Sunday, 23 June 2013




Summer is upon us and we can all use a cool drink as we soak up the sun on our porches, patios, and backyards. But what if I told you that you can make your own, flavourful, and naturally fizzy beverage out of flowers, Elderflowers to be exact.

Like so many Europeans, I grew up kicking off the summer with the yearly ritual of Elderflower picking and fermentation, followed by bottling this most fragrant elixir thereby building a supply to last us well into the summer months.

You've probably noticed Elderflower cordials springing up on your supermarket shelves or have seen elderflower-flavoured cocktails appearing  at high-end bars lately. They are definitely growing in popularity and for good reason;  the taste and aroma of Elderflower is absolutely intoxicating and its sweetly-scented flowers make for an aromatic and sharp thirst-quenching drink.

I am not exaggerating when I say that this is possibly the most refreshing and flavourful summer drink there is. Lucky you, I am now going to show you how to make the real McCoy, your very own knock-out bubbly that will put the expensive store-brought stuff to shame.


makes 5 x 750 ml bottles of champagne

  • You can find the sweetly scented, creamy white flowers of the elder tree blooming from around the end of May through to the end of June (keep your eyes peeled as different trees bloom at different times) in woodland, scrub, parks, etc.
  • Pick the flowers on a warm and dry day, making sure the flowers are in full loom and have a pleasant scent
  • Snip the stem just below the large heads (leaving the leaves behind)
about 10 large elderflower heads
500 g white sugar
1 large lemon (can use more if you like more it lemony)
8 grams fresh yeast ( you can find it in any bakery that bakes on the premises, don't use dry. If you cannot find fresh yeast, follow the recipe minus the yeast. the difference is that it will take longer to ferment, adding days to the process.)
5 L water

1.   In 1 or 2 large wide-mouthed demijohns or glass vases (or any other container that is made of glass and has a wide opening) place the flower heads at the bottom of the container
2.    Top off with sugar
3.    Squeeze the lemon over the sugar, then slice it and place the slices of lemon on top of the sugar
4.  Add water until it just about covers the flowers and the sugar. Leave overnight to macerate
5.     The next day, add the fresh yeast and top off the container with cool water
6.     Cover the opening of the container with gauze (or a large plate) and leave outdoors in a warm and sunny place to ferment for 2-4 days giving  the mixture a stir with a wooden spoon twice a day
7.   You will know it is ready when the fermentation process has turned the once white flowers into a brownish sludge but most importantly, upon stirring with the spoon, you can see and hear the fizz/bubbles. give it a taste and if the fizziness is to your liking, it's done, otherwise leave it to ferment for longer until the preferred level of fizz is achieved.

day 1: maceration
day 2: add fresh yeast
day 3: beginning of fermentation
                        day 4: bubbles forming 
1.     Strain the flowers and lemon slices
2.     Use a funnel to fill your bottles
3.     Close bottles tightly
4.     Keep refrigerated  (should keep for a few weeks)

Serve chilled.

Saturday, 15 June 2013




Back in decidedly more frugal times, tripe was consumed by many people the world over. Today the mere mention of tripe elicits a "yuck" reaction from a significant portion of us. But why? Many have probably never tried it, letting their imaginations go awry letting visions of bowels, blood, and gore dance in their heads.

I am here to set things straight about the particular joys of tripe. But just in case you don't believe me, ponder this:  all the great culinary centers of the world revere tripe and feature it in their repertoire including Italy, France, Spain, China, and countless others. If you have faith that they know what they're talking about, give this thrifty special cut of beef a chance. 

