I love Alexanders – smyrnium olusatrum. They are one of my favourite spring foragables. Driving around the countryside here on the Isle of Wight they suddenly pop up, lining the streets of parts of the Island from early March. We use the thin stems for a sautéed snack or side, the thicker stems for candying, make a syrup for drinks and cocktails, eat the florets steamed like you would broccoli, or pickled in vinegar. Later in the year we collect the seeds to use with pepper too. I know people use the roots and leaves too, but we haven’t gone that far yet. Continue reading “Candied Alexander Stems”
I love our Thermomix® fudge recipe and it’s something we make often in varying ways. We make a jelly bean fudge and a glace cherry one and even a TimTam fudge and a bunch of others too, so I decided today to try it with Creme Eggs and well, it’s crazy sweet, but it’s delicious and the kids love our Creme Egg Fudge.
The nice thing about this fudge is that with the creme eggs melting into the fudge it flavours the fudge so you’re not having fudge with creme eggs, you’re actually having creme egg flavoured fudge. It’s yummo!
If you can’t get mini eggs for the decoration, put two eggs in the fridge (you want the yolk to be more solid). Put the thermomix on speed 5 then drop the egg through the open lid. (Quickly cover it again so it doesn’t fly all around the kitchen and hit you in the face!) Chop for 5 seconds or so as you want large chunks, not fine chocolate dust!)
Enjoy and happy Easter!
- 1 can condensed milk
- 250g white sugar
- 25g golden syrup
- 125g butter
- 200g cadbury's eggs (5 eggs) + 2 eggs or 89g bag of mini eggs for decoration
- Add condensed milk, sugar, syrup and butter to the Thermomix® bowl.
- Cook without MC at 100C speed 3 for 8 mins.
- Scrape down sides if needed, then cook Veroma, 20 mins speed 3 still without MC.
- Add whole chocolage eggs and mix on speed 3, reverse blades for 20 seconds.
- Working quickly, pour the mixture into a brownie tray. Wait two to three minutes for the mixture to cool down a little (otherwise the mini chocolate eggs will just melt into it) then split the mini eggs in halves and press them into the fudge. (Alternatively smash two large eggs roughly and then push the parts into the fudge)
- Refrigerate for 3 -4 hours, cut and store in the fridge in an airtight container.
Lavender Sugar is one of those things I’ve always looked at and loved the idea of, but never really known what to do with. I’ve always liked crystallised lavender – it’s both pretty and tasty – but aside from medicinal or household use, I’ve never really known how to actually use lavender in food. Partly due to its strong flavour and partly due to its very floral flavour, it’s something you have to use with care, but should definitely use! Making lavender sugar couldn’t really be simpler – the two ingredients are in the name, after all. If you don’t have a food processor you can just mix the two and stir, but I like making the sugar just a little finer, so it’s not so crunchy. Be careful though – I don’t like making it icing sugar either! Just a finely granulated sugar is perfect.
Leave the lavender for a week or so, allowing the flavours to infuse thoroughly into the sugar. You can make Lavender Sugar ahead as a hostess gift, Christmas gifts, wedding favours and other gifting opportunities, and even include a recipe card or two with the jar. It’s a cheap and beautiful gift to make!
Make the Lavender Sugar two weeks before you’re going to gift it, and make sure to leave instructions to use withing 9 -12 months, so aside from drying out, I can’t image the lavender would go bad!
Recipe for Lavender Sugar
- 2 tsp lavender flowers
- 1kg white sugar
- Use a fork or your hands to remove the flowers from the stalk
- Add them to the food processor
- Add the sugar and blend together - depending on your food processor, adjust your speed to make sure you don't end up with icing sugar.
- In the Thermomix®, hit the Turbo button 2 - 3 times quickly.
- Decant the sugar into jars, and seal tightly.
PIN FOR LATER:
It’s a Winnie the Pooh time of year again, which means pretty much any time is the time for a little something, so long as that something includes some honey! Knowing this, I made sure to stock up on honey this week, because come Winnie the Pooh Day, we’ll be having honey everything. For human children though, jars of honey don’t seem to be sufficient picnic food, so I’m adding a few delicious honey-based recipes to our honey – repertoire.
These honey dough balls are traditionally an Italian recipe, but I’m sure they won’t mind sharing it with Winnie the Pooh, because really, dough balls smothered in honey? Pooh’d love it. I did consider drizzling condensed milk over – Pooh’s other favourite – but that’s just too much sweet for me.
