IT's ElDerRfLoWeR SeAsOn!!

The last few days have smelled delicious. I'm transported back to life as a 13 year old living in the depths of rural Norfolk by seeing all the ripe elderflower trees; they hang over garden fences and accesorize roadsides without being snobbish about where they've set up home. 

We used to make cordial every year just when the elderflower heads look buttery in colour and smell like Summer weddings. I think the no cooking, little stirring and minimal ingredients all unite to make this a lazy girls favourite activity.

There is one thing. Don’t be put off by the citric acid, it as cheap as sugar and you can buy packs in trusted Boots chemist (or any pharmacy). 

By my calculations there is about four more weekends of possible drink making. Just one tip – pick the elderflower when the sun is shining; you can taste the rays. 

This is my recipe;

1.5 litres of boiling water
1 kilo of white granulated sugar
30 elderflower heads
2 lemons (the zest peeled into stips with a veg peeler and the remaining flesh sliced into rounds)
50g of citric acid

1/In a large vessel (saucepan or mixing bowl) pour the boiling water onto the sugar and stir. Leave to cool, stirring every now and then to dissolve the sugar.
2/When cool add the citric acid, the lemons and the elderflower heads.
3/ Leave become delicious for 48 hours
4/Strain through sterilised muslin or a washed j-cloth and pour into sterilised bottles



Sunshine Tomato

My friend Craig took this photograph - he found a romantic looking specimen nestled at the bottom of a Waitrose punet and did something clever with the light.  I like the idea of turning it into table mats or a tee shirt or a tiny baby grow! Watch this space... 


Sushi Etiquette

How times have changed. Egg & cress sandwiches have edged their way off the radar and been replaced by far sexier DIY sushi boxes complete with extending chopsticks and adorable bottles of soy.

Against contrary opinion raw fish served on miniature cold rice loaves have become a staple lunchtime purchase and the British have been educated enough to realise it’s raw for a reason; not because the grill wasn’t turned on. I for one am hooked and this Saturday saw me travelling further than the sad looking Boots Shapers range to the depths of Ealing Common to eat out a hidden sushi gem.

The windows of Atari-Ya were frosted and the sign above the door spoke of a dentist surgery but having trekked an hour there was little option but to walk on in. The welcome was significantly worse than one would expect from a dentist but the ruthless discipline was somehow refreshing in an ‘it must be all about the food kind of outlook’.

Not letting the words nigri, chirashi, and sashimi get the better of me I ordered a selection of their best.  My sister and I waited and watched the chief surgeon attack the fish with seamless efficiency and present meticulously carved sushi looking fit for a still life.

It was indeed good. Chunky and succulent and far meater than I had before but what was also interesting was the conversation we forced the waitress to have. After much nurturing she explained a few ground rules for eating sushi and it is these that I thought I’d pass on for potential date ammunition; perhaps it may allow each one of you to feel smug and frown at  your partner for their ignorable lack of knowledge -

  • Ginger is meant to be a palate cleanser – It is not for adding to the sushi
  • Eat sushi upside down so that you taste the fish first, the fish is more flavoursome than the rice
  • There is no need to cut the sushi in half, the chef should have prepared bite sized chunks and they are meant to be eaten in one gulp. It was originally a street food eaten with fingers.  
  • The classic sushi item is arguably the nigiri, which comes from a word meaning to squeeze and is the small squeezed cube of rice that the fish sits atop of. 
  •  If you dip sushi in soy sauce, just dip the fish side not the rice thus preventing the rice acting as a sponge and you being faced with a loaf of solid soy. 


My maple baked oats with figs


Ideally, brunch suggests lazy mornings spent lazing in pyjamas with lazy food that doesn’t require too much tending. Here, you’ll find a cross between a warming porridge and a flapjack with beautiful figs and delicate tart apple running through the oats. Common to most brunches, syrup is an absolute must! A brunch without maple is like a Mountie without his hat.

Serves 6

Prep Time – 10 minutes
Cook Time – 35-40 minutes

500ml semi skimmed milk
2 medium eggs
30g unsalted butter, melted
4 tbsp dark brown sugar
75ml maple syrup
4 -5 ripe figs, each cut into 8
1 large cooking apple, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
200g rolled oats
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1 tsp all spice
pinch of salt
50g flaked almonds

1/ Preheat the oven to 180C, fan 160C, gas 6.
2/ In a small bowl or jug gently whisk the milk, egg, yolk, melted butter, 2 tbsp sugar and maple syrup.
3/ Grease the bottom of a 1 litre dish and tumble half the figs, chunks of apple, oats, baking powder, all spice and salt into the dish. Give everything a good jumble around using your hands or a large spoon.
5/ Gently pour over the milk mixture and allow it to soak in for a few minutes.
6/ Sprinkle the remaining figs, flaked almonds and the remaining sugar onto the mixture.
7/ Bake for 35-40 minutes so the milk has become fully absorbed. Serve whilst still warm with yoghurt for a delicious brunch dish.