breadsticks

When I’ve made flatbreads or English muffins or pizza, I love to make breadsticks out of the last of the dough.

stick-dough

I use a simple recipe for everything inspired by recipes from the River Cottage Bread handbook by Daniel Stevens. Mine is 500g each of whole and white spelt, 10g of yeast, 650ml of warm water, though I usually make up part of that with sourdough culture to deepen the flavour, 20g of sea salt, and a good glug of olive oil. I knead that well and leave it to rise, covered, overnight before using it for various recipes. Preheat the oven to about 200 C/375 F.

Roll out a good handful of the dough to a half centimeter on a floured surface.

cut-dough

Slice lengths of about a finger’s width;

spirals

Arrange them on an oiled tray in shapes as you please. The spirals are delightful, my children adore them. I like to drizzle the bread with garlic-infused olive oil and sprinkle them with coarse sea salt.

garlic-baked

Bake them through, about 18-20 minutes. I once made the mistake of putting them in a piping hot oven I’d been baking pizza in, and it swiftly turned them to charcoal.

breadsticks

Breadsticks! So great for simple meals out in the garden.

rosehip cordial

Last year we made a rosehip infusion, sweetened lightly with a little stevia, and used within a short time like you would fresh juice. This year we wanted to preserve rosehip cordial to use medicinally throughout the winter. Gathering rosehips to make a vitamin C-rich cordial was encouraged during wartime in Britain. We’re growing very fond of the tradition. We used a combination of rosehips, including apple roses like the ones Alÿs Fowler showed us. We’re so fond of nibbling round those fresh, but they were starting to go, so we hurried to collect a bowl of them.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Give the hips a rinse,

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Then remove the stems. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Chop them roughly. Keep in mind that the seeds are used for itching powder! You needn’t remove them though.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Toss them in a pot of boiling water using just less than double the volume of water as their weight – so if you have 400 grams of rosehips, use about 700ml of water. Bring it all to boil again, leave it to cool somewhat, and pour through a scalded cloth.

rosehip-5

Hang up your muslin or jelly bag full of rosehips and let them drip for a while, and repeat the whole process again. This time leave it to hang overnight.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Combine the infusions and measure them. The River Cottage Preserves recipe calls for 650 grams of sugar to about 1 litre of juice.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Slowly heat til the sugar is dissolved, then boil for a couple of minutes.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

I sterilise my cordial bottles in the dishwasher and if I can’t time it well to have warm bottles ready, I fill them with hot water while they’re waiting, then quickly pour the water out just before ladling in the hot syrup and corking them. Preserves says to use within 4 months. This won’t be a problem over here. Sterilise in a water bath if you want to keep it longer, and keep refrigerated once opened. We love a couple of splashes of rosehip cordial in a glass of water and we’re very much looking forward to having it all through the cold seasons.

elderflower cordial

We all went quite mad for elderflower cordial after our first time making it, putting it in jellies, cocktails, popsicles, so I was relieved to have time to put up a few bottles this year. I hope we can console ourselves with elderberry preserves later on, when the flower cordial has disappeared. I’m delighted to bring you the great elderflower cordial recipe I use, courtesy of the good folks at River Cottage, from their essential Preserves handbook, number two in the series that I find so gloriously inspiring. Preserves makes a particularly nice companion to Hedgerow, for putting up wild edibles.

© elisa rathje 2011

  • Makes about 2 litres
  • About 25 elderflower heads
  • Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150 ml in total)
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)

© elisa rathje 2011

Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects.

© elisa rathje 2011

Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest. Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

© elisa rathje 2011

The colour is quite something. Heady scents.

© elisa rathje 2011

I measured out the sugar on my trusty scales.

© elisa rathje 2011

Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).

© elisa rathje 2011

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.

© elisa rathje 2011

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

Ours will keep for about four months, as we sterilised the bottles first and poured the hot syrup in, and sealed, while the bottles were still hot. A water bath process would allow storage up to a year. Of course, it’ll be gone in a wink. Pam Corbin suggests having it with champagne, or over fruit salad. A couple of days ago we spotted a recipe for an elderflower and gin cocktail. Heaven. I’ve brought the handbook with me to Canada in hopes of preserving a few other things. Exhilarating prospect. Thanks again, River Cottage!

wild garlic

We found something delicious growing in the old woodland. This is our favourite kind of walk, an edible one.

wild-garlic.jpg

Wild garlic.

garlic-meadow

An enormous patch of it. I’d never encountered it before, our dear friend recognised it. Early in the spring is the best time for it. Mind that it smells of garlic when crushed! You don’t want to eat Lily of the Valley or some other poisonous thing. We gathered a bundle, took it home, rinsed, chopped and threw it into some rice along with mushrooms and greens from the farm, sautéed in butter, garlic and lemon. Marvelous.

Now we’re familiar, I’ve spotted some growing in the garden. (We were also astonished to discover Salmonberries vibrantly in flower! Fellow Canadian!) We learned to recognise wild strawberry. Always lovely to have a forager along with us. Or a good book, we’ll bring River Cottage Hedgerow with us when we’re on our own. There’s a recommendation in it for Wild Garlic Pesto. I should think so.

oatcakes

As we’ve been off to visit grandparents and then up to London this week, home has been somewhat neglected, and we need to get to the farm for some food. Later. We’re a little tired out. It’s the kind of moment that demands invention, only nothing too complicated. The children and I decided to make some simple oatcakes.

dough.jpg

The recipe we used is from my beloved copy of the River Cottage handbook, Bread. I think the children could have made this alone. We weighed and mixed 280g oatmeal, melted 75ml coconut oil, a pinch of sea salt & enough water to form a round, left it to rest, and rolled it out;

cutout.jpg

We cut out the cakes with a glass;

oatcakes.jpg

And baked them til they were toasty. 350F/180C for 23 minutes was right. Cheese would be amazing with them; butter was perfect. We all adore these oatcakes, they are infinitely better than store bought, inexpensive in comparison, and delightfully quick to make.

potato ricer

Our final River Cottage tried & true is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall himself, with his trusty potato ricer. Hugh tells me his ricer is a sturdy antique and functions beautifully to make gloriously perfect mashed potatoes.

ricer.jpg

You too, are duly warned of the dangers of food processing potatoes until they are the consistency of wet cement. (Followed in my experience by crying over one’s food processor when it later expires and is doomed to eternity in a landfill.) I myself use a fork, with lots of butter, but if I begin to throw dinner parties at the volumes Hugh is famous for, I shall invest in a good old fashioned potato ricer. Thanks Hugh!

hugh-and-elisa.jpg

I think I may have thereupon received the best and most delicious recipe for mashed potatoes ever, but I was suffering somewhat from an unfortunate attack of starstruckedness and have forgotten. Never mind, he’s written a book.