Posted in From the Kitchen

Everything Elderflower

The frothy white blossoms of the elderflower are, for me, the big thumbs up that summer is on its way. Along with the first cut of grass I don’t think there is a smell more evocative of warm sunny days than the somewhat elusive, and definitely distinctive, scent of the elderflower. This year the blousey flower heads are in abundance around the lanes of Mogilino and today I collected yet another batch. Already, I have my blossoms and lemon slices resting in a pan of simple syrup and tomorrow the resulting elixir will be strained into sterilised bottles – hey presto!, it really is as easy as that to produce a batch of Elderflower Cordial. A failure simply isn’t possible!

Of course there are many lovely things you can add to your pantry that begin with those very same ingredients and  Elderflower Champagne is on my list for tomorrow. Well, it wont be on the shelves tomorrow. It takes a few days of bubbling away before that delicate and most refreshing of summery brews will be ready to quaff, and really, if I’m honest, there’s not much chance it will spend long in the pantry anyway…

But back to the cordial. Yes, it makes the most wonderful drink, diluted with still or sparkling water or a splashed into a glass of white wine or Prosecco. I also I love it as a warm drink in the winter when its medicinal properties help chase away an impending cold. But don’t overlook the many other inventive ways it can be used! Here are six of my favourites to get you started.

Thorncroft Wild Elder Flower Cordial will do very nicely if you didn’t get around to making a batch for yourself this year! Make a note to yourself to check back later in the year to harvest the elderberries that will appear late summer to early fall, depending on where in the world you live. I will have some lovely ideas for ways in which you can use those too.

Elderflower Marshmallows.

Homemade Elderflower Marshmallows
Elderflower Marshmallows

A far cry from sickly, over-sweet, store bought creations, these delightful little puffs of yumminess are the very epitome of summer. Here is a recipe from Country Living that you might like to try.

Elderflower Marshmallows

Elderflower Panna Cotta.

Homemade Elderflower Panna Cotta
Elderflower Panna Cotta

Light and delicate, creamy and wobbly, this Panna Cotta is a lovely way to end a special meal. The following recipe is from River Cottage where they suggest you serve it with a Gooseberry coulis. I have to admit, Elderflowers and Gooseberries are a match made in heaven.
Elderflower Pannacotta

Fruit and Flower Elderflower Jellies.

Don’t be hemmed in by this particular recipe’s choice of fruit and flower petals – just be sure your flowers are edible! Or if you prefer leave out the flowers entirely. The resulting jellies are so pretty they are almost too beautiful to eat.
Elderflower Fruit and Flower Jellies

Elderflower Ice Lollies.

Homemade Elderflower Ice lollies
Elderflower Ice lollies

When the heat is on what is more refreshing than that blast from our childhood past, the Ice Lolly?! Well, here,courtesy of The Greedy Vegan, we have a very grown up version of that old friend. The addition of blossoms, thin slices of lemon, berries or perhaps sprigs of mint jazz the lollies up a bit if you want them for a special occasion.

Elderflower Ice Lollies

Raspberry and Elderflower Sorbet

Homemade Elderflower and Raspberry Sorbet
Elderflower and Raspberry Sorbet

A refreshing sorbet from Donna Hay that is a beautiful blushing pink in colour. Although it fairly screams ‘Summertime’, if you have raspberries in the freezer then it can be a very pleasant way to end a heavy winter meal.

Raspberry and Elderflower Sorbet

Sambocade

Sambocade - A Medieval Cheesecake
Sambocade – A Medieval Cheesecake

Sambocade is a real treat from the past – a medieval elderflower cheesecake made with ricotta and cottage cheese (or other curd cheese). A very nice baked cheesecake that we must thank Nutmegs Seven for bringing to our attention.
Sambocade

Posted in around the homestead, Gardening

A Beautiful, Mess(y) Garden

A Bulgarian Garden
In the Garden

Is your veg plot well under way? It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the garden goes from dirt to rampant growth. Although there is huge satisfaction to be had from growing a fair portion of our food,there comes a time when we need a beautiful space to relax in.

Hunkering down by the wood stove during the winter months is, without a doubt, the best way to relax when winter winds are nipping at fingers and toes, but now the coin has flipped who doesn’t want to be outside enjoying the beautiful Bulgarian weather?

So, how about some projects that beautify your outside living areas and at the same time make use of all those sticks and stones and pruning bits and bobs that may have accumulated when you were spring cleaning the garden?

Sounds like a multi win situation to me!

Tanya at Lovely Greens has come up with a real winner – using raspberry canes to  create a wattle weave edging for your flower or herb beds.

wattleweaveTake a look at her video tutorial Wattle Weave Edging

 

 

 

gardenmarkers

 

 

If you’re looking for a quick and easy project to get you started, how about these charming twig plant markers, courtesy of the original domestic goddess, Martha Stewart.

