Tag Archives: alcohol

Seasonal Food Week No. 3 – Chestnuts


Like any perennial food plant, sweet chestnut trees have good and not so good years. And, frankly, most years in the UK are not so good. The imports from France, Italy, Corsica, etc are far superior.
Having said that, I spent loads of autumn Saturday afternoons crawling through the rhododendrons in Babworth Woods, or Lake Hill Wood, as a teenager, hunting down the chestnuts that had fallen from the trees. There’d be a few dads with kids around, chucking lumps of wood up at the trees trying to dislodge what was still on the branch (unripe), but we always came away with more.

Brussel Sprouts with Chestnuts in Red Wine
Chestnut Liquer
Making Chestnut Flour
Tuscan Chestnut Cake (castagnaccio)
Chestnut Cutter

I’m using the phrase ‘seasonal food’ to indicate those foods which, generally, are only available in their growing season, so many are wild and all grow in the UK.

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Seasonal Food Week No. 2 – Elderflower

Elderflower Pictures, Images and Photos


First off – never use elder as fire wood. Very bad luck.

Elderflowers, roughly speaking, are on the tree from late May to late June or early July. They’re best picked very early afternoon on a sunny day. The scent increases over the hours when the sunlight is on them. Some elderflower drink recipes will tell you to remove the flowers from the stems. I never have and the results are lovely. Likewise, some cordial recipes will call for a massive amount of flowers, up to a gallon in volume, but there’s really no need. I think it was John Seymour who said a good cordial was made with a sparse amount of flowers.
[ I found the quote – The classic self-sufficient writer John Seymour claims the secret of good cordial is, ‘never put too many in your brew’ and ‘harvest on a sunny day when the fragrance and nectar are at their height’. ]

John Seymour’s Elder Champagne
12 heads of elderflowers in full bloom and scent, picked on a hot day
1½ lbs|0.7kg sugar – white sugar is best
1 lemon
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
Put the blooms in a bowl with the juice of a lemon. Cut up the rind of the lemon and put that in (no pith). Add the sugar, vinegar, one gallon|4 litres water [cover with muslin] and leave for 24 hours. Strain liquid into bottles, cork, leave for a fortnight and drink the following week.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe

Elderflower Cordial – this is pretty much the recipe I’ve used for several years, except I put in 4 lemons and no citric acid. I make sure I have quite a few ½ litre screw top water bottles ready, fill them to about ¾ level then chuck in the bottom of the freezer. Nothing like suddenly remembering you have some elderflower cordial in the middle of winter.

Elderflower fritters

I’m using the phrase ‘seasonal food’ to indicate those foods which, generally, are only available in their growing season, so many are wild and all grow in the UK.

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Seasonal Food Week No. 1 – Shaggy Ink Cap

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Shaggy ink caps will never appear in the shops and very rarely, if at all, on the resaurant menu, as within a few hours of picking they quickly deliquesce, that is turn into a stinking black sludge. (But I recently read of someone who succesfully dries them in a dehydrator.)
Despite this they’re quite common in summer and early autumn, appearing everywhere from disturbed ground to punching up through the pavement. And they’re delicious.
There’s been speculation that they can make some people ill if taken with alcohol, but that seems to be due to confusion with the Common Ink Cap, which looks quite different.

Fried Shaggy Ink Cap with Eggs

Shaggy Ink Cap Soup

Shaggy Ink Cap Ketchup

I’m using the phrase ‘seasonal food’ to indicate those foods which, generally, are only available in their growing season, so many are wild and all grow in the UK.

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