Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Elderflower power

Creamy clusters of elderflower are perfuming hedgerows and lanes all over the country at the moment with their delicate fragrance of Muscat grapes. Collect them just-bloomed, wash carefully, pat dry and use in a recipe immediately.

Traditionally elderflowers, like many other flowers (primroses, cowslips and lime blossom, for example) were infused into vinegars, cordials and wine. Today they are mainly used in desserts and refreshing summer drinks. Add a single stem to stewed rhubarb or any fruit to give a compote, jam or fool a fragrant flavour. Alternatively, make an elderflower and gooseberry sorbet, elderflower fritters or a syrup to add to summer fruit salads.

For elderflower cordial dissolve 450g (1 lb) sugar with 900ml (1.5 pints) water, the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 2. Boil for 2 minutes. Add 12 elderflower heads. Stir, cover, leave until cold. Strain into a bottle. Chill. Serve diluted with sparkling spring water. It also adds a spritz to cocktails, and is great stirred in to custard or drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Edamame - soy British

Next month British-grown edamame beans will go on sale at 100 branches of the supermarket Asda.

Joe Cottingham, UK Young Grower of the Year 2008, has been growing a crop of these fresh green soya beans on a farm in Kent. This protein-packed bean is said to contain all nine essential amino acids and is usually imported frozen from the Far East.

Made popular in this country by Japanese restaurants, from Nobu to YO!Sushi, edamame are usually eaten as a starter or a side-dish, boiled in the pod and doused in a naturally brewed soy sauce or sprinkled with salt.
For a delicious summer salad, cook 300g of shelled edamame in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and cool under running water, then pat dry. Transfer the edamame to a bowl and add the 250g crab, 1 chopped avocado, 2 finely sliced shallots, 4 finely sliced radishes, 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp lime juice. Season, mix up and serve.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Broad beans feast

Broad beans are at their best at the beginning of summer, as they become tough and bitter towards the end of the season.

All the podding and shelling is worth it to retreive the smooth-skinned pale green beans inside their fur lined pods.

The beans have a nutty, chalky flavour and are best steamed or boiled until tender when they can be easily popped out of their skins.

To make a warm broad bean, streaky bacon and goat’s cheese salad, fry some chopped onion in a good knob of butter until golden, add some diced streaky bacon – cook until crisp. Add the cooked broad beans, some chopped flat-leaf parsley and a capful of red wine vinegar. Toss gently, scatter with goat’s cheese and season to taste.

The first crops of beans and peas need virginal, unoaked wines such as a citrussy Soave classico or try Spain’s version of Sauvignon Blanc, a grassy and crisp Palacio de Bornos Verdejo 2007, Rueda (£6.99, Waitrose).