We are coming to the end of last year’s stored beetroot and can look forward to some fresh summer beetroot soon. I haven’t planted beetroot this year as I decided I would grow peas, beans, more beans, tomatoes and courgettes only. Not to worry though as last year’s beetroot are still popping up in my vegetable box and down at the local market. I’ve called this a ‘salad’ because it sort of falls in the salad category with the beetroot, walnuts and dressing but at the same time it is a pasta dish; a very luminously coloured pasta dish at that.
When you’ve gone to the effort of making elderflower sugar it is paramount that you make the most of it in ever varying and interesting ways. I thought I’d run out of sugar much sooner than I have; indeed I still have around 500g left. The sugar itself has an incredible aroma and every time you open the lid it smells of hedgerows. The little elderflower cakes I made were lovely but I wanted something a little more biscuit orientated. Not only does shortbread fill this requirement it’s also much easier to take to work; no icing to melt/squash before lunchtime.
These little cakes I suppose pay homage to the great elder tree; a plant that doesn’t look like much until it is burgeoning with white flowers and then, if you manage to resist the flowers, festoons itself with beautiful berries. I needed both fresh elderflowers and some cordial for these cakes but try as I might I could not get hold of local elderflower cordial. The elderflowers were relatively easily obtainable, once you’ve negotiated your way through the many cobwebs that is.
You will need:
Elderflower Sugar (see below)
Self raising flour
It goes without saying that your sponge must be magnificent but I think the jam is just as important as both the literal and metaphorical glue that holds this cake together. As much as I like the fruitiness and sweetness of strawberry jam I enjoy the faint acidity that comes with it. To increase the tang in my jam I wanted to incorporate some balsamic vinegar.
You will need:
3 eggs, beaten
Butter, at room temperature
Self raising flour
1 punnet of ripe strawberries
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Last year on a foraging trip I found some elderberries which meant only one thing: a few more months and I could finally pick fresh elderflowers. I had been waiting to pick some for as long as I can remember and that time has now come. Off I went with my basket on my bicycle to sniff out these delicate flowers.
Every patch of cow parsley set the heart racing, it does look very similar. There was much cycling, stopping, sniffing and looking and finally I found some, not quite where I remember it, proudly bursting forth in flurries of white. After carefully sidestepping the nettles, running away from bees and avoiding the inhalation of small insects I picked three nice blooms.
One of my favourite things is popping the broad beans out of their fluffy pods. I love the smell. I used around 20 pods if not a few more to get enough beans for this meal. The more the merrier I say.
You will need (for two):
- Around 20 broad bean pods
- 4 rashers bacon
- 10-12 new potatoes, peeled and quartered (or halved depending on the size)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- Fresh herbs, small amounts of each (I used chives and mint), chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
Remove the broad beans from their pods and boil them in salted water for about 4 minutes.
Keep the water and then boil the potatoes until soft. Drain and put to one side.
When the beans have cooled you can begin one of the most satisfying pursuits imaginable. Squeeze the beans out of their grey, papery cases. Some will come out easily with just a small pinch whereas some require the insertion of a fingernail to get things moving.
I fancied making some shortbread and in my quest I stumbled across an interesting variation of this classic. It was in James Martin’s book entitled ‘Desserts’ (see link below). I love this book, the recipes are so easy to follow and are always yummy. He calls this particular recipe ‘Grandma’s caramel shortbread’ and I am so grateful she shared this recipe with him so I was lucky enough to be able to make and eat it.
IngredientsWhat you will need:
397g can of condensed milk
This is another cheap and cheerful recipe that was recently discovered. Again, it feeds two for less than £3 and counts as two of your five a day. My recipe for gnocchi with bacon, broccoli and creamy garlic sauce is quick, easy and frugal too. It’s really creamy and just what you need when you’re craving a dauphinoiseque meal.
IngredientsWhat you will need (for two people): Potato gnocchi – 59p 4 rashers of bacon – £1
Small head of broccoli – 35p
It’s the end of term and funds are running low. Gone are the days of spontaneous eating out and in are the days of making whatever is edible from the darkest corners of the cupboard.
Never fear. Over the last few days I have made meals which feed two for £3 or less and even if I do say so myself are rather nice. Also, they are at least 2 of your 5 a day! Here’s my recipe for a budget spaghetti bolognese.
What you will need (for two servings):
200g minced beef – 99p
A load of fresh tomatoes from the market – 50p
Onion – 10p
Garlic – 3p
Tomato puree – 13p
Spaghetti – 30p
Milk, stock, seasoning and herbs Total price: £2.05 (not including the milk etc.)