Forage for Elderberries to make a syrup

elderberry elderberries syrup forage foraging september virus protection flu jam jars sterilise recipe

At this time of year the hedgerows are heaving with elderberries. Make your own Elderberry syrup to help protect you and your family from colds and flu. I like to take it daily by the spoon or I use it as a delicious topping to pancakes and desserts.

Foraging for elderberries

Start by picking as many elderberries as you can find. They often grow in large bushes around the edges of footpaths and fields. If you can, avoid picking them from the edges of busy roads because they pick up pollution from car exhausts. They are easily recognisable due to the fact that they look like little red umbrella shape branches with the berries at the ends.

I usually try to pick elderberries that I can see at or just above eye level. This is because any lower and they could have been peed on by a passing dog, or at traffic exhaust level. Most importantly I leave the highest elderberries for the birds to eat because this is their larder!

For my foraging walks I arm myself with a bag or basket and a small pair of scissors. Sometimes I even bring a small step up stool with me. Snip the sprigs off on the stalk just above the umbrella part of the sprig.

Rinse the elderberries

I like to aim for a decent large basin volume of elderberry sprigs. Next I use a fork to remove all of the berries from the sprigs into a large bowl.

You can do this by sliding the fork along the sprig from the stalk down to the berries, the tines of the fork do an excellent job of removing multiple berries at a time.

I often end up with purple hands at this stage! Consequently you might want to use gloves. Fill the bowl with water and leave the berries to soak.

Making the elderberries syrup

DRAIN. ADD SPICES. BOIL. SIMMER.

elderberry elderberries syrup forage foraging september virus protection flu jam jars sterilise recipe

Now drain the elderberries and transfer them to a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover them – only just. At this stage you can add some lovely warm and fragrant spices to add to the flavour of your syrup. I like to add – some grated ginger, a cinnamon stick and a few cloves. Next, bring the elderberries to the boil and then turn down the heat to simmer the elderberries for 15 – 20 minutes.

FILTER.

I use a jay cloth or other clean cloth such as a muslin and line a sieve into a measuring jug. Now squeeze as much liquid through the cloth as possible with gloved hands. Alternatively use the back of a metal spoon to push it through.

elderberry elderberries syrup forage foraging september virus protection flu jam jars sterilise recipe

ADD SUGAR AND LEMON JUICE. SIMMER.

You will need to add approximately 400g of sugar for every 500ml of liquid that you manage to collect in the measuring jug.

Next, clean the saucepan and then pour the sugar, strained elderberry liquid and lemon juice back in. Bring it up to the boil and gently simmer for about 10 mins until all the sugar has dissolved.

elderberry elderberries syrup forage foraging september virus protection flu jam jars sterilise recipe

COOL and STERILISE JARS

Leave the syrup to cool completely before you add it to small bottles or jars.

elderberry elderberries syrup forage foraging september virus protection flu jam jars sterilise recipe

Whilst the liquid is cooling, you could make sure you have some clean sterilised jars or bottles. I leave the jars open end towards the back of a low heat oven (gas mark 1 or lowest electricity setting). Instead you could run it through the dishwasher or use a baby sterilising fluid.

elderberry elderberries syrup forage foraging september virus protection flu jam jars sterilise recipe

LABEL AND STORE

I label my bottles with stickers or sharpie marker pens. I like to put the date and ingredients on. You can store the syrup in the fridge or freeze it- perhaps in an ice cube tray for small portion sizes and ease of access.

Ingredients list:

Elderberries
Water
Cinnamon stick, grated ginger, grated nutmeg, cloves ( all optional)
Caster sugar
Lemon juice (of 1/2 – 1 lemon)

Instructions at a glance

I’ve included this very brief instructions list because personally I hate to follow a wordy recipe. The above instructions should be helpful on first reading, but after that the brief instructions below should be all you need.

  1. Forage
  2. Rinse
  3. Boil with spices 15-20mins
  4. Filter
  5. Add sugar and lemon juice
  6. Simmer 10 mins or until sugar has dissolved
  7. Sterilise jars
  8. Cool
  9. Funnel syrup into the jars

Find out more about Elderberries, where to find them and their health benefits here on the Country file website.

For more ideas on recipes written by me. Check out my recipes page here

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Organise your freezer for back to school meals

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Find out how to organise your freezer to make back to school meals a breeze.

Is your freezer packed full of stuff? Mine was … a lot of it was just frosted up with ice.

Do you even know what is in your freezer? … I didn’t! But I did discover at least 10 meals ready and perfect for school evenings.