I just hope your potato peeler has more oomph than mine…

Here is a tutorial for the plant markers

Perhaps your garden could use more of a statement piece (or if you have a lot of sticks and twigs you need to dispose of).

A Twig Arbor
A Twig Arbor

If so you should  head over to Better Homes and Gardens and check out how to construct this fabulous arbor with designer Bim Willow.

I hope this has inspired you to create some rustic beauties for your garden – and if it all goes to pot, stash the evidence in the barn and when the days turn chilly use it to fire up the petchka!


	
Posted in around the homestead

The House at the End of the Garden

outhouse-510225_1280

When I started looking to buy a house in Bulgaria I knew that an inside toilet was certainly not a given. None the less imagine my dismay, when on viewing this house I discovered that, not only was the toilet outside, but it was a squatty.

I was reminded of a high school trip to Italy that was something of a teenage disaster from the get-go. Firstly, my best friend and I were given the dubious distinction of riding in the same carriage as the staff supervising the trip, thus effectively quashing our plans for all kinds of late night high jinx. The call of nature gave us eventually provided us with an excuse to break free of our stuffy confines, only to be confronted by several of our travel mates contemplating the yawning chasm between train cars that had to be negotiated in order to get to the toilets. To cut a long story short a fair few of us couldn’t make the leap and opted to cross our legs all the way to Milan. I can’t say how far that actually was, other than it is A Long Way, and something only a teenage bladder would consider possible.

Once we arrived in Milan there was a stampede to the WC’s where a rather stern woman asked us if we wanted ‘to sit’ while offering us a sheet of toilet paper. Gaping in confusion, and at risk of holding up the queue, we were quickly herded in the other direction where on pushing open the stall doors were confronted with a hole in the ground. Never having seen such things we promptly high tailed it back to the coach waiting to take us on to Ravenna, unrelieved.

Yes, well did I remember that trip when I first looked at the privy. But, as all the other boxes were ticked it would have been foolish to pass up this house based purely on its toilet facilities, or lack there of. Also, the agent assured me all could be put to rights in about four days at a very reasonable cost. “Good” I thought “because I can’t use that!” But suddenly it seemed ridiculous to think that I couldn’t use a hole in the ground. Would rather not, maybe. Would REALLY rather not – but couldn’t? There and then I decided that until I conquered my fear and loathing of the dreaded squatty it would stay.

I have to say there was nothing nasty or unpleasant about it. It didn’t smell bad or have any other unwholesome surprises, but I quickly discovered its use is an acquired skill and not as easy to adopt as one might imagine. However, having left myself no other option, I soon overcame my dislike, distaste and distrust of my humble squatty.

Nearly two years on my bathroom is still awaiting new tiles and decorator touches but, I’m pleased to say, that in pride of place it has a fully functioning, sit down, flushable toilet.

The Cookbook

Mogilino House in Winter
Mogilino in Winter

I arrived in Mogilino at the end of March 2013 and, so far, living here has been a wonderful experience. Sure enough the language is a challenge and having English speaking neighbours that so kindly come to my rescue when I run into problems has made me very lazy in coming to grips with Bulgarian (but I WILL make a serious effort over the winter!).

There is one thing that I do struggle with however and that is the plight of some of the animals, dogs and cats in particular. Unsurprisingly a few of the homeless are now keeping me company. There are amazing people all over the country doing wonderful work but, as well as a huge commitment of time, it takes money. Food, housing, vet bills, rehoming costs…it’s a bottomless pit.

So, as I’m nearing the completion of my current writing project I’ve decided to try to raise a bit of money to help with those never-ending costs. However, I figure it wouldn’t hurt to do something nice for ourselves too! With that in mind the first of the fundraising projects is a cookbook featuring favourite recipes, those you find yourself reaching for the most, since coming to Bulgaria. I’m hoping some of you will help the cause by submitting some of your best loved recipes too.

I’m particularly looking for typically Bulgarian dishes; recipes from home (wherever home for you might have originally been); perhaps recipes you’ve developed to make old favourites that are hard to find or expensive here; recipes that make use of the wonderful local produce.

If you would like to include a short intro telling us a bit about the dish – or yourself –  that would be great, but if you’re shy it is by no means mandatory.

All profits from the book will be donated to help animals in need in Bulgaria.

 

If you would like to submit a recipe please email it to:

Botb@gmail.com In the subject line please put “recipe submission”

Or if you prefer, use the form below.

 that would be great

Personally, I love cookbooks so this is one project I am really looking forward to!