Along the Grapevine


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Wild Flower Cordial

DSC03429Queen Anne’s Lace (daucus carota), also known as wild carrot, bird’s nest and bishop’s lace is a white flowering plant in the familily Apiaceae. Its feathery leaves are similar to those of hemlock, fool’s parsley and water hemlock, all poisonous cousins, so it is important to identify this plant correctly. At this time of year when they are in full bloom it is easy to spot with its flat-topped white umbel, sometimes with a solitary purple flower in the centre.

Leaves, roots and flowers have all been used in cooking, sometimes as a sweetener as the plant is high in sugar. As this is my first time with this plant, I decided to use just the flowers, and to make something simple and versatile, so a floral cordial it was.

Somehow I got sidetracked by the pink milkweed blossoms from which for the first time I noticed a strong fragrant scent. And while I was at it, I added lavender to my collection. This recipe could be made solely with the Queen Anne’s Lace, but by using a mixture of flowers, I hope to convey the message that any edible, seasonal flower can be used the same way, either alone or mixed with others.

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I counted out 3 dozen flower heads including only 1 sprig of lavender. I heated 4 cups of water, turned off the heat and set the flowers in the water until the water cooled. I then strained the liquid and added to that 1 1/2 cups organic white sugar and the juice of one lemon. I brought it back to a full boil and simmered for a couple of minutes.

The milkweed gave it a rich pink colour. I presume that all the blossoms contributed to its delicious flavour.DSC03432

The photo above shows its colour in full strength, but I recommend diluting it with 2 – 3 parts water or soda water with one part cordial. Or if you are wanting something a little fancier,  dilute it 1:1 with vodka for a pretty summery cocktail.

Wild Flower Cordial on Punk Domestics

dsc03443-e1501854487122.jpg Linked to: Fiesta Friday #183; Caramel Tinted Life and Sarah’s Little Kitchen.


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Floral Sun Tea

DSC03136.JPGLast year I experimented with making sun tea, a tisane really, made from mint, lemon balm and a little honey. I was pretty timid about the whole process, but figured the mint and honey would provide enough anti-bacterial properties to ward off any ill effects of infusing the herbs in the sunlight. It turned out to be one of my favourite summer drinks, so I have now continued to add and subtract to achieve a variety of flavours. This is one of my latest formulae where the addition of scented, edible flowers, and fresh stevia leaves to replace the honey makes a super, refreshing, low-calorie and nutritious summer drink. You can read about the benefits of lemon balm here and peppermint, which is what I used, here.

The idea of this recipe is not to limit yourself to the ingredients I find in my garden. Any sweet, aromatic herb can be used. If the herbs you choose do not have anti-bacterial properties, then I would recommend adding some unpasteurised honey dissolved in warm water to the mixture. Likewise, I chose flowers I have in my garden, but depending where you live and what the season, this can vary. No doubt edible leaves, berries or fruit in season would be an equally savoury addition.

I planted stevia in my garden for the first time this year and it is producing a steady supply of leaves which I have been using as a sugar substitute in several recipes. It should grow a lot more before the frost hits, at which time I will dry some for use in the winter. If you are not familiar with it, this article gives a good explanation of its origin, uses and health benefits.

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I filled each container almost full, loosely packed, with lemon balm and mint leaves, with about five fresh, chopped stevia leaves in each container. To one container I added and handful of rose petals and chopped rose-scented geranium leaves – to the other about 1 Tbsp young lavender flowers. My lavender is just beginning to blossom – a later version of this recipe will no doubt call for a similar amount of mature flowers.

I filled the containers with water, covered them with a lid and set them in the sun for about five hours. Then strain and chill – or chill and strain. I poured some of the strained liquid into ice cube trays to use without diluting the drink.

Because these herbs and flowers are not cooked, their flavour and nutritional value are not compromised. And what better treat after a strenuous bout of working in the garden than an aromatic elixir of flavours from the very same garden! DSC03135.JPG

Linked to Fiesta Friday #126

 

 

 


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Cured Duck Egg Yolks Sweet or Savoury

I have been wanting to cure some duck eggs but had a long wait. Duck eggs are not commonly available in this area except when the ducks feel like laying. Finally it is the season, and I acquired a nice pile of them from a dear neighbour who owns some lovely Muscovy ducks. muscovy ducks

Any kind of eggs can be cured, but either goose or duck have a much bigger yolk ratio so they are better suited for this purpose. It is worth noting that this larger yolk is the reason for the bonus nutritional value of duck eggs – more micro nutrients, more protein and omega-3s. Here is a duck’s egg next to a chicken’s egg. Not difficult to tell which is which. DSC02248