I have been eating tripe my whole life, mostly in the form of a milky, garlicky, sour soup popular throughout Romania. However it wasn't until I went Madrid, that I discovered just how exquisite it can be in the form of a stew. Sicilians do a pretty good job with it too but here I am featuring what is, in my opinion, the most delicious way to enjoy beef tripe, Madrid style. It is rich, unctuous, and has real cojones!


serves 8

1.5 kg / 3 lb beef tripe (buy it whole, not sliced, cured or pickled)
1/2 a pig's foot , cut lengthwise (ask your butcher)
6-8 cups of water
1 cup white wine (optional)
2-3 medium onions, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
7 parsley sprigs, tied into a bundle (optional)
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
pinch nutmeg
5 pepper corns
2 sprigs fresh thyme
salt, to taste
3 Tbs olive oil
1 chorizo sausage, sliced in 2 cm rounds
150g-200g jamon serrano, cubed (or prosciutto or cured ham) 
2-3 Tbs flour
2 Tbs pimenton dulce (or sweet paprika)
dried hot pepper, flaked or crushed (to taste)
3 Tbs white or white wine vinegar
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
optional: 1 Morcilla sausage (or a good blood sausage), cut into 1 inch rounds

·         Wash tripe and pig's foot well then leave to soak in cool water with 3 Tbs vinegar for half hour, drain, and repeat. I like to soak it overnight.
·         Place tripe and pig's foot in a large heavy bottom or cast iron pot, cover with
·         water, bring to a boil for 1 min. and drain. This removes any foam or scum that
·         has formed. Make sure you rinse the pot well as you will reuse it.


  1. Slice tripe into 3 inch strips
  2. In the same pot, place the sliced tripe, pig's foot, water, wine (optional), half    of the chopped onions, garlic, bay leaves, parsley sprigs, tomatoes, peppercorns, nutmeg, thyme and salt
  3. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, and cover. Let simmer for about 2.5 hours
  4. In separate skillet, heat oil and add remaining onions. Cook on medium heat  until softened
  5. Add the Chorizo sausage, ham, hot pepper, and cook, about 5 min.
  6. Stir in flour and paprika, and cook about 1 min.
  7. Add 1.5 cups of the liquid from the tripe and stir until mixture thickens
  8. Add sausage mixture to the tripe. Cover
  9. Cook until tripe is tender, at least 1 hour, stirring  tripe from time to time to   prevent sticking to bottom of pot
  10. Uncover and continue cooking for at least 1 more hour or until the tripe is extremely tender
  11. Remove the pig's foot from the tripe. Strip the skin and tender meat from the bones. Discard bones. Break up the skin and meat into strips and return to the pot
  12. Add the chickpeas and vinegar to the pot in the last 15 minutes of cooking    
  13. Lastly, if using Morcilla, in a separate skillet fry the Morcilla or blood sausage rounds on both sides in some olive oil, set aside - this is done at the end as the tender sausage will simply fall apart if stirred into the stew. Serve the stew topped off with the Morcilla slices

Monday, 3 June 2013

acacia flowers


Click play to see the video on how to make fluffy and fragrant 
acacia flower pancakes:

      Acacia didn't know (sorry, I couldn't help the wordplay), acacia flowers are in full bloom right now. The idea of eating flowers may put some people off but you just don't know something that others have known for aeons; that flowers can taste wonderful, are good for you, and let's face it they look so pretty on a plate. The acacias are blossoming all over the city in the springtime so if you like to forage and want to try something new, I strongly suggest you connect with what nature has to offer and pick these hanging flower clusters, they're such good eating!

        There are a bunch of wonderful things you can do with acacia flowers: you can eat them as they are; add them to your salad; macerate them in sugar and add them to your yogurt; incorporate them into your cookies, muffins and pancakes, or you can do what the Italians do and deep-fry these beauties.


·         pick when in full bloom, late May/early June
·         pick flower clusters, minus the leaves as they are toxic
·         give them a gentle wash is cool water then dab the excess water with paper towel
·         use within a couple of hours of picking for best results

Here are two divine and easy ways to cook with acacia flowers that are guaranteed to brighten up your weekend brunch: 

8-10 clusters of acacia flowers
8-10 Tb. all purpose flour
1 tsp. icing sugar
dash of salt
1 cup sparkling mineral water 
2 cups oil  i.e. vegetable oil or sunflower oil
Dusting of icing sugar