Read my account of how I plan to stay on top of organising my freezer from now on. Find out how I’ll be using my freezer to help with a monthly meal planning session.

As a teacher and mum, the build up of first day nerves is doubled. I dread the idea of cooking evening meals when exhausted after a full day at school.

My first idea was to do some batch cooking now whilst I have time and freeze portions for school day evenings.

There was problem with this is though…
I could barely open/ close my freezer drawers because they are so full!

What the heck did I actually have in there?

In my small three drawer freezer I had no less than 10 pre-cooked meals I’d cooked and saved previously. A bonus!

That is at least 10 evenings that I won’t have to cook after a heavy day at work.

I also had numerous packs of frozen fruit that I’ve got out of the habit of using. Oh, and an awful lot of ice clogging everything up.

Are you ready to organise your freezer?

First job: Defrost and clean out!

In the freezer drawers I found the usual frozen peas, sweetcorn and a HUGE amount of ice. I defrosted by turning off my freezer and using a silicone spatula to scrape away excess ice. I have heard of some people using a hairdryer to speed up the defrost.

Second job: Freezer audit

I am a creative problem solver. I ended up designing this freezer audit sheet to pin to the front of my freezer. Now I will know exactly what I have in there.

Third job: Labels

Sharpies are good for writing straight onto the top of each tub. Alternatively I’ve used stickers, or made my own with scraps of paper and sellotape for labelling each tub of pre-cooked meals.
My previous slovenly habit of chucking things into the freezer, meant that I had to guess at what some of my existing meals were! This will not happen in future now that I have a system in place.

Step four: Maintain organised status

I’ve allowed space on the freezer audit for listing the ready meals that I already have. I’ve made notes beside individual ingredients of potential meals that can be easily made using those things already in my freezer – eg- for every quorn and fish item in there I’ve made suggestions of meals to make.
This should take the thinking part out of my cooking – that is the part I find hardest when exhausted at the end of a day at work.

Two suggestions for managing and maintenance of the freezer audit.

1: Laminate the printable sheet and keep it on the front of the freezer.
Use a wipeable marker and cross out or wipe things off as you use them.

2: Commit to a monthly freezer audit and print out a new sheet per month – I kind of like this idea as meal planning could be done a month at a time and the job of auditing / defrosting will become so much quicker and less arduous the more often it is done.

If you’d like to have a go at this, feel free to make use of my Printout which can be downloaded here.

Check out this lovely recipe for Mediterranean baked fish. It’s and excellent one for batch cooking and freezing. Just make up the veg and stock before popping the frozen fish into portioned containers in the freezer.

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If you like this recipe, check out my recipes pages for loads more.

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Go ahead now, organise your freezer and make family meal prep on long school days a breeze!

Help! My teenager is a vegan

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Recently I had the pleasure of cooking with a teenager who had recently decided to eat a vegan diet. 

Worrying

When teenagers make such decisions it can cause us (parent’s, carers and sometimes even teachers) a bit of worry. 

We worry about their nutrition… How will they get enough or the right mix of proteins, iron, vitamin B12?
Will it cost loads more to buy substitutes?
Am I going to have to cook several different dishes.

Information


I spent some time putting together some reading materials for this young lady which I know she will dip into when she’s alone later. It covers matters such as protein complementation, plant sources of iron and how-to get B12 on a plant based diet. I will share some of the nutritional information with you below.

We chatted informally while we cooked and I managed to drop in some useful nuggets of info.


We looked through s few cookbooks, some vegan, some not and discussed how we might cook certain dishes. 

Why

Many teenagers experiment with their ethical beliefs and dietary preferences. It’s a natural way of finding out who they are. Our job is to support them as best we can.

I’m not a dietitian, but I do have an understanding of nutrition. It was not hard at all to find some reading materials that would suit her. 

Turn it around

Showing an interest in food, ethics and diet in this way is a great way to get our young people into cooking and to start them taking an active role in their own nutrition. 

My advice…

Don’t fight it…. Go with it, support them on their journey!

Romanesco gnocchi vegan dairy free recipe sundried tomato cook from scratch


Pictured is the dish we made. It’s Romamesco sauce with pasta. Adapted from Joe Wicks recipe for Romamesco Gnocchi. Romanesco sauce if often made using peppers, for my recipe I have just used sundreied tomatoes from a jar. We added yeast flakes (excellent sauce of B12) instead of parmesan.