Of course, duck eggs can be prepared the same as chicken eggs, and we have been enjoying them in many ways, not least in baking. Curing the yolks (the whites got used in blueberry buckwheat pancakes) makes a great cheese substitute. They also absorb any flavour they are cured in, so you can use your imagination and available ingredients to this end. I used spruce salt. You will need about 1/3 cup of coarse salt for each yolk. Just make sure there is enough to cover the bottom, sides and top of the yolks. Put half the salt in a suitably sized dish, gently place the egg yolk on the salt and cover with the rest of the salt. Place in the refrigerator for two days. DSC02249 DSC02251

Remove the yolk gently from the salt, brushing off any excess. Place the yolk on some cheesecloth, pull the cloth together at the top and tie with a string. Hang in a cool, dark place for another five days. At this point, the yolk should feel firm, but not hard, when squeezed gently. Grate it and use it as a garnish for salads, soups or pasta. I was inspired to make a sweet version by Forager Chef who in his post on curing eggs in truffle salt suggested sugar should also work. The method is the same, except you use sugar instead of salt, and again a flavour added to the curing process. I used lavender. I also followed his method and timing for curing.

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DSC02269At the end of the curing time, the yolks were equally firm and had the same texture, so I concluded the sugar method worked as well as the common salt method. I will be posting recipes using both eggs, so stay tuned

Cured Duck Egg Yolks Sweet or Sour on Punk Domestics


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Introducing Herb Robert

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You’ve maybe come across Herb Robert before, otherwise known as geranium robertarium. He can grow just about anywhere, is shade tolerant but is just as happy in full sun. I usually find him in my flower beds, lodged in amongst rocks, and I recently saw him in abundance while walking in the woods. A delicate plant with lacy leaves and dainty pink flowers, too pretty to pull out, but too invasive to just ignore.

I only recently started to find out more about this plant which has a long history of medicinal uses, most notably the leaves taken as a tea to boost the immune system. If you are interested in reading more about this remarkable little weed, its history and uses you can read here. I was most interested in the fact that it is considered a natural insect repellent. It has what is considered a ‘foxy’ odour which rabbits and deer stay clear of, but is not that strong to humans. I have followed some advice I read and planted bits of it around my cabbages and cauliflowers to deter bunnies. So far, it seems to be working!

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It flowers from spring through late summer or fall and spreads its seeds on a regular basis.

When walking in the woods, I decided to try it as an insect repellent to defend myself against the hoards of mosquitoes. I rubbed the leaves and smeared them on my skin. I noticed some difference, but was not ‘out of the woods’ exactly. Then a fellow joined me, and I noticed all the mosquitoes attacked him, so it must have made some difference.

I decided to try an insect repellent that could be applied more easily and evenly than the leaf-rubbing method. After all, the heat and sun are nothing when gardening compared to the discomfort of the mosquitoes.

I put two parts herb Robert leaves and flowers, one part mint and one part lavender flowers and pressed them down with a plate or lid which would fit inside the pot. I barely covered that with water, brought it to a boil, turned off the heat. Then I left it to cool covered with another lid to keep the essential oils from escaping.

Strain off the liquid and mix with equal parts of rubbing alcohol. Apply it liberally all over.

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In the late morning, I headed out with my pitchfork to do some heavy mulching and see if my concoction worked and if so, how long it would be effective. I lasted a whole hour with very little trouble from mosquitoes. I finally gave up because now the heat and sun were my biggest problems.

I’m not sure what its shelf life is, but it can be easily replenished and costs next to nothing. It has a lovely fragrance, and I expect I will go through it rather quickly to help me through the season.


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Lavender Honey Babas

”Fiesta

F0r Angie’s First Fiesta Friday challenge calling for a recipe using yeast and a herb, I have made one of my favourite desserts with some modifications. The cake is a recipe I have used many times for baba au rhum, but decided a spring version was called for, using the flavour of lavender, sweetened with honey and made pretty with wild flowers of the season.  The lavender is from my garden, and the foraged flowers are from my lawn/fields. For the lavender infused sugar, simply mix dried lavender with sugar and allow to stand at least a week. If you have lavender infused honey, that would work too.

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Babas are easy  to make – really just a cake with yeast which gives it a spongy texture, perfect for soaking up any syrup you choose to use, although you will be hard pressed to find a recipe calling for anything other than the rum syrup traditionally used. There is no kneading involved, and the rest times are short – around 20 minutes. The syrup can be made in advance, but should be heated before drizzling over the hot babas. The batter filled 6 individual moulds and one small bundt pan, but you can also do all in one big pan or about 12 individual ones.

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Lavender Honey Babas

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Babas

4 tsp yeast

2 cups bread flour

2 tsp sugar

1 stick or 1/2 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup milk

1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together. You will have a cake-like batter. Let it rest, covered with a tea towel for twenty minutes (more or less depending on the temperature of your kitchen). The batter should look spongey when you stir it. Stir it thoroughly to get rid of all the bubbles. Fill the mould/s about half full, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for another 20 min. They will have doubled in size by this time.

