Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Elderflower Cordial

As soon as I see the first elderflower heads blooming in May, my mind goes to straight to cordial. It's a ritual of mine at this time of year. As with a lot of cooking, I find making cordial a very calming and happiness-inducing pass time. I like to spend time seeking out the optimum elderflower bush, gathering the fragrant flowery heads, then steeping them in lemony syrup overnight, and straining through muslin the next day. It's a task I particularly love to share with my Mum, but as she's recently moved up North to Cumbria, I was on my own this year (cue tiny violin...).  But it's not all bad news, I found a fabulous pink elderflower bush, so I added a few heads of that to this years' batch. The result was a pretty pink liquid- amazing really as I only added about 5 heads of the pink variety.

This cordial is just summer in a glass. I hope you enjoy making it as much as I do! And if you want to turn it into a zesty little cocktail, have a look at my Elderflower, Cucumber and Mint Sparkler recipe.


20-25 elderflower heads (white or pink, or a mix)
1.5 kg white sugar (caster or granulated)
3 x lemons
75g of citric acid (from a chemist)

1. Place the sugar in a large saucepan, and add 1.5 litres (2.5 pints) of water. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, stirring occasionally. Do not allow it to boil.

2. Meanwhile rinse the elderflower heads in water to get rid of any bugs.

3. Peel the lemon rind with a vegetable peeler, then slice the lemons into rounds.

4. When the sugar has fully dissolved in the water, remove from the heat and add the lemon slices and rind, elderflower heads, and citric acid. Give it a stir, then cover with a lid, and leave off the heat overnight, for around 24 hours, to steep.

5. When ready to bottle (my favourite part), line a colander with some fine muslin or a clean tea towel, and place over a large bowl. Ladle your cordial, along with all the bits of lemon and elderflower, into your lined colander, and allow to drain through into the bowl beneath. Push down on the lemon and elderflower with the ladle to fully extract all the juices and flavours. You may have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your bowl.

6. You will be left with a lovely clear (in my case pink) cordial, which you can pour into sterilised bottles (either put the bottles through the dishwasher, or wash in hot soapy water, and place in a low temperature oven for 10 mins or so until dry). You can also pour the cordial into ice trays and freeze it, to enjoy all year round. It will keep for around 6 weeks in the fridge.

Serve it with plenty of ice and still or sparkling water.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Elderflower, Cucumber and Mint Sparkler

This is the ultimate in ultra-refreshing summer cocktails. It also requires zilch effort, so is perfect for those lazy days where you can barely drag yourself off your sun lounger!

Photo by Hannah Hughes, Props by Lauren Miller, Food and Recipe by me.  


1 shot elderflower cordial (shop bought is fine, but if you do make your own, all the better)
1 shot gin (optional- depending on whether you have plans for the rest of the day I suppose...)
Mint sprig
Cucumber ribbon (use a vegetable peeler)
Lime wedge
Ice-cold Prosecco or fizz of your choice (tonic or sparkling water for a mocktail)
Chilled cocktail glass


1. Squeeze your lime wedge into a pre-chilled cocktail glass, add a spring of mint, and your cucumber ribbon.

2. Pour about a shot of elderflower cordial into the glass- the amount you use really depends on the strength of the cordial you are using, and how strong you like your elderflower to be.

3. Add a shot of gin if you're ready to party (optional). Give it all a good stir stir and leave for a few minutes to let the flavours meld and get to know each other.

4. Top up with your fizz of choice, give it a quick stir and serve immediately. Now I've made myself thirsty writing this so don't mind if I do....cheers!

Monday, 28 May 2018

Scallops with Wild Garlic Butter

Photograph by Casey Lazonick, prop styling by Cynthia Blackett, food styling & recipe by myself.

This is a wonderfully simple and seasonal recipe. It's both visually impressive and a real crowd-pleaser (who doesn't like garlic butter?!). Serve with bread to mop up the melted wild garlic butter.

