Elderberry vodka

Now I’ve made 3 batches of blackberry vodka, I’m wondering if elderberry vodka would be any good.  Anyone tried it?

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Blackberry vodka

So, here comes the time of year for the “foraging” part, although I’m not sure picking blackberries overspilling onto the allotment from the adjoining railway line really counts as proper foraging.

Anyhow, last year, we tried out blackberry vodka, raspberry vodka, damson gin, sloe gin, and earlier this year, elderflower gin.  Have to say the latter was pretty disgusting but not sure I got the recipe quite right.  Of all the above, the blackberry vodka and sloe gin were definitely the ones to make again.

Flavouring vodka this way is really simple.  All you need is a bottle of vodka, blackberries, sugar and something to mix them in.

Per litre of vodka use approx 500g of washed blackberries (when picking this equates nicely to a 450g ice cream container) and 200g of  caster sugar.

If you have a spare vodka bottle you could split the vodka between 2 bottles, and add half the blackberries and sugar  to each.  Alternatively sterilize a larger container such as a  1.5 litre Kilner or Le Parfait Jar and pour in the vodka, followed by the blackberries and sugar.

ImageEnsure your bottles or jar are tightly closed and then shake to dissolve the sugar.  This may take a little while and it’s a good idea to come back to the jar and give it a shake every day for a couple of weeks to make sure it’s all nicely mixed.

After 6-8 weeks you can strain out the blackberries and bottle the vodka.  You can then eat the blackberries with ice cream, or perhaps use them with some more blackberries in jam.

Sterilizing the jar:

There are a number of ways to do this:

You can either use the jar fresh from a hot dishwasher.

You can wash in hot soapy water and then dry on a 140 degree C oven for about 10 mins. (Take care removing it and allow to cool a little before trying to fit the seal.)

You can sterilize with sterilising powder from a brewing shop. according to the instructions on the packet,

The rubber seal should be scalded in boiling water.

Easy beetroot risotto

After making Nigella’s fab halloumi with beetroot and lime, and adding grated raw beetroot to my sandwiches, we still had 3-4 small beetroot in the fridge towards the end of the week.  This recipe is a simple and quick version of beetroot risotto, maximising the potential of home grown veg by including the spinach like leaves and dispensing with precooking by boiling or roasting the beetroot first ( but by all means do this if you have more time than I).

Since I pretty much made this up as I went along, quantities etc are approximate and can be varied according to what you have available, and if course how many you are feeding.  This was for 2.

Image of beetroot risotto
Beetroot risotto

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped ( I used red but it doesn’t really matter)

2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed.

Beetroot ( 3-4 small) inc leaves.

Risotto rice (approx 100g per person)

Stock ( vegetable or chicken)

Cheese to taste – I used cheddar and parmesan.

Salt and pepper to taste.

A little oil.

Method:

Wash and peel the beetroot, separating and reserving the leaves.

Grate beetroot ( using a mini-chopper /blender is easiest)

Make up around a pint of stock to start with but have hot water ready to make up more as needed.

Add the grated beetroot to the stock and keep on a low heat.In a separate saucepan fry the chopped onion in a little oil to soften, adding the garlic after a minute or two.

After another minute add the rice and stir to coat in the oil.

Once it is well coated begin ladling in the stock with the beetroot a little at a time, allowing it to be absorbed before adding more ( you could add a little red or white wine before the stock if you have some open and handy.)

Stir in the washed and chopped leaves after about 10 mins.

Continue adding stock until the rice is cooked, which should be about 20 mins.

Turn off the heat and add cheese and seasoning to taste, then cover with a lid and leave for a couple of mins before stirring again.

To serve you can add more pepper and parmesan, and as we had some in the garden I topped with rocket.  Would be good with fresh crusty bread.Image

What can I do with all these courgettes?

Came home from holiday to a huge pile of courgettes, depite removing all the flowers before we went away.    Courgette season is truly upon us.

Having got bored of just frying them up with other veg after a few days I trawled the web and various recipe binders (for which read bits from magazines loosely piled in a disorganised heap in the kitchen).  Thought these ones were worth sharing:

Cheesy courgette loaf:

Cheesy courgette loaf

I’d heard zucchini bread is popular in US, and searched for recipes, but they seem to be for a sweet loaf and I wanted something more savoury.  Eventually found a recipe at: http://www.pebblesoup.co.uk/2009/07/courgette-and-cheese-loaf.html, which I have amended very slightly.  It’s not quite like bread, with 3 eggs – perhaps tending towards a frittata, but still great sliced, lightly toasted and buttered.  The cheese does need to be strong (you could perhaps substitute some parmesan)  – I only had mild cheddar in the fridge and it wasn’t quite cheesy enough.

Might be worth experimenting by adding other veg you happen to have, such as onions?

Ingredients:
75 g butter (melted and cooled) – you can do this in the microwave but take care, it doesn’t take long.
200g grated courgettes (this was 2 fairly small home grown ones)
2tsp salt (I used Lo-salt)
225g self raising flour
3 eggs, beaten
Approx 4tbsp milk
Cayenne and mustard powder to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp of each and it was only very slightly hot)
125 strong cheddar (grated)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (this is for an electric oven without a fan – fan ovens may need a lower temperature and/or shorter cooking time).
  • Line a loaf tin with baking parchment – to avoid the bottom becoming soggy I find a metal tin works better than a silicone one, and with the lining it still comes out quite easily.
  • Mix flour, salt, cayenne, mustard.
  • Add grated cheese.
  • In a separate bowl mix the eggs, milk and butter.
  • Add these to the dry mix along with the grated courgettes and stir to mix.  Add a little more milk if necessary but it should be a thick mix to spoon into the tin.
  • Once in the tin bake for approx 40 mins (although I like to check earlier) until the tops springs lightly when pressed.  Turn off the oven and leave the tin in for a further 10 mins.
  • Leave to cool before removing carefully from tin.

Keep in an airtight container.

Courgette crips:

Slice courgettes as thinly as you can.  Lighty oil and season (can try whatever seasoning you like such as paprika, salt and pepper, chilli etc).

If you have an electric dehydrator lay the slices out on the trays, not touching and dry for approx 15 hours at 55 degrees C.

You can also dry in a low oven (the dehydrator uses less electricity), with the door wedged slightly open but this is a bit of a pain if you want to use the oven for anything else.

Other ideas

  •  Pasta sauce: Cook with some onions,garlic,  tomatoes, basil  (plus chilli if you like) then whizz in a blender to make a pasta sauce – good for freezing.
  • Pastry tart: Use as a topping for a puff pastry tart (spread some pesto on a sheet of ready rolled pastry, top with mozarella, thin slices of courgette, some cherry tomatoes, and some black olives.  Season with black pepper.  Cook at 200 C for 15-20mins.  When cooked sprinkie on some toasted pine nuts and fresh basil.