Bake in a 350 F. oven for fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the size of the moulds, and 30 min. if using one bundt pan. They should be golden in colour and feel cooked to the touch.

Remove them from the pans and pour syrup over them, slowly, allowing the syrup to soak into the cakes. Scoop up any that runs off and reapply it to get as much syrup into it as possible. When cooled, sprinkle with more lavender sugar, garnish with whipped cream to which lavender sugar has been added and, if you like, wild edible flowers as available or preserved flowers.

Lavender Honey Syrup

1 cup liquid honey

1 cup sugar syrup (made by 2 parts sugar to 1 part water)

3 tsp finely ground lavender-infused sugar

Just before the babas are baked, heat the honey, syrup and sugar.

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Snow Treats

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Snow in a Bowl

It’s the end of the week and that means another Fiesta Friday with The Novice Gardener and her guests. Can’t wait to see what they post this week. My guess is that some will mention snow, or cold. Another event today is the opening of the Olympic Games. And this is my blog’s 50th post – so 3 good reasons to celebrate!

Instead of offering something to keep you warm and fight off the winter chills, I have decided to take you out into the snow and have some fun with it. This winter, after all, we are making memories of “that winter with all the snow”. Especially for people too young to have experienced a real winter, this will be talked about for years to come. So let’s enjoy it.

I do remember some very snowy past winters of my childhood, when eating snow was just what we did. ‘Safety’ meant looking both ways before you crossed the road – and that was it. When looking up eating snow recipes, I read several which said simply “Do not eat”. Apparently, flakes form around dust particles and goodness knows what else in the atmosphere. However, I did read one which said if it snows a lot, the atmosphere gets cleaned up, and the surface of the fallen snow is relatively clean. I also read quite a few posts where people did add snow to some rather fun recipes, and didn’t worry too much about its safety. After all, who hasn’t tasted snow, or dust for that matter? So, now I have that out of the way, I present some very simple, easy-to-make ‘snow ice cream’ recipes.

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Some Ingredients for Snow Treats

This can be a great activity for children. It involves mixing one base ingredient (whipped cream, pudding, milk, yogourt, sour cream), some sweetener, and any combination of flavours such as fruit, seeds, nuts, sweets, chocolate, etc. I enjoyed combining ingredients in a way I hadn’t thought of before, and after this exercise I will take some of these ideas and put them to use in real cooking. I was not able to do all the combinations I thought of, as I found my hands getting too cold since I had to assemble everything myself and take pictures. I recommend, if you can do this with others, place all the ingredients on a work surface outside and assemble it there. If you can’t eat it right away, just cover the dishes and stick them in the freezer.

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Some More Ingredients for Snow Treats

My first ‘recipe’ was made with 1 cup of whipped cream, 1 heaping Tbsp thick honey and a teaspoon of lavender infused sugar. It was heavy on the lavender (I made it with the flowers from my garden in the fall), and I feared it would be too strong, but I loved it. Add about 1 cup of snow and mix well. I sprinkled a few lavender petals on top.

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Lavender and Honey Snow Cream

The next one I made was with chili chocolate made from a powdered drink mix I found in my cupboard. Also 1 cup of cream, chili chocolate to taste and another spoonful of honey. The same amount of snow, and voila!

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Chocolate Snow Cream

I wanted to make dulce de leche with the evaporated milk, but ended up just using the latter. I simply mixed it with snow, and layered it with sliced banana. By this time, my hands were frozen, so I kept it simple.

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Snowy Banana Pudding

The next one is a savoury ice cream, inspired by a dessert I had at St. Anselm in New York a while ago. Although it was delicious, I thought the presentation a little sloppy, so I improved on my own by chopping the bacon.

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Blue Cheese Ice Cream at St. Anselm

It was a blue cheese ice cream with candied bacon and reduced balsamic vinegar. My version consisted of real yogourt (not 2% or fat-free) or you could use sour cream, mixed with a generous chunk of blue cheese. Mix that with the same volume of snow, and sprinkle candied bacon and dribble some reduced balsamic on top. This is fancy dinner party good. To sweeten the bacon I just sprinkled some sugar during the last few seconds of frying.

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And the final one, also savoury, I could say is in honour of Sochi as a Russian inspired recipe, but really I just had some red caviar to use up, and thought it a pretty colour for a festive dish. This consisted only of yogourt and caviar. I think a small shot of vodka on the side would go well, but not necessary.

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I did not manage to use any of my coconut milk or several other items I had lined up. But I hope you get the idea. I’m thinking maybe I should put some snow in a plastic bag and keep it in the freezer to make a snow treat on a hot day in July.