Elderflower Glazed Lemon Loaf Cake

The elderflowers are blooming and I like to make cordial at this time of year. I love to smell the fragrance of elderflowers drifting on a summer breeze and a great way of using them is in cakes and icing. The flowers are abundant in early June, just remember not to take too many as they turn into lovely elderberries later in the year.

We love Starbucks lemon loaf cake in this house, but its so easy to make at home and the addition of elderflower syrup really makes for a lovely summer dessert.

This was also a great excuse to use my lovely new Nordic Wear fluted loaf pan – the latest addition to my collection!

The cake itself is a moist pound cake, flavoured with lemon juice, zest and a little of the elderflower syrup. The glaze is simply icing sugar, lemon juice and elderflower syrup mixed together which is both sweet and tart.

Ingredients:
170g butter at room temperature
250g caster sugar
250g plain/all purpose flour, sieved with 1tsp baking powder
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1tbs vanilla extract
1tbs elderflower syrup
1/2tsp salt
Zest of one large lemon and half the juice (save the other half for the icing)
60g sour cream

Glaze:
Approximately 150g icing sugar (sieved)
Juice of half a lemon
1-2tbsp elderflower syrup – find a recipe for the cordial/syrup here

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and brush your loaf pan with melted butter and lightly dust with flour. The Nordic Wear pans are non-stick anyway, but I usually butter them too

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, you can do by hand or in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Then add the eggs a little at a time until fully incorporated, scraping the bowl as needed.

With the mixer on slow, add the vanilla, lemon zest and then alternatively add the juice, flour elderflower syrup if using and sour cream until everything is just mixed together.

Put the batter into the prepared baking tin and bake for 15 minutes, before lowering the temperature to 160°C/325°F for 50 to 60 minutes – check with a toothpick after 50 minutes, if it comes out clean, its ready.

Leave to cool in the tin for around 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack over a tray to catch any icing run-off!

When the cake is quite cool, make the glaze – simply mix the sieved icing sugar with the lemon and elderflower syrup until you have a smooth glaze that you can spoon over the cake. Not too thick and not too runny, you want it to sit on the cake.

Leave to set before serving with berries, cream or ice cream

Homemade Christmas Wreath

I love a nice, fresh Christmas wreath, but they are so very expensive to buy (the good ones anyway), so its a great idea and a nice seasonal activity to make your own.

The first thing you need to decide upon is what kind of base to use, I’ve used a wire ring and covered it in moss, but you can also get a foam one that you soak first to keep the foliage fresh. Both are fairly inexpensive, but a wire one is reusable.

The only other equipment you need is some florist wire, some wire cutters and a hook for the door if you don’t already have one – I used a Command hook that is temporary as I didn’t want to screw a hook into my front door!

If using a wire ring, it’s a good idea to cover it in nice fresh moss that will keep the base moist and help your foliage last longer. You can buy moss from a florist, or you can take a basket and go foraging. The best time to go is after the rain. I found some in my garden, but for the majority, I went to the local woods and found plenty at the base of the trees. Just take care not to take too much from the same place.

Using the wire, wind it around the moss to cover the ring completely. Covering the ring with moss can be a messy business, so its a good idea to do it outside!

Once you have covered the ring in moss, its time to attach your foliage of choice. I foraged some, but also bought some nice Christmas stems too. I also used cinnamon sticks, dried lotus heads, pine cones and dried orange slices tied on with twine. I couldn’t find any crab apples, or else I would have used some of those too.

I’ve gone for a simple, traditional wreath, but the designs are unlimited. Just be sure there are no wires sticking out of the back that might scratch the door.

Once a week, spray with water, or if you have a foam ring, you can soak it to help stop the foliage drying out

Crab Apple Jelly

Crab apple jelly is a staple foraging recipe and really easy to make too. If you don’t have a jelly bag, a coffee filter or a muslin square in a sieve over a bowl will do the job.

Crab apples are ready from late August onwards, depending on what type you can find. If you are unsure whether they are ripe or not, cut one open – if the seeds are dark brown, then they are ripe.

If you don’t have a crab apple tree in your garden, then you can find them growing in the woods and parks or I’ve heard that you can sometimes find them at a farmers market or farm shop, although I’ve never seen them for sale.

Crab apple jelly can be made in small quantities and there is already lots of pectin in them, so you don’t need to go out and buy special jam sugar. However, if you are nervous about it setting, then you can always slice in a lemon (with the pips) which will help.

The final colour of your jelly will depend on what colour your apples are, but as long as you don’t squeeze or prod the bag, it should be crystal clear.

