Monthly Archives: October 2010

Green & Simply Delicious Suppers

Watercress and Rocket Pesto Mushrooms for the tofu pate Turks Turban Squash Golden Beetroot

Last Friday I went to a cookery class at Rachel Demuth’s new Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath. I couldn’t have been happier with the menu. I learned how to make tofu pate, pumpkin curry, saag paneer (we made the paneer ourselves!), irish soda bread, stir fried cavalo nero, apple and saffron samosas… the list goes on.

As always, it was a wonderful day spent with the friendliest foodies you’ll ever meet. I’m grateful for the time and the fresh set of ideas to bring to my own kitchen.

Stay tuned for recipes from the day (the apple and saffron samosas alone were a revelation worth sharing).

Click here to see the full photoset on Flickr.

Eater’s Digest: Celebration Food

Victoria Sponge CakeI don’t know what’s come over us lately. Okay, maybe I do: house guests, apple season and the smell of winter in the air. It’s got us pining for “celebration food”: rich meals, hot desserts, double cream, English ale and lots of wine.

The nice thing about celebration food is that it seems to inspire everyone to get into the kitchen (or out in the orchard) and participate in the festivities. After all, celebration food is not just about the eating, it’s about getting happy with friends and appreciating all the amazing food we have access to, be it from the shop or from the orchard. Even the hangovers don’t seem so bad when there’s leftover apple pie in the freezer.

Victoria Sponge Cake

Tim is becoming quite a pro at the good ol’ Victoria Sponge Cake (an English classic, though relatively new to me). Note to folks trying this at home: you can’t make whipped cream with single cream, there isn’t enough fat in it. Use double or whipping cream.

Victoria Sponge Cake

Recipe: High Fearnley Whittingstall’s Victoria sandwich recipes

Vanilla Ice Cream

A necessary addition to apple pie. This was possibly the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had: made in the ice cream maker from David Lebowitz‘s recipe in The Perfect Scoop.

David’s recipe seemed to have been made for my purpose:

Everyone should gave a great recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream in their repertoire. Here’s my favorite, which you can serve with anything, from a freshly-baked fruit pie, a warm berry crisp, or simply smothered with dark chocolate sauce or caramel sauce and toasted nuts.

Best vanilla ice cream?

Recipe: Vanilla Ice Cream

Pumpkin Soup

Tim made two batches of this delicious soup last week, the first with a butternut squash, the second with what may have been a kabocha squash. Both were delicious and simple to make with basic ingredients: squash, cream, butter, sage, onion, stock, salt and pepper.

Best Butternut Squash Soup

Recipe: Pumpkin (or Winter Squash) Soup from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Cauliflower Cake

With 10 eggs and 250g of parmesan, the cost of this Ottolenghi masterpiece alone makes it celebratory. But it is so delicious, and gaining popularity (see the post over at Smitten Kitchen).

Cauliflower cake

Recipe: Cauliflower Cake

Cauliflower Cake

Cauliflower cake

Made with a whopping 10 eggs, this cauliflower cake is more like a cross between a cake and a fritatta. But never mind the name, this “cake” is spectacular, “one of the best things you’ve ever made,” says Tim.

It’s another recipe from Yotom Ottolenghi which appeared in last week’s Guardian. In addition to eggs and cauliflower, the cake is dominated by strong flavors of parmesan, basil and rosemary. Because it’s Ottolenghi, the recipe is a bit of effort, but well worth it. The result is delicious and if you can manage some self control, the leftovers keep for days and days and make for uber easy lunches during the working week.

Cauliflower cake

The cake is best at room temperature, so it would pack very well for picnics or hikes – I’m definitely going to whip up one of these for my next day-long ramble in the country. Pimpest picnic lunch EVER.

I also reckon this cake would be wonderful with other vegetables, particularly peas and broccoli. Next time I’ll experiment. But this time, the only change I made was to cut down the olive oil… the original recipe called for 100g, but as I poured the olive oil from the bottle, 50g seemed like more than enough. I don’t THINK it made a difference – with all the cheese and eggs, this cake was plenty rich. Or should I say satisfying? “Rich” food is all to often associated with “guilty pleasures”, but you shouldn’t feel guilty about eating this cake. It’s pure, simple and satisfying. Paired with a crunchy salad, it’s the ultimate light and healthy lunch. Eat up.