For the Wild Garlic butter

250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes and softened to room temperature
1 large bunch of fresh wild garlic, washed and roughly chopped
zest of 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Blitz the wild garlic in a small processor until finely chopped.
2. Add in the butter and blitz till combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the processor with a spatula and blitzing again, until it is all thoroughly mixed.
3. Add the lemon zest, season with salt and pepper and give it a final mix.
4. Lay out some clingfilm or baking parchment on the kitchen surface. Pop the butter in the middle and roll into a sausage shape. Twist the ends of the clingfilm securely.

TIP: This can be made in advance and frozen for about 1 month. You can slice it as and when you need it.

To assemble the Scallops

Scallops in half-shells
Wild garlic butter (as above)
Lemon wedges to serve
Sea salt

1. Season scallops with a little salt and pepper.
2. Heat a frying pan to a high heat with a little oil (I used rapeseed oil). Fry the scallops for about 1 minute on one side, then flip them over and cook for about 10 seconds on the other side. You don't want them to be completely cooked, as they will finish cooking when under the grill. Remove from the heat and pop back in their shells.
3. Arrange the scallop shells on a baking tray. A great tip to help keep them steady is to sprinkle a little pile of sea salt under each scallop shell, to create a little bed for them to sit on securely.
4. Heat the grill to high. Add a slice of wild garlic butter to each scallop, and grill for 1-2 mins, until the butter is melted and bubbling.
5. Serve with lemon wedges and bread for dunking.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Seafood-themed test shoot with Ryan Ball

I'm a wee bit late on posting this, but I wanted to share the shots from a recent test shoot I did with amazing photographer Ryan Ball ( If you follow me on Instagram (memyselfand_pie if you don't, but would like to) you might have already seen these shots. It was a fun and fish-filled day; I sourced all the ingredients from the traders at Borough Market, so it was all sparkling fresh, and so beautiful before I even did anything to it. I really hope you like them!

Photography by Ryan Ball
Food Styling by Georgie Hodgson (me!)

Sunday, 25 March 2018

MaltEaster Bunny Brownies

I have a total weakness for the MaltEaster bunnies that pop up in the shops around Easter time, so naturally I decided to bake them into a brownie! I used a really basic and quick brownie mix here, but feel free to use any brownie recipe as your base. Just push the little chocolate bunnies into the tray about 10 minutes before the end of baking. It's hardly gourmet, but they are great with a cuppa!

(Makes around 20 brownies)


400g caster sugar
225g melted buter
60g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
225g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large bag of regular Maltesers
3 bags of mini MaltEaster bunnies

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly in the order listed, apart from the regular Maltesers and MaltEaster bunnies.

3. Add 2/3s of the bag of Maltesers to the mix and gently fold through.

4. Pour the mix into a greased lined baking tray (it should fill a 23x33cm rectangular tray) and smooth out with a spatula. Bake for around 20 mins.

5. Remove from the oven, and push the rest of the Maltesers and MaltEaster bunnies into the brownie crust gently, being careful not to burn yourself.

6. Return to the oven and bake for another 5-10 mins, until just cooked. If you find the top is going too brown, cover with tin foil and continue to bake.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

A Trip to the Rhubarb Triangle

A look inside the Rhubarb sheds.....

Last week, despite weather warnings of the 'Beast from the East', I braved the snow and gale-force winds, and headed North to visit Wakefield, part of the Yorkshire 'Rhubarb Triangle', and  conveniently also home to a great friend of mine. Visiting the forced rhubarb sheds has always been on my bucket list, and it transpired that my friends-parents-friends are one of the few remaining true Yorkshire forced rhubarb farmers left. They very kindly allowed me to visit their farm, D Westwood and Son.

Visiting any farm and seeing quality produce being grown or reared, is something I delight in doing. But there's something about the forced rhubarb process that just seems completely magical to me. Perhaps it's because the process itself is somewhat secretive; it being grown in blacked-out sheds, that few can visit, for fear of light damaging the crop. Any more than ten minutes of light is enough to ruin the forcing process. The light bulbs you can see in my images were screwed in especially for our visit- the farmers won't risk leaving them in there in case someone accidentally leaves the lights on!