Ingredients:
Crab apples
One lemon
White granulated sugar

I picked up a couple of varieties here, the larger oval ones are always ready in August, but the smaller ones are usually later. I think everything has ripened quicker in the recent heatwave

Method:
Wash the crab apples and remove any spent blossoms (beards) and stems. However, if your apples are really tiny, you can leave them whole, but its best to cut off any bruises and if you are worried about any creatures lurking inside then cut them in half.

Place them in a saucepan, or a preserving pan if making a larger quantity, along with the sliced lemon and add enough water to almost cover the apples.

Bring the pan up to the boil and then simmer gently for around 40 minutes, or until the apples are soft and broken down, you can give them a gentle mash with a potato masher to help this along.

These little jars make great gifts, especially if you dress them up with a fabric cover

When ready, carefully fill your waiting jelly bag or prepared sieve and muslin with the fruit and leave to drain preferably overnight until every last drop has strained through. Just remember not to squeeze or ‘help’ the liquid come through, or your final jelly will be cloudy.

When you are ready to make the jelly, place a few plates into the freezer so that you can test if the jelly is ready to set.

Weigh the liquid and then weigh out three quarters of sugar to the liquid (I do admit to asking Alexa to help me with the sums!)

Place the liquid into a saucepan, add the sugar and stir over a medium heat until you are sure all the sugar has dissolved.

Turn the heat up until boiling and skim off any foam that rises to the surface. This will help your final jelly be as clear as possible.

Boil for around 8-10 minutes before testing to see if its ready to set. You can also use a candy thermometer. When it reaches 105°C/220°F, it should be at setting point, but the wrinkle test will work just as well.

Take a teaspoon of the jelly and drop it onto a cold plate and push with the back of a spoon. If it wrinkles, then it’s ready to pot.

Using a ladle and preferably a funnel, pot into sterilised jars and put the lids on right away.

Keep in a cool dark place until you are ready to use.

The little jars are great to take along on a picnic, but they also make nice gifts or part of a hamper

I served the jelly on a big, craggy fruit scone, just the thing for a late summer afternoon in the garden

The jelly can be served as an accompaniment to roasted or grilled meat, or served on toast, muffins or scones.

Skillet Baked Eggs with Creamed Greens and Mushrooms

I loved baked eggs and I make them a lot, I normally use ramekins see here and here, but its a great idea to do the whole lot in a skillet as there is less washing up and the edges get all crispy in the oven.

This recipe uses my favourite cavolo nero kale and rainbow chard, but any dark green leafy vegetables can be used like spinach, savoy cabbage or spring greens. I like to use the stems on the chard too, but they do take a little longer to cook.

I’ve used Comte cheese here, as it’s such a good melting cheese and is great with the eggs too. Gruyere, Emmental, Gouda or good old Cheddar would all be good too.

Lots of people add garlic to their baked eggs and if that’s your thing, go for it. I’m not a big fan and prefer this without, but sometimes add a few chives for extra flavour.

I’ve used an 8 inch cast iron skillet here which is nice for two people to share but you can always double the recipe in a larger skillet for a family size dinner. Just cover the handle of the hot skillet if any children are eating!

Ingredients:

2 Eggs
Large bunch of your chosen dark leafy greens I have used kale and rainbow chard – well washed
A handful of chestnut/cremini mushrooms
Comte cheese
150ml Double/heavy cream (a small pot)
1 heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard
A little butter and olive oil for sautéing
Thyme, a couple of teaspoon of the leaves stripped from the stalks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Crusty bread and butter to serve – I’ve toasted mine using a griddle

Method:

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F

Wash and prepare the vegetables by first stripping off the tough ribs from the kale and then if you are using both parts of the chard, remove the stems and chop them fairly small.

Plunge the kale and chard greens into the boiling water and blanch for just one minute. Take them out and place in iced water to stop the cooking. When cold, drain, squeeze out the excess water, roughly chop and place to one side.

Heat your skillet and add a little butter and olive oil (which will stop the butter burning). When sizzling, add the chopped chard and sauté for a couple of minutes or until translucent, then add your sliced mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are nicely browned and then add the thyme and the rest of the greens until heated through.

Add the cream and mustard, heat gently until thickened and check the seasoning. Turn off the heat and stir through the cheese.

Make a couple of hollows with the back of a spoon and carefully crack an egg into each one, taking care not to break the yolk if possible. Then season the yolks with a little salt and bake until the whites are just set. The idea is for the yolks to stay runny so you can dip your toasted bread in, so keep an eye on them.

This recipe can easily be scaled up for more people and its nice to place on the table for people to tuck in.