1.       In a bowl, add flour, icing sugar, and salt, then pour in mineral water and whisk until smooth
2.       Check that the consistency of the batter is such that it is just thick enough to coat the flowers when dipped in (you can add more water if you need to thin out the batter or conversely, you can add more flour, so long as each flower cluster is coated in the thick batter)
3.       Heat the oil in a small pot with deep sides
4.       Once oil is very hot dip your acacia blossoms in the batter to coat evenly, then dip completely into the hot oil
5.       Fry for 1.5 - 2 minutes turning them over half way through
6.       Once slightly golden, remove and place on paper towel, then continue to the next batch
7.       Dust with icing sugar or drizzle with maple syrup or honey


1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
splash vanilla essence
1 egg
1-1.5 cups of individual acacia blossoms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or butter

1.       In a bowl, whisk together milk, butter/oil, vanilla essence, and egg
2.       Add flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt, then whisk until fully incorporated (don't over-  whisk, a  few clumps are fine)
3.       Stir in the acacia blossoms
4.       Butter/oil a hot non-stick pan or skillet
5.       Spoon in batter and shape into a round form with back of spoon (the size of pancakes is up to you)
6.       Let cook until bubbles start to form on the surface then flip onto other side until browned 
7.       Top with maple syrup, honey, icing sugar, or whipped cream

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

stinging nettles


This herbaceous perennial plant is best known for its irritating qualities. Little do we know about its health and beauty benefits and less about its exquisite properties as a culinary ingredient which lends beautifully to spring soups, pestos, purées, sautéed greens,ravioli filling, and even beer! 

Thankfully, this burning beauty is undergoing a renaissance in places like Dorset, England where TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, an avid enthusiast of all things nettle, whips up numerous delights in his River Cottage kitchen.

Though widely consumed throughout many parts of the world at one time, stinging nettles seemed to have all but disappeared from most kitchens in more recent times. Naturally, something this good has not gone completely underground. In some countries the love affair is still burning hot. 

So my dear readers, take a good look at this specimen and come Spring go out into a woods somewhere, a farm, or even a park, and track these suckers down because you will be better for it.

Picking stinging nettles 101

More stinging nettle recipes from my blog via New Zealand: 

My harvested and cleaned  nettles
SHORT CRUST PASTRY BASE: (makes two 12'' quiches)

200 g butter (cold and cubed)
400 g regular flour
pinch salt 
100 ml cold water

1.       In a food processor pulse butter, flour, and salt, until pastry begins to clump together (aim for the texture of moist sand)
2.       In a cold bowl, pour in the contents of food processor, form a well in middle, then pour in water and mix gradually by hand until it begins to come together
3.       On a flour-dusted surface, transfer pastry mixture for light kneading, ultimately forming a ball (don't overwork it)
4.       Cut ball in half and re-form both halves into balls, then flatten into a disc with palm

5.       Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (you may store the other one in the freezer for later use)


2 tsp butter (plus extra if needed)
100 g diced smoked bacon or pancetta
3 large handfuls of stinging nettle leaves (washed and briefly blanched in salted water)
1/3 of onion or a whole shallot (finely chopped)
3 eggs 
200 g heavy cream or creme fraiche
1/3 cup of grated cheese like Gruyere or Edam
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1.       Preheat oven to 360 F
2.       In a pan, melt butter, brown the cubed bacon til crisp, the set bacon aside 
3.       Meanwhile, use a paper towel to smear some of the remaining bacon fat from the pan onto the bottom and sides of your quiche form
4.       Back in the same pan, sauté onions in remaining fat until translucent 
5.       Add the blanched and drained nettles to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes
or until tender (you can add more butter or oil to the pan if needed). Set sautéed nettles aside.
6.       Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, making sure it is large enough to      
cover the entire diameter and sides of the greased form, pushing the pastry against edge of the pan
7.       Prick holes all over the bottom of the pastry with a fork
8.       Distribute the cooked bacon along with its oil over the surface of your pastry
9.       Distribute cooked onion and nettle mixture evenly over the bacon
10.    In bowl whisk eggs, cream, nutmeg, and grated cheese 
11.    Pour the custard over the bacon and nettles
12.    You may grate some extra cheese on top if you like, then place in center of the oven to bake for 45-50 minutes at about 190C/380F
13.    Let rest on cooling rack