Strawberry vinegar (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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June 2020, homemade strawberry vinegars. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are well. I can hardly believe that we are halfway through the year already! Where does the time go? This is such a great time of the year for homegrown produce. The strawberries in particular seem particularly good this year. Very fragrant and sweet. To mark midsummer on the calendar, I decided to make some strawberry vinegar this week to capture the flavour of the season.

Wild_strawberries_growing_in_a_Scottish_garden_alongside_a_bowl_of_cultivated_strawberries
Wild and cultivated Scottish strawberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have a few wild strawberry plants growing around the garden and I managed to harvest a handful of ripe berries before the birds got to them. The cultivated ones came from a local farm shop. Perfectly formed heart-shaped fruit, sweet and delicious, and perfect for flavouring vinegar.

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Ingredients and equipment for fruit vinegar making. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In the past I have used white balsamic vinegar as a base, but as the fruit is so sweet this year, I used a plain white wine vinegar. A clean screw-top bottle for the wild strawberry vinegar, and a wide-neck screw-top jar for the larger berries. Make sure the lids are non-corrosive and that everything is very clean for perfect results. The method is the same for any berry.

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Strawberry vinegar preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Wash and pat dry the fruit and remove stalks and hulls, etc. Prick larger fruit with a small skewer a few times before putting in the jar to help release the juices. Depending on the time of year you are making fruit vinegar, you may want to warm the vinegar slightly before you pour it over the fruit. The temperature here was quite warm this week, so I just used the vinegar straight from the bottle. Simply cover the fruit with vinegar and seal it up. How much fruit you use is up to you, I like to use a fair bit to start with to give a more intense flavour at the beginning.

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Maturing on with windowsill. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Leave the vinegar on a bright windowsill, and give it a light shake each day. You will see the colour change quite quickly. I leave the first lot of berries in the vinegar for 3 or 4 days, then I strain off the vinegar and add a fresh batch of berries. After the second addition, put the vinegar in a cool, dark place and after this time you will end up with a vinegar ready to use in about a month. For longer storage, remove the fruit after a month. rebottle and seal until ready to use.

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Strawberry heart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As I type this last paragraph, it is still very bright here at just after 9.30pm and the sky still has patches of blue here and there. Until next time, I wish you a happy summer solstice and midsummer eve ūüôā

Grow your own salad

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May salad of homegrown herbs, flowers and leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope the sun has been shining on you these past few days. It has been glorious here, although we did have some very unseasonal gale-force winds whipping up a storm last weekend. Luckily, no serious damage done.

My post this week is more of a “show and tell” rather than a recipe or garden feature. I’ve never been one for growing much in the way of salad leaves, but this year, with more time on my hands in early spring, I decided to try my hand. With vegetable seeds in high demand, I was limited in choice, but¬† 2 of my favourites were obtainable and that’s how I ended up sowing pea shoots and rocket.

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Easy to grow, pea shoots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Pea shoots are a crop that you can grow all year round indoors. You just need a container and some compost or soil, and watering can on stand by. I planted up a couple of pots and have had them in the conservatory since the end of April. The shoots don’t like direct sunlight, just bright light and warmth. After 3 ¬Ĺ weeks they are ready to harvest. The seed packet says that you might get a second harvest so I have cut the first few stems just above a pair of leaves about 3cm from the bottom of the stalk, and now I will wait and see if they shoot up again.

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Homegrown rocket. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rocket is a leaf for out-of-doors growing according to the pack, but I have grown the leaves on a windowsill indoors before. I did have the ground space outside but I put my seeds in pots because I was convinced the young seedlings would get eaten by the big fat pigeons that strut around the back garden hoovering up the leftovers from the bird feeders. The pots are easier to protect and keep out of greedy beaks.

I planted a few pots with seeds at the same time as the pea shoots. The seeds are so tiny,  it is impossible to sow them thinly. After 2 weeks or so, they were ready to be thinned out. I was able to replant some of the bigger seedlings but the tinniest ones made excellent peppery sprinkles on a salad. By the way, these are the pretty heart-shaped leaves around the edge of the plate above.

Rocket plants grow in clusters of leaves, so when you harvest, snip leaves sparingly from each plant so that the rest of the plant can regenerate.

