Monday, 29 June 2015

Cook House by James Byrne

The morning I picked all the elderflowers James Byrne came round to Cook House to take some photos. It all worked out pretty well as big bowls of flowers hanging around the place really brighten things up. James came to a supperclub many moons ago when Cook House didn't even have a name or a dishwasher... he took some lovely photos on that occasion and I've followed his career since. His work is always beautiful and it was a pleasure to have him back at Cook House snapping away, I don't even mind the photo of myself which is an incredibly rare occurrence...

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Elderflower Cordial

It doesn't feel right somehow, telling you how to make Elderflower Cordial while I have the heating on, rain beating against the window and am watching the fence nearly blow down in the ever present wind. I don't previously remember a year this windy; every day my container doors are blowing open and closed at Cook House and generally annoying the hell out of me. Where is summer?

A man came in the other morning for breakfast and remarked that he thought we'd had it, that brief spell in April, or was it May... and it filled me with sadness that that might actually be true; because all I'd been focusing on was that at some point, it must get nice, at some point perhaps I could go out without a coat on?

It rained nearly all day at Jesmond Food Market on Saturday, but on a very positive note that didn't put people off at all. It wasn't as busy as last month but it was still full of people shopping and eating all day, only this time they were wearing rain coats and were under umbrellas. I admire the British spirit, a bit of rain won't keep me from cheese and pies... oh no...

Back to elderflowers, lovely summery elderflowers... It surprises me each time I pick them just how much of elderflower they smell, it's really powerful. I picked a big bag full on the way down to Cook House the other morning, about 20 heads, that should make about 2 litre bottles of cordial. They are best gathered on a warm dry day, so good luck with that; and also when not fully opened yet, just on their way. The ones around the Ouseburn are pretty much spot on at the moment.

Pick out any insects that might be lurking and put the flowers in a big bowl, grate in the zest of 3 lemons and then cover with 1.5 litres of boiling water. Then leave the whole lot to sit over night. The next morning strain through a piece of muslin into a pan and add the juice of the 3 lemons and 1kg of sugar. Bring it all to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.

Pour the cordial into sterilised bottle and it's ready to use. So far I have used it in a salad dressing, as a cordial with fizzy water, in a cocktail with gin and soda which was delicious, and reduced a bit to drizzle over a lemon cake... 

I also experimented with leaving the elderflowers to infuse for a couple of days, and ended up with a really dark cordial, that tastes a lot heavier, I think I prefer the light bright one, but I might just be being deceived by the colour. Have a go and see what you think?