Cauliflower cake

Cauliflower cake

Recipe adapted from Yotom Ottolenghi’s recipe for cauliflower cake on guardian.co.uk. He uses twice as much olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cauliflower, 650g-700g
  • 1 large red onion, peeled
  • 50g olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 10 medium free-range eggs
  • 20g chopped basil
  • 180g plain flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 220g grated parmesan, grana padano or other mature cheese*
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Melted butter, for greasing
  • 2 tbsp black sesame seeds (or black onion seeds or plain sesame seeds)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Break the cauliflower into medium florets, put them in a pot with a teaspoon of salt, cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes, until quite soft. Strain, and leave in the colander for a few minutes to get rid of all the water.
  2. While the cauliflower’s cooking, prepare the batter. Cut a few 0.5cm rings off one end of the onion and set aside (these will go on top of the cake); coarsely chop the rest. Heat the oil in a pan and on a low heat sauté the chopped onion and rosemary for eight minutes. Remove from the heat, leave to cool down, add the eggs and basil, and whisk.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and turmeric into a large bowl, and add the parmesan, one and a half teaspoons of salt and plenty of black pepper. Add the egg mix and whisk to eliminate lumps. Add the cauliflower and stir gently, trying to keep some florets whole.
  4. Use baking parchment to line the bottom of a 24cm round cake tin with a loose base. Brush the sides with butter, put in the sesame seeds and toss them around so they stick to the sides. Tip in the cauliflower mix and arrange the onion rings on top.
  5. Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set. Serve just warm or at room temperature.
Makes: 8 generous servings
Amount per serving: 377 Calories | 21.1g Fat | 22.2g Protein | 26.1g Carbohydrates | 3.4g Fiber

 

*Vegetarians take note – parmesan cheese is not vegetarian, so go for an alternative, non-animal-rennet-based hard cheese – Soster makes one, and I’m sure there are others.

Peppers galore after the first frost

Pepper harvest

If I were a keener gardener than I might have been prepared for last night’s frost. Instead, I awoke to sparkling blades of grass and some very droopy looking pepper plants.

Effects of the first frost

My reading tells me that my tender pepper plants will die after the first frost, so I decided to harvest the lot – and what a lot it was. My peppers did very well this year – we’re talking dozens of romano peppers and even more jalapenos.

But alas, the frost came earlier than the peppers could ripen and most of the romanos are still green. Will they ripen off the plant? I’m leaving them in a warm sunny spot indoors – time will tell.

In other gardening news, my tomatoes seem to have fallen prey to some kind of scurvy:

Something's wrong with my tomatoes

The green ones were happy, but they ripened all blotchy and unappetizing-like. So I picked all the green ones, which I’m looking forward to roasting with some eggplant, chili, thyme and those romano peppers… if they ever manage to ripen.

Excited about mushrooms

Puffball mushrooms on the farm!
Two exciting mushrooms have popped up in the fields out back.
The first, rows of puffballs, about the size of golf balls (above). I love these little guys, how they gleam pearly white against the green gas. Better still, they’re edible! I hear they go well with eggs.
The second mushroom is a bit more mysterious, but I THINK it’s a growing parasol (below). Can any mycologists in the audience confirm?
Interesting mushroom

Is this the secret to lifelong health and happiness?

My thoughts on dog ownership, six weeks on.

Jay's catch face

Last month, I got a pet dog. His name is Jay and he’s a 17-month old border collie, born to working sheepdogs in the Brecon Beacons (Wales), and sold to a woman in Cardiff as a retirement present for her father.

Border collies are among the smartest dog species, and rank #1 in intelligence according to several surveys of varying credibility. They were bred to herd livestock and are said to have an intuition that goes well beyond basic instinct. As such, border collies need a lot of stimulation, both mental and physical.

The Cardiff family couldn’t keep up with Jay and, being compassionate people, decided to find him a new home that was better equipped to deal with his boundless energy.

It was around this time that I decided to bring a dog into my home for the first time since I was 15. My reasons were myriad, but boiled down to this: I love dogs and I’ve been wanting one for a while, but held off because I felt too transient for dog ownership. However, with “indefinite leave to remain” looming on the horizon, I’ve decided to stay put for a while here in the British countryside, a beautiful place with lots of space for a dog to run around in. Besides, I’ve always felt like my walks in the country were short a devoted dog bounding along by my side.

I has a stick!