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Seasonal salad herbs and flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Around the garden at this time, I found other herbs and flowers to add to my salad plate. Choose young sorrel leaves to eat raw as they are soft in texture and have less of an astringent taste. Salad burnet is one of my favourite herbs. I have had a pot growing in the garden for several years. Although it looks very delicate with it’s soft, bright, serrated-edged leaves, it is a hardy herb and keeps going from year to year without much looking after. The leaves have a mild, fresh cucumber-like flavour.

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Sweet berry vinegar and thyme dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A simple combination of salad ingredients requires just the simplest of accompaniments. A while ago I posted on how to make your own flavoured vinegars. The link to the basic recipe can be found by clicking here . At the bottom of the recipe you will find ideas for other flavourings including berries. The vinegar above was made last year using some of the wild strawberries that grow around the garden and I also added a few sprigs of fresh thyme. A simple salad dressing, no oil nor added sugar required.

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Homegrown salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I will probably be back in the garden next time, until then, take care and enjoy the fine weather.

Cooking with rose petals – make your own rosewater, rose petal syrup and dried rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

 

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Trug of freshly picked fragrant rose heads. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It is pleasantly fragrant in the garden at the moment, thanks mostly to two highly scented rose bushes. One variety is very old, a Felicia rose, with gnarled, stooped stems. However old it is, the foliage is vibrant green and  healthy-looking  and the bush produces an abundant supply of pale pink, Turkish Delight-scented flowers from late spring through to late summer. The other, a Gertrude Jekyll, I planted last year. The flowers are larger, deeper pink in colour and the fragrance slightly sweeter and more aromatic. Both roses have lots of petals per head, and are perfect for use in the kitchen.

Albertine_and_Gertrude_Jekyll_roses
Pale pink, Felicia rose, and the deeper pink, Gertrude Jekyll rose. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The preparation for any recipe using rose petals is the same. Choose fragrant roses with undamaged petals; they need to be free from pests and chemical sprays. Rose heads are best picked when almost fully open and still fresh. Cut the stems in the morning before the sun becomes too hot Рthis helps preserve colour and fragrance. Carefully pull the petals from the head, keeping them as whole as possible, weigh them, and then place in a colander or strainer. Fill a bowl with cold water and dip the colander in the water to submerge the petals. Swirl gently the colander and then lift out. Shake gently to drain and shake further to remove the excess water.

The petals are fine to use damp for rosewater, syrup and any recipe where they are cooked in liquid, but if you want to dry them, spread them out carefully on sheets of absorbent kitchen paper or a clean tea towel and pat them dry with more paper or  clean cloth. Leave to dry naturally, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour or until they feel dry to the touch.

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Making homemade rosewater. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rosewater – makes approx. 250ml

  • 25g fragrant rose petals – approx. 4¬†full¬†heads of rose petals
  • 250ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp vodka (optional) – this helps preserve the rosewater for slightly longer
  1. Prepare and rinse the rose petals as described above. Place in a sterilised, clean preserving jar or heatproof jug, and pour over the boiling water.
  2. Cover the top with a piece of muslin or kitchen paper and leave to steep until completely cold.
  3. Strain through muslin into a sterilised, clean jug and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible. Mix in the vodka if using.
  4. Decant into a sterilised, screw-top bottle or jam jar. Seal, label and store in the fridge. Use within 4 to 6 weeks.

Note: homemade rosewater is weaker in dilution that the distilled rosewater you can buy ready-made, so you will probably need to use more in your recipes.

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How to make homemade rose petal syrup. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rose petal syrup – makes 350ml

  • 85g fragrant rose petals – approx. 9 full heads of rose petals
  • 450ml cold water
  • 265g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  1. Prepare and rinse rose petals as above, then place in a clean, large stainless steel saucepan. Pour over the cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 20 minutes – all the colour will come out of the petals. Strain through muslin into a jug, and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible.
  3. Return the liquid to the saucepan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir well over a low heat to dissolve the sugar –¬†the liquid should now be, magically, very pink.
  4. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until lightly syrupy. Pour into sterilised bottles or jars and seal well. Label and cool. The syrup will keep unopened for 6 months, once opened keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Rose petal syrup is perfect for fruit salads; adding to cocktails; diluting with sparkling water for a refreshing summer cooler; for pouring over pancakes or for drizzling over freshly baked cakes.