“Pooh always liked a little something at eleven o’clock in the morning, and he was very glad to see Rabbit getting out the plates and mugs; and when Rabbit said, ‘Honey or condensed milk with your bread?’ he was so excited that he said, ‘Both,’ and then, so as not to seem greedy, he added, ‘But don’t bother about the bread, please.”
These little blissful bites are sticky and crunchy and chewy at the same time. As soon as the honey is poured they’ll still be warm but very sticky. If you leave them to cool the honey will harden a little, making them less messy to eat. Skewer the honey dough balls with fondue sticks, and tuck in. (I think these would be awesome with vanilla ice cream too, but it’s a bit cold to test that right now!)
Isn’t it funny that the bear likes honey.
Buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz.
I wonder why he does.
~ Winnie the Pooh
- 200g water (50g more if you're using organic flour)
- 70g vegetable oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 340g all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 170g honey
- 85g sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Heat the oven to 400F/200C
- In the Thermomix®, add the water, oil and salt.
- Bring to boil 4mins/Varoma/Speed 2/No MC
- Open the lid and add the flour to the side (so it doesn't get stuck on the blades)
- Mix for 1mins/Speed 1
- Add two eggs through the lid
- Mix for 2mins/speed 2
- Scoop out the dough about ½ a teaspoon at a time, making balls in the palm of your hands.
- Lay them out on a tray. They don't rise, so you don't have to worry too much about extra space.
- Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, depending on your oven. (My oven burns really hot at the top, and much cooler at the bottom, so after 10 minutes I turned it all out into a glass dish and baked the other side)
- Set aside to cool in a heat proof dish
- In a clean Thermomix® bowl, add the honey, sugar and cinnamon
- Boil 5 minutes/Varoma/Speed2
- Pour the hot sugar syrup over the dough balls, using a spoon to make sure it's all coated.
- They are very sticky, but if you leave them to cool the honey mixture will harden. It's still sticky, but easier to eat.
There’s a passage in Dragonfly in Amber that always catches my attention when I read it:
“We stayed locked together, not speaking, until my eye suddenly fell on the other small, yellowish lumps that Jamie had removed from his sporran.
‘What on earth are those things, Jamie?’ I asked, letting go of him long enough to point.
‘Och, those? They’re honey balls, Sassenach.’ He picked up one of the objects dusting at it with his fingers. ‘Mrs.Gibson in the village gave them to me. Verra good, though they got a bit dusty in my sporran, I’m afraid.’ He held out his open hand to me, smiling. ‘Want one?'”
I love the sound of these ‘honey balls’, and remember making a hard boiled sweet using sugar, butter and syrup as a child. I wondered whether I would be able to do the same, but using honey, so gave it a shot and what came out were gorgeous sweet, hard, honey balls. They are so tasty and very sweet!
Once poured out you need to give these a few minutes to cool so that you don’t scald the flesh right off your bones, but not so long that they harden – you need to be able to quickly roll them into balls before they do.
I wait till the mixture stops bubbling on the stove, then pour it into a tray or dish. Leave it to cool enough to touch – use a melon baller or apple corer, or just a teaspoon and start on the sides as that’s where it will cool first. Gather from the outsides and work your way inwards, making balls as you go along.
Initially these will be soft, but they will harden. Either way, don’t chew! You’ll lose fillings or teeth if you do!
And while we’re talking about honey… I’m pretty sure Winnie the Pooh would quite like these too!
There’s another way to make these, which is a lot faster: rather than rolling the balls individually, you can wait for sugar mix to stop bubbling (about 20 seconds) and then pour the hot mixture into a silicone mould. If you use essential oils*, you can also add a few drops of Young Living Lemon oil to the mix. I use this emoticon tray as the sweets are a good size for individual lozenges.
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- Pour cold water into a glass. Set next to the oven.
- Prepare a dish for the sugar honey mixture
- Add all the ingredients to a saucepan and turn the heat up
- Bring to the boil and keep stirring. It will bubble and froth. Keep it doing so for about 2 - 3 minutes.
- KEEP STIRRING it will burn really easily. After 2 minutes dip a spoon in and drip a drop of the mixture into the glass. This is how you test for a soft ball or hard ball stage. If it dissolves, it is too soft. If it forms a soft ball that's easily squashed, it's called soft ball stage. If it forms a hard ball, it's called
- For this particular recipe, you want to catch it between the hard and soft ball stages, turn the heat off, and pour into a prepared pan or dish. IT WILL BE HOT NOW
- As it begins to cool, use a teaspoon to scoop out the mixture and shape into balls in the palm of your hand.
