Along the Grapevine


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The King’s Candles

I have only used the leaves on this plant, but this use of the flowers is beautiful and practical.

An Edible Landscape

… or Verbascum, and sometimes mullein, as this genus (Verbascum, of which there are some 350 species…) is known in English.

I do think, though, that the German Königskerzedoes for more justice to this plant which becomes truly regal when it flowers in July:

14_07_2013 Königskerzen

Favouring dry, sandy soils in the sun (and therefore often to be found flourishing on wasteland), the Königskerze is not only regal, it has a tradition of healing dating back to Hippocrates. The plant has distinct emollient, demulcent and astringent properties and, while Hippocrates reccommended it for the external treatment of wounds, the Königskerzewent on to develop a tradition of treating coughs, colds and respiratory complaints.

The flowers have robust, fleshy petals making them difficult to dry and so one of the best and easiest ways of extracting their healing properties is to use them to make an infused honey in readiness for the onset of autumn…

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No-bake chocolate Cookies for Campers

These no-bake cookies are so easy to make and contain only four ingredients. From start to finish they take about ten minutes and are perfect for satisfying that occasional craving for sweet that might strike anywhere, any time!

DSC03119If anyone had asked me a few weeks ago what recipes do I never post, I would have said chocolate chip cookies. Not that I don’t like them, but they are an example of one of those things that just doesn’t fit with this blog which focuses on things I have in my garden, are seasonal and maybe even unusual. But never say never, and here is my first recipe containing chocolate chips – not the commercial ones but chopped dark Belgian chocolate.

The reason for this turn around is that we recently had a visit from a fellow blogger Stef from The Kiwi Fruit. She and her friend John are currently driving across Canada from east to west and I have been following them with considerable interest. For some stunning photos of the country, stories of their adventures and great recipes visit her blog – you will not be disappointed.

I met Stef originally at Fiesta Friday, so it is fitting to bring these cookies to this week’s event. Of course, I invited them to stop by here and camp on our property, and to my delight they accepted. They proved to be perfect camping guests with plenty of tales to tell. Unfortunately I did not think to get many pictures, as we were too caught up in chatting, mostly about food and travel.DSC03102

Their visit did make me think about the challenges of cooking and shopping when on the road – and this is one long road across Canada. Over 5,000 km as the crow flies, but much further when making detours to visit every worthwhile site along the way. I was thinking how John sometimes gets a craving for something sweet and how difficult it can be to make any of the traditional baked treats while camping, so I came up with this simple recipe which is like a cross between truffles and cookies. Chickpea flour, brown sugar, butter or coconut oil and some chopped chocolate bits or chips are all that is needed, cooked quickly in a pan over medium heat and then rolled into little balls of rich, sweet, chocolatey goodness.

No-bake Chocolate Cookies

1 cup chickpea flour

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil

1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar according to taste

about 4 Tbsp chocolate bits

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the flour and stir continuously over the heat for about five minutes. The mixture will become a slightly darker colour and will bubble and thicken. Add the sugar and stir until it all dissolves, about three more minutes. Remove from the heat, cool slightly and stir in the chocolate. While still slightly warm, form into balls and then let cool completely. This recipe makes about 1 dozen small cookies.

I made one recipe with butter, the other with coconut oil. I preferred the flavour of the latter as it was nuttier tasting, but the former was easier to work with. Either way, they were delicious, and I hope Stef and John enjoy them as much as we did. I also wish them all the best on their odyssey and thank them sincerely for taking the time to visit us. It was a real pleasure!DSC03120.JPG

Linked to: Fiesta Friday, Foodbod and Dad Whats 4 Dinner.

Posted one year ago: Milkweed flowers


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Peony Jelly

Here is a way to preserve the exquisite colour and scent of your peonies – a flower which graces our gardens for an all too short period in the early summer. Serve it with your favourite buttered scone, as a garnish to fruit salad or just about any other dessert. 

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Freshly picked peonies

I have recently been experimenting with floral flavours from my garden as they appear – just the edible ones of which there are more than you would think. The easiest way to use them is often mixing them half and half with sugar, grinding them and allowing them to dry to be used as a sweetener. Jellies, perhaps the most obvious use, are a little more challenging. Pectin and some form or acid are necessary to get the desired consistency are necessary, but working out the ideal proportions and cooking time have proved to be a little challenging, leaving me at times with something either too thin or too thick. Also, not all pectins are made equal, so even when following a recipe the results can be disappointing.

Peony Jelly on Punk Domestics

For my first effort, I used a combination of white and red flowers – being careful to pick the ones with the best scent. I also used liquid pectin which might have been the reason that I needed a suspiciously large amount (2 packages) and long period of cooking. The result was satisfactory, the colour and flavour were better than I had hoped for, but the recipe was just too complicated and required too much cooking to share. So a second effort was called for.

This time I chose them for the colour – mostly red and some pink. I used powdered pectin, Certo pectin crystals to be exact. The cooking time was reduced by about one third and the consistency was perfect. While the white ones did give a beautiful reddish amber colour, the red and pink produced a stunning ruby colour, so if colour matters, go for the red as long as they have a good strong scent. This picture shows the difference of colour, although in photographs the contrast is not so pronounced.