How_to_dry_fresh_rose_petals
Drying rose petals. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Dried rose petals – prepare rose petals as described above and dry thoroughly. Spread out across the layers of a dehydrator, making sure they are well spaced out, keeping them¬†in as much of a¬†single layer as possible. Cover and dry at 40¬įC for 1 ¬Ĺ to 2 hours, swapping the trays around every 30 minutes, until the petals are dry and parched. Leave to cool then place in a clear screw-top jar and store in a dark, dry place. Petals will fade after a few months,¬†and are¬†best used within 4 to 6 weeks. Sprinkle over salads, fruit desserts or use as a natural cake decoration.

Homemade_rosewater_dried_rose_petals_and_rose_petal_syup
Homemade rosewater, dried rose petals and rose petal syrup. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My next post will be very rosy and will use all 3 rose recipes. See you in a few days!

For other recipes using rose petals see my previous posts Rose and raspberry vodka (gluten-free, dairy-free) and Sugared rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free

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Coconut granola (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Tray-baked homemade coconut granola. Image by Kathryn Hawkins

Breakfast is the one meal of the day that I am more choosy about than any other. I rarely have the same thing 2 days running, and often can’t face breakfast at all. At present, I am alternating between gluten-free toast, fresh fruit and coconut yogurt, and my own recipe, granola.

I turned to making my own granola after finding most ready-made combinations either too sweet or so hard and dry that they were more tortuous to eat than enjoyable. This granola recipe is easy to make and is much tastier than anything I can buy, plus you can chop and change the flavourings to suit your taste and whatever you have in the cupboard. If you like dried fruit in your granola, it is better to stir it into to the tray of still warm, cooked ingredients once the tray is of the oven – this helps to keep the fruit soft and stops it drying out and hardening in the oven.

Makes 8 servings

  • 175g thick milled or jumbo oats
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 50g coconut sugar or light brown sugar
  • 50g flaked coconut
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  1. Preheat the oven to 150¬įC (130¬įC fan oven, gas mark 2). Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
  2. Put the oats, salt and sugar in a large bowl and toss in the coconut, coconut oil and vanilla paste. Mix well until well coated in oil.
  3. Spread the mixture evenly across the tray. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring 3 times during baking, until lightly toasted. Leave to cool on the tray.
  4.  Transfer to a clean storage jar and seal well. Delicious served with coconut rice milk and fresh berry fruits or sliced banana.

If I have them, I often add pecan pieces, flaked almonds or pumpkin seeds for extra crunch.

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A favourite breakfast: homemade coconut granola. Image by Kathryn Hawkins

Rose marshmallow (gluten-free, dairy-free)

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Homemade rose marshmallow. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

One of my¬†favourite flavours married with a much loved sweetie¬†are a match made in heaven in this recipe. Some shop-bought marshmallow can be a bit on the chewy side to my taste, so my version may be a bit different to what you’ve come to expect. This recipe makes a lighter, fluffier marshmallow, but if you want a firmer texture, it is worth experimenting by adding more gelatine.

If you can make meringue, then marshmallow is just one step on. You will need a sugar thermometer to take away the guesswork when making a sugar syrup. Other than that, the most important thing I can say before you get started, is to get yourself organised and have everything lined up and ready to go.

Makes 1 x 18cm square of marshmallow which cuts into 9 chunky pieces

  • 5 leaves good quality gelatine
  • 2 medium egg whites or 2 single egg sachets dried egg white powder
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 50g liquid glucose
  • Pink food colour gel
  • Good quality rose water (I use Nielsen Massey)
  • 25g cornflour
  • Sugared rose petals to decorate
  1. Line a deepish 18cm  square cake tin with baking parchment. Cut up the gelatine into small pieces and place in a small heatproof bowl. Add 75ml cold water and leave to soak for 5 minutes, then place in the microwave and cook on High for 30-40 seconds until dissolved Рmicrowave in 10 second blasts to avoid overheating, and do not boil. Leave aside.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites or powder in a large, grease-free, heatproof bowl until very stiff.
  3. Put the sugar in a small saucepan with the glucose and 50ml cold water. Heat gently, stirring, until melted, then raise the heat and let the mixture bubble until it becomes clear and syrupy and reaches 118¬ļC on a sugar thermometer.
  4. Remove the syrup from the heat. Start whisking the egg whites again and gently pour over the hot syrup in a slow and steady stream. Keep whisking as you pour in the liquid gelatine.
  5. Continue to whisk to form a thick and glossy meringue-like mixture – this may take up to 5 minutes depending on how much heat I retained.
  6. Working quickly before the mixture begins to set add sufficient food colour gel and rose water to taste.
  7. Scrape the marshmallow into the lined tin and smooth over the top as best you can. Leave to cool, then put in a cool place (not the fridge) for 3-4 hours until completely set and firm to the touch.
  8. To finish, dust a tray with the cornflour and turn the marshmallow on to it. Peel away the parchment. Using a large bladed knife, cut into 9 squares and toss in the cornflour to coat lightly. The marshmallow is ready to eat, or it will store, layered on pieces of baking parchment in an airtight container, in a cool place for up to 2 weeks. Note: homemade marshmallow does not like the fridge and will start to dissolve in damp conditions.