- Put on a plate and repeat.
I love the unusual white chocolate and rosemary flavour combination. I actually don’t like white chocolate at all, so recommending this is high praise. I have loads of rosemary from my summer on the allotment, so I’m glad for something extra to use it on too.
The sugar in this recipe is flexible. I normally make it with 45g brown sugar, but you can make it super sweet with as much as 90g. If you don’t want to use icing sugar for sprinkling on the tray, you can get away with using more cornmeal, but I prefer the end result with icing sugar.
Keep an eye on the biscotti in the oven as different ovens run differently, but if you want the biscotti really crispy, return it to the oven for the second time. If you want it more chewy, don’t return it to the oven the second time.
- 150g plain flour
- 45g brown sugar
- 65g yellow cornmeal
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt (I use Himalayan pink)
- 40g coconut oil
- 2 eggs
- 100g white chocolate
- Extra: 2 tablespoons icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 150C
- Add everything (except the icing sugar) to the Thermomix® bowl and mix speed 4/30-45 seconds. The mixture should be firm and pliable.
- Sprinkle the icing sugar on a baking tray, then add the dough and roll out to about 1cm thick
- Place in the oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until golden and firm.
- Set aside until cool enough to handle, cut lengthwise and then crosswise to make individual cookies. Return to the oven at 100C for 30 minutes.
- Allow to cool before serving
Foraging is a fantastic activity, but it’s hard work, so you want to utilise every scrap to best effect in whichever way you can.
Once I’ve made a syrup from the berries I’ve harvested, I’m loathed to throw them out. Some say you can put them in an ‘adult pie’ or ice cream, but that doesn’t always work – blackberries, for example, are white as snow by the time the flavour’s been sucked out of them, or there’s simply nothing left of them. Other fruits, however, like rose hips, hawthorns and elderberries, have enough left in them to make something else out of. Like second-use tea bags, they’re not the ultimate flavour, but they may just work out okay.
I have a bundle of 100ml jars specifically for this purpose – when I’ve made a syrup, I pop the pulp into the jar and top it with vinegar – if it doesn’t work out, I’ve lost about 50ml vinegar. If it does work out… I have a delicious new fruit vinegar to enjoy.
Some fruits – like elderberries or fresh blackberries – will pretty immediately change the colour of the vinegar, but I’d still suggest leaving it for a few days – although I have also done it about a year down the line, having forgotten about it! Others – like hawthorn – may take about a day to change the colour of the vinegar, but it’ll come.
To start, you’ll need equal parts fruit to vinegar, so lets say 600g fruit to 600ml apple cider vinegar. Now, I don’t normally set out to make vinegar, but rather use leftover bits of fruit or used pulp to make the vinegar, so you can be flexible with the amounts. I tend to use what I have, cover it with vinegar, and hope for the best!
That makes the next bit a little more tricky – or a good opportunity to practice maths and fractions!
After at least four days of soaking in the vinegar, strain out the fruit and pour the vinegar into a pot on a medium heat. For every 600ml liquid you need about 300g sugar – add less or more, depending on how sweet or how thick you want the vinegar. Add the sugar and stir till it is all dissolved. Leave to simmer for 15-25 minutes (adjusting depending on how much you’ve started with – the longer it boils the thicker it will be) without a lid on, which will reduce the liquid into a thick and delicious vinegar for dressings or dipping. If it’s not thick enough, simmer a little longer, but do bear in mind that as the vinegar cools, it’ll thicken too.
True balsamic improves with age. If you’re disciplined and have the space, use 3/4 of your vinegar now, but put aside a small jar of each batch in the back of the cupboard somewhere. I discovered a forgotten blackberry balsamic in the back of a cupboard when we moved house – it was about five years old, thick, sweet and incredible!
- 600g fruit
- 600ml white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 300g sugar
- In a glass jar, add fruit and cover with vinegar. Leave for at least four days, shaking whenever you pass by it.
- When it's taken on good colour, strain out the fruit and pour the vinegar into a pot on a medium heat.
- Add the sugar and stir till it is all dissolved.
- Leave to simmer for 20 - 25 minutes without a lid on, which will reduce the liquid into a thick and delicious vinegar for dressings or dipping.
- In a glass jar, add fruit and cover with vinegar. Leave for four days, shaking whenever you pass by it.
- After four days, strain out the fruit and pour the vinegar into the Thermomix®.
- Add the sugar 15 mins/ Varoma/speed 1/ NO MC