Sunday, 20 June 2010

Elderflower Cordial

I made a batch of Elderflower Cordial last year and we still have a tub of it in the freezer so I didn't think I'd bother making another batch this Summer, seeing as we're trying to empty the freezer before we go to Brunei.  But then I noticed that there were several elder trees growing in the vicinity of the school...  I decided to indoctrinate my class into the delights of foraging!!

To reassure, we did have a long chat about the possible dangers of eating things 'from the wild' - berries, etc - and how we should always check with an adult before picking and eating anything from the hedgerows, but talk over, we set out to pick the requisite 40 heads of elderflowers needed for the cordial. 

Armed with scissors the task was soon accomplished...

And back in school we soon had ourselves a batch of cordial infusing, and a delightfully fragrant classroom!

We did shake the elderflower heads to remove as many bugs as possible, but you're not meant to rinse the flowers as you then wash all the pollen away.  As you can see, there were still plenty of teeny bugs floating around in the bowl.  You can only imagine the excitement this caused!!

The cordial has now been strained (no more bugs!) and sampled enthusiastically by the whole class.  I'd guess there was a 75% approval rating, which I didn't think was bad, considering how fussy 6-8 year-olds can be.  We still have nearly 2 litres of undiluted cordial left though...  I'm pondering making up jugs of it and selling it at the school gate after school one day this week.

Elderflower Cordial

40 heads of elderflowers
2 lemons, sliced
3 1/4 lb granulated sugar
3oz citric acid (from a chemist)
3 pints boiling water

Mix all the ingredients in a clean container, cover and leave for up to 5 days.  Strain, dilute with water and drink.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Custard Cookies

I love anything with custard.  In fact, I consider custard to be a pudding in itself!  During my first year at university when I was in catered accommodation I remember that there always used to be a large 'cauldron' of custard to accompany the hot pudding (often something utterly bizarre such as pineapple and coconut crumble).  Forget the wacky crumbles, I'd usually just have custard, greedily ladled into a bowl (thank heavens for self-service). 

And yes, I do eat the skin!

So when I saw a magazine article which included a recipe for 'Soft Custard Cookies' I felt that I had to give them a try.  The recipe is from the January 2010 edition of Good Housekeeping, and comes from TV chef Phil Vickery. The custard takes the place of egg in the recipe and the result is a soft, almost cakey cookie with a pronounced flavour of vanilla from both the custard and the white chocolate (I also used vanilla sugar and added 1/2 a tsp of vanilla extract - I love vanilla).

The recipe calls for 100g of Bird's Custard, made-up and cooled.  This obviously means that if you had custard leftover from a meal you could use that, but I made up a batch specially, putting the rest into ramekins to set solid for our pudding last night.  Hot custard is lovely, but cold set custard is gorgeous!

The recipe is as follows:

125g (4oz) unsalted butter, softened
125 (4oz) caster sugar (or vanilla sugar)
100g (3 1/2oz) white chocolate, finely chopped (and do chop it finely otherwise the dough will be hard to slice)
200g self-raising flour (I ended up using 250g)
100g (3 1/2oz) cold Bird's custard, made to packet instructions

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.

Add the custard, chocolate and flour and mix well.

Form the dough into a sausage shape, 5cm diameter, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.  (***Note - the dough was way too sticky for me to do this so I added an extra 50g of flour.  It was still very soft, but manageable***)

Preheat oven to 180C/350F.

Unwrap the dough and slice into 1.5cm thick cookies, and place onto a greased or lined baking tray.  Leave room between them as they will spread.  (***I got 20 cookies from this mix and used 2 baking trays***)

Bake for about 15 minutes until the cookies are beginning to turn a light golden brown around the edges.
Leave on the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.

I had never heard of using custard in a biscuit recipe before, and an online search showed that it is somewhat of a speciality of Phil Vickery.  I couldn't find this particular recipe online, but did find a similar one of his: White Chocolate and Cardamom Soft Custard Cookies.  I can imagine that this would be a great flavour combination and one I'm now keen to try.