For an extra rose flavour, top each piece with a sugared rose petal – I gave a recipe for these in my July 19th 2016 post.

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Homemade rose marshmallow. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Geranium leaf sugar (gluten-free, dairy-free)

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Potted rose geranium (Pelargoneum graveolens). Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m not a huge fan of cultivated geraniums growing in pots, but I do like the wild pelargoniums and the fragrant, culinary variety, pictured above. The leaves smell of exotic, spiced rose and the petals are not only very pretty, but make a lovely addition to a summer salad – see my post: Salad herbs and edible flowers on July 16th, 2016.¬†The leaves make a lovely flavouring for syrups and sugars, perfect for livening up a fruit salad.

The plants aren’t hardy enough to survive outside without shelter and consistent good weather, so for convenience, in the summer months, they most often stay in my greenhouse, in pots. I bring them indoors once the temperature drops and the days get shorter in length.

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Ingredients for rose geranium sugar. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Choose small to medium sized leaves, undamaged, and snip off the stalks. Rinse gently in water, then pat dry with kitchen paper, taking care not to bruise them, and making sure they are completely dry. Put 125g caster sugar into a small bowl and mix in the leaves, then transfer to a small clean, dry, sealable jar. Cover securely and label. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for about a month before using. Discard the leaves before serving. Ideal for sprinkling over berry fruits – especially raspberries and strawberries – pancakes and cakes. The sugar will keep for 3 to 4 months; the sugar will form clumps if condtions are damp.

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Homemade rose geranium sugar. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins
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Fresh raspberries with rose geranium sugar. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Rose and raspberry vodka (gluten-free, dairy-free)

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Home-grown Scottish raspberries. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Raspberries grow very well here in central Scotland. They love all the rain we have! Unlike other species of berries I grow, raspberries seem to ripen without the sunshine, and I am always taken aback to see how quickly they turn from pale pink to rich pinkish red, even during the dullest days of the Summer.

The first plants I bought for the garden when I moved here were 6 raspberry canes. That was Autumn 2004, and here we are some 11¬†¬Ĺ¬†years later, still enjoying their produce. The variety is Glen Ample; I chose this raspberry because the fruits are large and juicy, perfect for jam making. I have been picking the berries for about 3 weeks now, and already, I have packed away over 5kg in the freezer. I rarely have time to make jam in the summer, so I do my preserving from the frozen berries later in the year. Raspberries are one of the most successful frozen fruits for jam making, they lose little of their flavour or setting properties through freezing.

Ingredients_for_making_rose_and_raspberry_vodka
Rose and raspberry vodka ingredients. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from enjoying the raspberries fresh and in jam, I do like to put some in sweet vinegar for salad dressings, and I also make flavoured tipples for a festive drink. This is one of my favourites.

