinkle over salt and pepper if you like.
  • If you’ve built a stack you can pop the 2nd slice of bread / toast on top or just keep it on your plate to catch the tumbling odds and ends.
  • Loosen up your jaw then sink your teeth into this heavenly manna.

Light & Lemony Beetroot Soup

I’ve been feeling a little under the weather this week. So for lunch yesterday my body was calling out for a big bowl of nourishing soup. A little rummage in the fridge and a couple of moments later I was armed with a beautiful bunch of beetroot and a few other select ingredients to chuck in the soup pan.

By absolute coincidence pretty much everything in this nourishing soup is helpful if you are in need of a health boost: beetroot is packed with antioxidants and great for nurturing our immunity; garlic is well known for its antibiotic properties, which are invaluable in fighting colds and coughs; and of course lemons are bursting with Vitamin C. I could go on by mentioning the antibacterial properties of onions etc but you get the picture, this soup is really good for you. Really really good for you.

But the crucial thing here is that this lemony beetroot soup is also seriously delicious. Everyone scraped their bowls clean.

Beetroot soup is so velvety smooth, like a soft cosy blanket, that I’d usually categorise it as Winter comfort food. But adding the lemon brings a subtle citrus zing to the party, which makes this soup ideal during these warmer months.

Whether you are feeling a tad low or on top of the world one thing’s for sure, you will feel all the better for eating a bowl of this alluring deep purple soup.

Lemony Beetroot Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 500g raw beetroot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 potato, roughly chopped
  • 1 litre beef stock (use veg or chicken if you prefer)
  • Juice of half a lemon

Method

  • Put all of the ingredients, except the lemon, into a large pan and bring to the boil.
  • Turn the heat down and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the veg is nice and tender.
  • Blend the soup until it is velvety smooth. Stir in the lemon juice.
  • Serve with your favourite bread or crackers, we had brioche rolls with Dijon mustard and cheddar cheese.

Garden Berry Waffles

Waffles truly are waffley versatile. They’re delicious sweet or savoury with a delectable array of tempting toppings and and accompaniments.

This is my new favourite way to munch sweet waffles. The combination of juicy berries, crunchy nuts and sweet syrup with the warm, fluffy waffles is pretty much perfection on a plate.

Of course you do need a waffle machine to make the actual waffles at home (I picked up mine from a well known discount supermarket some years ago). But if you don’t have one fear not, this would be just as fabulous with a stack of hot pancakes. And let’s be honest this would be ready in mere minutes if you decided to opt for shop bought waffles. There’s no shame in keeping it real.

And if you do want to try this with pancakes I use the exact same ingredients for pancakes as I do for the waffles and just cook them in a standard non stick pan.

Garden Berry Waffles

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • A big rounded tablespoon of butter
  • 300ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 level teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Berries
  • Pecans
  • Maple syrup
  • Peanut or almond butter (optional)

Method

  • Melt your butter in a pan then leave it to cool slightly while you get on with your measuring and weighing.
  • Mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla, whisk.
  • Now add the flour, baking powder and sugar. Whisk again.
  • Pour in the melted butter and whisk for the final time.
  • Cook your waffles in your machine. Keeping them warm in a low oven as you go.
  • To assemble, pop a couple of waffles onto each plate, strew with berries and nuts and drizzle generously with maple syrup.
  • If you fancy, dollop over a little peanut or almond butter.

Peanut Butter Granola

I was making a batch of granola the other day when a tasty thought came to me, I thought I’d go a bit nuts, shake things up a bit.

I went rogue and added a couple of spoonfuls of crunchy peanut butter. Yep that’s how crazy I am. I kept the rest of the ingredients pretty simple to really let the earthy peanut flavour shine through.

To be completely honest the first attempt didn’t truly live up to my expectations. It just wasn’t peanut buttery enough. So this revised recipe I share with you my dears has double the peanut butter from the original recipe. It is, as Goldilocks declared, just right.

I enjoyed this with fresh blackberries and plums from the garden. However, if I was nipping to the shops for berries I’d go for raspberries or strawberries – think peanut butter and jelly, classic.

Peanut Butter Granola

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 250g oats
  • 40g pumpkin seeds
  • 40g sunflower seeds
  • 150g pecans or almonds
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or good quality vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 150C / gas 2. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  • In a pan gently heat your peanut butter with the maple syrup and oil. This just softens the peanut butter, making it easier to stir through the dry ingredients. If your peanut butter is already quite runny you dont need to bother with this step.
  • Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl then stir in the peanut butter mixture until everything is thoroughly combined.
  • Tip onto your prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Give it a stir once or, preferably, twice during this cooking time to ensure an even bake throughout.

To serve

I just love granola with Greek yoghurt, fresh fruit and sometimes some chopped dried fruit too.

You can try this even more simply with some nice cold milk.

A little scattering over a warm bowl of porridge with a fruit compote is definitely worth a try as Autumn approaches.

Spiced Roasted Chickpea & Veggie Wraps

I love chickpeas roasted in the oven. They’re a lovely little snack. They also add a stunning crunch atop a bowl of simple homemade soup. Now I can attest to spiced roasted chickpeas to be the most delicious filling for a tortilla wrap. Just add a bit of crunchy veg and you’re good to go. Wrap them tightly and take them on a picnic or make this at home when the chickpeas are just out of the oven and still warm.

Another thing I’m rather partial to is garlic. So I made a really simple garlic yoghurt spread for this. You can spread what you like on your tortilla: mayo, cream cheese, aoili, chilli sauce or, for a double chickpea whammy, try hummus.

Veg-wise, I enjoyed this with grated carrot and rocket. Use whatever you have in the fridge. Cherry tomatoes, cucumber, beetroot, spinach… the choices are endless.

Feeling cheesy? You could also add feta, goats cheese, grilled halloumi or even mozzarella. My son had a simple scattering of grated cheddar to finish his off very nicely.

If you have the time and inclination you could roll this, squash down slightly and then grill or heat in a hot dry pan to get an extra layer of crispiness.

Spiced Roasted Chickpea & Veggie Wraps

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander and turmeric
  • A teaspoon of oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 wholemeal tortilla wraps
  • 4 tablespoons of full fat Greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 garlic clove, minced
  • A few chives, chopped (optional)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 4 handfuls of rocket
  • Cheese of any kind you fancy (very much optional)

Method

  • First thing’s first, get those chickpeas in the oven: preheat your oven to 180C / gas 4. Mix together the chickpeas, spices, a teeny bit of salt and pepper and the teaspoon of oil and lay out on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until they are crisp at the edges.
  • Next get the the garlic yoghurt spread sorted (if you’re not using this just skip to the next step). Simply mix together the yoghurt, garlic and the chives, if using. Sprinkle in a small pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Now lay out your tortillas and spread with your garlic yoghurt or whatever spread you’re going for today.
  • Scatter over the chickpeas then the rest of the ingredients.
  • Fold and munch, maybe dipping and scooping up any leftover garlicky yoghurt if the fancy takes you.