The Treats That Pass Us By

A highlight of studying real food and cooking from scratch is discovering all those little hints and tips, treats and surprises.  It’s wonderfully satisfying when you come across something that’s terribly simple yet joyfully delicious.  There’s so many of them out there and it’s got to be the easiest way to get people engaged and inspired to start cooking real food for themselves.  It’s exciting to think that I might stumble across something new tomorrow – note that when I say new, I mean re-discovering recipes, skills and techniques that we’ve lost over the years.

Now that it’s Autumn here in the UK, wonderful varieties of squash are starting to appear in the shops and on farmer’s market stands.  The seasonal glut results in very reasonable price tags and I’m always tempted by the myriad of autumnal colours and odd shapes.  Soon it’s going to be Halloween, that time of year when we waste copious amounts of perfectly good food…

Harlequin Squash

So here it is: when you cut your squash or pumpkin and scrape out the seeds, don’t throw them away!  I pop them in a sieve and separate them from the pith.

Harlequin Squash Seeds

Cleaned Harlequin Squash Seeds

After drying them off I have a couple of options; store and sow them to grow more plants, or prep and eat them.  More often than not I roast them in the oven with a tiny amount of oil and salt (150°C for about 20 minutes works but you might want to keep an eye on them and give them a shake).

Once cooled, they make a devilishly moreish and deliciously crunchy little snack!  They’ll happily take a little flavouring like paprika or cayenne pepper and they’re perfect served with drinks before dinner.

Roasted/Toasted Harlequin Squash Seeds

Elderberry Cordial

Yet another ‘Superfood’.  As long as you didn’t go too mad on picking the Elderflowers earlier in the year, the fruit of the Elder Tree can be foraged in Autumn and transformed into a number of delightful offerings. This year we decided on elderberry cordial for its lovely flavour, versatility in the kitchen, and medicinal properties (not only are they packed with antioxidants, but some studies have shown success in prevention and treatment of Influenza).

If you’re making cordial or syrup, you’ll simply require the addition of sugar, water and perhaps a few Cloves or Star Anise.

Raw Elderberries

 

Starting with your basket of Elderberry heads, the first thing you’ll need to do is separate the berries from the stalks.  This is important as Elder foliage is poisonous, but thankfully, it’s rather easy.  All you need is a regular fork.  Surprisingly satisfying it is too.

freshly harvested elderberries

Give them a good rinse to remove any creepy crawlies that may be lurking.

Pop them in a large pot or ideally a preserving pan, although not many people have these unlike in the good old days.  Top the pan up with just enough water to cover them, and then simmer for about 20 minutes.

Simmering Elderberries

Next is to strain the Elderberries through muslin cloth to remove the skins and all the little bits.  You’ll be left with a rather attractive looking liquid.

Making Elderberry Cordial

Nearly there.  Measure how much liquid you have, and then add about 450g of sugar for each pint (568ml). At this point you can add in some whole Cloves or Star Anise for a bit of background spice.  Boil for 10 minutes until thick and then remove any spices.

Bottle it up in sterilised bottles or jars and you’re done.  Keep it in your fridge once opened.

The children enjoy it diluted with water – particularly sparkling.  Now we’re looking forward to the colder months so we can drink it with hot water.

Bottle of Elderberry Cordial

 

Next year, Elderberry Liqueur…