Makes: 70cl

  • 4 small fragrant rose heads
  • A large handful of fresh raspberries
  • 70cl bottle gluten-free vodka (such as Smirnoff – look for a vodka that is made distilled from corn, potatoes or grapes)
  1. Carefully rinse and pat dry the rose petals and raspberries, taking care not to bruise or crush them.
  2. Break up the petals and put them in the bottom of a large sterilised, sealable glass jar along with the raspberries.
  3. Pour over the vodka, seal and label. Gently swirl the contents every day for 2 weeks.
  4. After 3 weeks or so, taste the vodka and see whether it is to your taste. If the vodka is flavoured sufficiently, strain completely and rebottle in a clean, sterilised bottle. For¬†more flavour, strain and add fresh petals and/or raspberries, then continue to store as above. Store in a cool, cupboard to preserve the flavour and colour. You’ll notice that after a few days, the colour quickly fades from the petals and berries¬†and begins to colour and flavour¬†the vodka.
  5. Enjoy the vodka chilled over ice, or use as a base for punches and longer drinks. For a sweeter drink, add 25-50g caster sugar to the mix along with the petals and fruit.
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Rose petals and fresh raspberries in preserving jar. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins
Rose_and_raspberry_vodka_in_preserving_jar
Rose and raspberry vodka. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Sugared rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free)

One of my favourite culinary flavours is rose but it is a flavour that can easily overpower other ingredients, so you do have to use just the right amount in your cooking. One of the best ways to achieve this is to use the petals.

I couldn’t believe my luck when I realised¬†that the ¬†beautiful rose pictured above, Rosa Felicia, well established in the garden when I moved in, was not only abundant¬†with flowers, but the fragrance and flavour is sublime.

Whilst I haven’t managed¬†to make¬†my own rose water with any success, I have put some in white balsamic vinegar to use as a dressing, and I usually steep some in vodka, ready¬†for a festive tipple – post to follow soon. Most often,¬†I use dried and fresh rose petals to decorate cakes and fruit dishes, and¬†I coat¬†some¬†with sugar¬†to keep¬†as an out of season decoration.

To make sugared rose petals, always choose¬†a rose¬†with a scent otherwise there will be no flavour, and ¬†choose smaller, softer¬†petals as these will be nicer to eat. Choose rose heads higher off the ground so there is no danger of animal “spoiling”, and pick the rose once it has just opened – if it is too tightly in bud the petals will be difficult to break open; a rose that is too open will have lost colour and fragrance.

Gently wash the petals РI put them in a sieve or colander and dip them in a bowl of water to remove any dust Рthen lay them out on kitchen paper to dry. It is better to leave them to air-dry if it is warm, but if time is short, gently pat them dry using kitchen paper, taking care not to bruise them. All you need then is egg white, caster sugar, plus a bit of time and patience.

My preference is to use powdered egg white Рa one egg sachet is more than sufficient to cover lots of petals. Alternatively, you can use a small fresh egg white, just beat it until it is fluid and frothy. Put the egg white on to one saucer or small plate, and sprinkle a shallow depth of caster sugar on another.

Using tweezers, dip a petal in egg white and then brush off the excess white using a small paint brush. For best results, brush off all bubbles or pools of egg white to achieve a smooth, thin coating. Gently push the lightly dipped petal into the sugar and sprinkle over a little more to coat the top. Lift out with tweezers, gently shake off the excess sugar and place on a board lined with baking parchment. Continue the process to coat as many petals you need.

Once you have coated a few petals, you will need to remove clumps of sugary egg white from the sugar, and replace it with fresh. Leave the petals to dry at room temperature, covered loosely with another sheet of baking parchment, for 24 to 48 hours until dry and crisp. The sugared petals can be stored in between sheets of parchment in an airtight tin for several weeks. After about 3 months, rather disappointingly, the colour will fade and the flavour will be lost, so make sure you use them up in time Рthey do make a lovely sugary, floral snack as well!

 

 

 

 

Salad herbs and edible flowers

 

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Summer salad herbs and edible flowers. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

It seems a bit weird writing a post about salads today when it’s gloomy, grey and lashing down with rain. No matter, it is the time of year when a salad is on my menu just about every day of the week, regardless of what’s happening with the weather!

I stopped growing my own lettuce and salad leaves a while ago because they were taking up too much space in my greenhouse. Instead, I started to grow some more interesting herbs and edible flowers that you can’t buy very easily. Now, I have a variety of lovely looking plants in the garden, with the added advantage of alternative flavours, textures and colours for my dinner plate.