Or perhaps it's the technicalities of  it. As Jonty (6th generation farmer at D Westwood and Son) explained to me, the process is incredibly precise, with the plant roots or crowns firstly being planted outdoors in fields, where it grows for more than two years. At the start of it's third winter outside, the farmers will wait until the ground has reached a certain freezing temperature, usually when then first frost hits (there's a special thermometer to measure this). It is then up-rooted, and re-planted in the purpose-built sheds by hand. When it's time to harvest, this process is also done by hand, and in candlelight, to avoid damaging the rhubarb at this stage. It ain't easy work producing this stuff, but it's totally worth it!

The alien-like neon green leaves are actually poisonous, so avoid eating them!  

I'm not going to try and do a rhubarb history lesson here, because frankly I'm no expert. But, I was interested to learn that the process of forcing rhubarb - which is growing it in the darkness to produce the sweet-flavoured, bright candy cane sticks - was originally invented in the Chelsea Physic Gardens in London. It became a phenomenon in the Yorkshire areas of Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell during the War, when there were supposedly around 200 farms producing it, due to the ideal conditions and high demand for the stuff.

Today there's only 9 farms producing Yorkshire forced rhubarb, so I feel privileged to be able to visit a farm first hand, and learn about the process myself. Yorkshire forced rhubarb was also given PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status relatively recently in 2010. This means it can only be sold as Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb, if it's grown from within the Rhubarb Triangle. That's a real testament to a quality product, that's been grown using these ancient methods by generations of Yorkshire farmers. Now I know the effort that goes into it producing it, I have a whole new appreciation for it myself, although I didn't really need converting.

When we got back to the house, we snacked on sticks of newly-cut raw rhubarb, dipped in a little sugar, before turning the rest into a winning crumble. It was such a joy to cook and eat the freshest rhubarb I'll probably ever get my hands on, especially after seeing it growing in the ground just moments before. You can find the recipe for our crumble below, if you'd like to have a go yourself. Just make sure you use Yorkshire forced rhubarb- preferably from Jonty's farm!

Pleased as punch with my harvest! 

Proper Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb Crumble

Because why mess around with such a wonderful raw product? Thank you to Catherine Clark (my friends Mum) for the top crumble recipe- the addition of demerara sugar gives it a wonderful toffee chewiness!

NB. When poaching the rhubarb in step 1, the quantity of sugar will really depend on how sweet the rhubarb you have is initially (it can vary drastically). You can always have a nibble of it raw and if it's lovely and sweet, as Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is, you really don't need much sugar!

Serves 6 - will make one large crumble, or 2 smaller ones.

600g Yorkshire forced rhubarb, washed and leaves removed
Approx 1 tbsp caster sugar
230g flour
170g butter, cubed at room temperature.
90g demerara sugar
90g caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 200 C.

2. Chop the rhubarb into 3 inch pieces and place in a sauce pan with the 1 tbsp of caster sugar. Heat on low to medium, and cook for around 10 minutes until the rhubarb is soft, but still holding it's shape (remember it will continue to cook in the oven, so don't over do it). If it looks dry at all, splash a little water into the pan, but rhubarb itself has a high water content, so you shouldn't really need to add much liquid.

3. Spoon the rhubarb into the bottom of your chosen crumble dish, and allow to cool while you make the crumble.

4. In a bowl, mix the flour and sugars, and then add in the cubes of butter. Rub together with the tips of your fingers to create a rough bread crumb consistency (any lumps will add texture!).

5. Spoon the crumble mix generously over your rhubarb. I personally like a crumble-to-rhubarb ratio of around 50:50. Definitely don't skimp on the crumble.

6. Bake in the oven for 30-35 mins, until the top is lightly golden and crisp.

7. Serve hot with cold cream or custard.