Romanesco gnocchi tasty alternative adapted vegan dairy free recipe sheet free

You can use my adapted recipe here if you’d like to try it. My (non-vegan) children love this sauce either on Gnocchi or stirred through noodles and it freezes really well in an ice cube tray for future use.

For other recipes – vegan and non vegan, check out my recipes page here

Some nutritional information to help

What about protein?

One of the important things to remember when following a vegan diet is that plant sources of protein do not contain a complete set of the Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) needed by the body.

Most plant based proteins are of Low biological value (LBV) proteins – an incomplete set of the EAAs.

A vegan diet can provide all of the essential amino acids necessary for good health by combining a variety of sources of protein across the meals in a day. This is called protein complementation.

Protein complementation

This means that the amino acids in one LBV source of protein may work together with the amino acids in another source of LBV protein to form a complete set.

Some examples are below: Beans on toast, rice and bean salad, lentil soup with toast, nut butter sandwich, cereal with almond milk. There are many more.

Protein complementation does not have to make use of food that is eaten in the same meal, but could be spread across a day or so for example.

There are some exceptions which do contain the full set  of amino acids and are known as high biological protein sources. These are quinoa and soya. Soya comes in many forms to be used in cooking such as tofu, soya beans, soya milk, tvp (textured vegetable protein). 

B12

The other nutrient which you should be mindful of is vitamin B12. 

B12 is not found in plant food sources. For a vegan, this could be found in fortified foods such as cereals which state that they are fortified with vitamin B12. Or they could consider taking a supplement. 
There is a good product called Energevita yeast flakes which contain B12 which can be sprinkled on top of foods such as salads or pasta dishes instead of cheese.

Marmite is also a good source of B12 a spoonful of which can be used in all sorts of cooking to add flavour and nutrition. I have even been know to drink a spoonful in a cup of boiling water!

Iron and Vitamin C

Vegans and vegetarians should also ensure that they eat a variety of foods rich in iron and combine them with a good rich in vitamin c.

Vitamin c helps the body to absorb iron which is more difficult to absorb when taken in plant based sources than animal based sources. 

Try not to worry

I hope this has helped you not to worry. Try to see this as a new adventure, an education and a way of expanding yours and their culinary repertoire. Vegan cooking does not have to be expensive, or include lots of unknown fussy, hard to find ingredients.

Pear crisp – autumnal baking

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It’s that time of year when the leaves turn golden and hasn’t it happened quickly this year! I’ve started getting Hygge (Danish for cosy and snuggly for the winter months with blankets, candles, slippers and comfort food). The apples and pears are hanging off the trees and many have already fallen-  they are begging to be picked right now! I want to share my new pear crisp recipe with you.

Here’s a lovely recipe I made with my Saturday class this week and it’s too easy / good / satisfyingly “hygge” not to share with you.

It’s a warm, spiced crunchy crispy and sticky comforting dish. It can be eaten with fingers or served with ice cream, cream or custard for a dessert. The children in my class were eating it as soon as they walked out of the door. I try to get them to save the food they make so that their parents can at least see what they’ve been doing. I wonder how often the food actually makes it to their homes!

So here’s the recipe

pear crisp crumble apple kids cook children cook cookery lesson autumn autumnal tasty delicious easy aromatic wholesome healthy spiced cinnamon oats pears apples brown sugar lemon juice

 

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A bit more about the recipe:

Pear crisp is a baked pear dish with a spiced oaty crumble sprinkled over the pears and then baked. It’s great as a dessert or finger food. It would be a super tasty fireside snack or even camp food. It could be made in a foil parcel – yummy!

In our lesson:
Knife skills

This was a good opportunity for us to learn about using knives safely. My classes are mixed ages and so younger children have more assistance. I only allow usage of knives with 1:1 supervision and children are taught correct knife handling techniques for cooking.  I was so proud to see the progress and confidence of some of the children who had been attending my classes for some time.

Food science

We used lemon juice on the sliced pears while we prepared our oaty topping. The children learned about the use of an acid (lemon juice) to prevent the enzymic browning that happens once fruit has been cut and exposed to the air.

Nutrition

We also discussed fibre and it’s importance in our diet along with the multitude of vitamins that we get from eating fruit.

Working as a team to clear up afterwards!

Most lessons end with a quick washing up session. Roles are divided between the children (and me) and we work as a team to get the job done. Children covet certain roles – Equipment organiser is a popular one! It’s also a great opportunity for a chat and we have fun getting the job done together. I just wish that washing up was as fun at home!

If you’d like to know more about my cookery classes, please have a look here:

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