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Scottish smoked salmon salad with sweet wild strawberry vinegar.          Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

At the end of my post, I have compiled an ID photo of the herbs and flowers in my salad above. Below is a brief description of what each one tastes like (by the way, you can make the strawberry vinegar by following the same instructions on my previous post for Sweet Lavender Vinegar):

  • Land cress (American cress) – looks and tastes like watercress; grows in small clumps of glossy green leaves; loves damp soil. Leaves are best eaten small (the larger ones can be bitter and very pungent).
  • Sorrel – larger leaves are cooked like spinach, but the smaller ones are delicious raw in salads. They have a citrusy, tangy taste.
  • Salad burnet – one of my favourites; serrated leaves and tufty pinkish-red flowers, both with a mild cucumber flavour. Makes a lovely potted plant. Prefers limy soil.
  • Nasturtium – you can eat the leaves large or small, and also the flowers if you like – I find them a bit big for my palate and I prefer their vibrant splash of colour in my garden. I prefer to eat the smaller leaves which have a cress-like, earthy flavour. Very refreshing.
  • Herb flowers – herbs with tougher leaves like thyme and rosemary are a bit chewy and pungent to eat with soft salad leaves, but if you pick the flowers, they will add a subtle flavour of the herb, and are much easier to eat.
  • Edible flowers – these add a splash of colour to any dish. Flowers from scented plants like rose geranium are often slightly sweet or earthy with a faint flavour of the plant scent. Flowers such as Viola or Garden pansy have very little flavour but do make a pretty addition amongst the green leaves and herbs. If whole flowers seem a bit daunting, break up the petals and sprinkle “confetti”-style over your plate – they make a beautiful natural decoration on iced cakes and cookies as well.
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An assortment of the Summer salad herbs and edible flowers from my Perthshire garden. Copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

A taste of Summer: Sweet lavender vinegar (gluten-free, dairy-free)

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Scottish garden lavender. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

We haven’t had the best of weather so far this month, here in central Scotland. Too much rain to be able to spend quality time outdoors, but it has been warmer, and we have had a few precious sunny hours. The lavender buds¬†are just about to bloom,¬†making them¬†perfect for harvesting.

I have several lavender bushes all round the garden, ranging in colour from pale, pinky-lilac to deep, blueish-purple. Apart from looking delicate and pretty, the soothing scent that lavender brings to the garden is one of the true aromas of Summer.

One of the best ways to continue to enjoy this sensual memory,¬†even when the gloomier months of the year set in, is¬†to pop¬†a few stems in a bottle of vinegar. In a few weeks, you’ll have the sweet smell of¬†lavender and its¬†delicate floral notes, preserved perfectly, in a bottle. It makes a lovely gift too.

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Sweet lavender vinegar ingredients. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

For best results, choose lavender stems with buds that have swollen and are about to break flower. Lavender keeps fresh in water for 3 days after cutting, but keep out of sunlight in order to prevent the buds opening. Change the water and trim the stems a little each day.

To make sweet lavender vinegar:

  • Wash and sterilise a sound, sealable glass bottle large enough to hold 250ml liquid.
  • Trim down¬†12 stems of lavender¬†to fit neatly inside your bottle and discard any leaves. Gently rinse and pat dry – dip lightly in a bowl of water and dry on absorbent kitchen paper.
  • Gently¬†crush the bud end of each stem¬†between your¬†fingers to release the aroma, and¬†arrange in the bottle, buds downwards.
  • Slightly warm 250ml white balsamic vinegar (agrodolce white condiment) – place on a sunny windowsill, just¬†to take any chill out of the liquid – then pour into the bottle using a small funnel. I use white balsamic vinegar because it is naturally sweet and enhances floral and citrus notes in herbs and flowers. For a more traditional vinegar, choose a good quality white wine or cider vinegar.
  • Seal with a non-corrosive, acid-proof lid or stopper. Label and leave¬†on the kitchen work top¬†for a couple of weeks, gently turning the bottle upside down and back each day.
  • After 2 weeks, taste for flavour and either strain and rebottle ready for long-term storage, or continue to store as it is, allowing the flavour to slowly increase. For an intense flavour, strain the vinegar after 2 weeks, rebottle with more fresh lavender, and store until required. Stored correctly, in a cool, dark cupboard, your vinegar should last for up to 12 months.

You can use the same method with other fresh flowers and herbs. Rose and Calendula petals work well for flowery vinegars, whilst bay, fennel, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme are good choices for herbs to flavour vinegar.

For berry vinegars, just add small or alpine (wild) strawberries to vinegar, or small blueberries or blackberries. Gently wash and pat them dry before using.