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Second batch on left

Peony Jelly

Ingredients
4 cups peony petals, tightly packed
4 cups boiling water
1/2 lemon
1/2 package certo pectin crystals
2 cups sugar

Method: Put the petals in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Use a plate on top to press them down and make sure they are all covered in water. Leave to infuse for 6 hours. Strain them through a cloth and ring tightly to get all the liquid out. Discard the petals. Pour this liquid (I had 2 cups) into a pot, add the strained juice of the half lemon, the pectin and 2 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, until it reaches 215 degrees F or 104 C if you have a thermometer. Otherwise you can put a small spoonful on a chilled dish and and when it cools it should set. Also, it is ready when the bubbling becomes so vigorous it does not subside when you put a spoon in it.

Pour it into sterilised jars and let cool. This recipe made 6 1/4 pint jars

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Petals after soaking for 6 hours in water

There are so many ways to use floral jellies. One of my favourites is to use it to sweeten tea while sometimes with fresh buttered bread or biscuits alongside tea is preferred. It also works well as a garnish.

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Fruit and granola topped with plain yogurt and jelly

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #124, Love in the Kitchen and Spades, Spatulas and Spoons.


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Rhubarb Flowers

DSC03071.JPGWell-established rhubarb plants tend to produce large bulbous flowers which quickly grow into large frilly masses. They can appear soon after the rhubarb is ripe for picking, and I always instinctively removed  and disposed of them knowing that once the flowers get going, the rhubarb will stop producing.DSC03079.JPG

I might at least have collected them to make a bouquet, but into the compost they went along with all the leaves of the plant. Once I learned that the flowers were edible, I was keen for my rhubarb to bolt, which with the hot spell we had recently is exactly what happened. Of course, knowing something is edible and figuring how to use it when there is not much literature on the subject opens the way for some more kitchen experiments.

The flowers can be picked at any stage – the tightly furled pinkish bulbs at first or later the loose creamy blossoms. Just be sure to remove any leaves which are still clinging to the early blooms as they are poisonous as are all rhubarb leaves.

I tried a number of things with them. First, I roasted some with vegetables such as kale, onions and mushrooms all drizzled with oil. Not as strongly flavoured or as sour as the rhubarb stock, they added a very tasty, slightly tart flavour. They did not get crisp as I had imagined – just soft. Still, they did add some interest to the usual roasted medley. DSC03077.JPG

I also added some to a salad. Delicious if I may say so myself.DSC03080.JPG

I also added them to pancake batter. Where I was using 2 cups of buckwheat flour I added 1 cup of flowers, broken into small pieces. It did not change the texture noticeably, but had a nice flavour, a little reminiscent of persimmons. Served with honeysuckle syrup it seemed a fitting breakfast for the season.DSC03081.JPG

With some flowers left over I dehydrated them and hope to use them in future recipes. Maybe they’ll find their way into this year’s Christmas cake!

Linked to Fiesta Friday, La Petite Casserole, and La Petite Paniere.


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Honeysuckle Ice Cream

The flavour of honeysuckle is, as the name suggests, just like honey. And like honey, it can be used to flavour so many desserts, at least as long as the short season allows. If you have a good source of this late spring flower, here is just one way to enjoy its sweetness.DSC03091.JPGI only discovered the honeysuckle growing on our property a couple of years ago, and this year the number of bushes seems to have multiplied. I don’t really believe that is possible – probably I just am able to distinguish them more easily from the masses of lilacs that bloom around the same time because now I know they’re there. In fact, I have spotted honeysuckle regularly on the road, most of the way between here in E. Ontario and New York City, so I know our garden is no exception.DSC02122

Last year I accidentally made a honeysuckle syrup which has been used to flavour many a dessert since then. However, for blog purposes I wanted to come up with something different this year,  and ice cream seemed a good choice. It did not give me the rich red colour of my syrup, or any colour at all to speak of. Next time I will add a few hibiscus petals to brighten the colour. But the flavour was a resounding success, and the idea of honey flavoured ice cream is too good to abandon on account of lack of colour.

Speaking of colour, I did not use a custard base recipe because I didn’t want the egg colour to overwhelm the pink, although if you have yellow honeysuckle, it would be a good choice. The recipe I came up with is kind of a hybrid of frozen yogurt and ice cream, and it was the softest, creamiest ice cream I’ve had yet. And perhaps the easiest I have ever made.

Honeysuckle Ice Cream

Ingredients

2 cups 20% cream

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups honeysuckle flowers

1 cup yogurt (preferably full fat)

Method

Heat the cream and sugar until the mixture steams a little but does not boil. Stir constantly to dissolve the sugar. Mix the flowers into the hot liquid and allow them to infuse for a few hours (I left them overnight) in the fridge.

Strain the yogurt through a cloth lined sieve. To speed up this process I put a heavy bowl on top. Strain the flower mixture and add the yogurt to the liquid. Process in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have one, just pour it into a cold bowl, put it in the freezer and stir vigorously every 30 minutes until it is frozen through.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #122, Frugal Hausfrau, and Aharam. Thank you to Angie, Mollie and Aruna for hosting this week’s event.

Related posts: Salted Caramel Ice Cream; Olive Oil Ice Cream with Balsamic Wild Strawberries; Anise Hyssop and Peach Ice Cream; Rhubarb Ginger Ice Cream; Sea Buckthorn Gelato