And so, after a harrowing trip to a dog shelter and a few frustrating calls to rescue centres, I decided to go the “free to a good home” route. Preloved.co.uk, a forum for used furniture and second hand cars, is also a stockpile of unwanted pets. This is where I found Jay, my preloved border collie. To his prior owner’s credit, they brought him to us to make sure he was going to a good home, and were super happy that his new home had so much countryside for him to play in, and work-at-home owners to give him attention all day long.

But what about me? My last dog was a basset hound, on the opposite end of the smarts spectrum to border collies, and about 5% as active. I knew border collies were smart, but the most interaction I’ve had with the breed is passing one with their owners on country walk and thinking “that looks like a good dog to take on a walk!”

Of course, what my memory failed to recall is how often those walkers were sheepherders, using their dogs for what they were bred for.

Sheepherder in Seatoller

So my first week with Jay – a week of endless walking, ball throwing, nighttime barking, incessant leash pulling, and seemingly endless shedding – caught me completely off guard. I felt exhausted, sore and, most of all, guilty.

  • Why did I wait until AFTER adopting a border collie to actually read about them and what they require?
  • Am I really ready to devote at least two hours per day to this, the amount of time necessary according to Border Collie Rescue?
  • Is two hours really enough, when Jay seems thoroughly miserable and hyper when he’s not outside chasing a ball?
  • Am I just another irresponsible dog owner who adopted a dog on a whim?
  • Jay was given up once, what makes me think I’m so special? What’s the difference between me and his previous owners? What’s to keep Jay from winding up back on preloved.co.uk?

Is the dog bowl half full or half empty?

The answer, of course, is neither – a dog’s food bowl should either be in the process of being emptied (into the dog’s tummy), or not around at all. Such a feeding schedule helps establish routine, prevent accidents, and establish your position as “the leader”.

The importance of routine feeding is one of the first things I learned about dog ownership, partially from this website, but also from dog trainer Rachel McHugh who came to the cottage three days after Jay arrived to show me the ropes and hopefully get Jay and I off to a good start.

The two hour session was more of a lesson for me than for Jay. Dogs are creatures of habit, and they need a leader, a so-called “alpha dog”. Without a leader, dogs don’t know who to follow, so they spend all their time jumping off the walls, trying to figure out who the pack is, and who they needs protect.

Of course, Jay doesn’t need to protect anyone – I’m the leader. The trick is teaching the dog that so he can calm down and chill the eff out. This is where my training comes in.

Leadership is earned through “confident, authoritative, consistent behavior on the part of the owner.” It begins in the home, with routine feeding and walk schedules and consistent messages about what is (and what is not) good behaviour.

Jay gets a long walk in the morning, a short play session in the afternoon, and another long walk in the evening. He gets fed after his long walks. We never feed him from the table. If he barks at us while we’re eating, he gets 20 seconds of alone time in the bathroom (he quickly unlearned this annoying habit – a relic of being fed from the table by his previous owners – within a few days). He is not allowed on furniture (fortunately, he’s never tried, and I’m not about to encourage him). He gets to play with his ball on my terms, when I want to – the rest of the time, the ball stays in the cupboard.

Jay mushroom hunter

Like I said, first week was hard. Jay and I were both a little dumb-struck by the new routine. But after that week, we started to calm down. I realised that if I had the energy to set up the routine, hire a dog trainer, and spend endless hours reading about border collies and dog training on the internet, then my desire to own the dog was more than a whim.

It helped that I had people around to encourage me, especially Tim and my family. Tim kindly keeps telling me what a good job I’m doing, and helps out immensely with walks and the training. My mom and sister, both animal lovers and horse owners, have encouraged me through their own stories of training their two horses. It helps knowing that my bouts of guilt are normal. My mom says

 

I have never had a pet that I did not feel some angst about. With the fish, the amazingly intelligent Betas, I felt guilt that their bowl was too small, their lives too lonely and boring. With cats came guilt over keeping them indoors and not being able to handle them due to allergies. With my birds, who really belong with a FLOCK in the jungle, not living abnormal lives in a cage I feel guilt…With the horses, I feel guilt over every hour they must spend in that barn, for every time they’ve run out of hay in their stalls and suffered hunger, because horses are made to graze almost constantly…

 

With pets it’s much like having a child… enormous rewards, incredible joy and gratification, but always that nagging realization that what I had to give would never be enough, there would always be days when I did not have enough time, or money.

It’s me or the dog? It’s me AND the dog.

Jay and I both need to change. And it’s here I get back to my original question:

Is owning a dog (or any pet) the secret to lifelong health and happiness?

I guess that depends. What are you willing to put into it? Are you ready to change your own life to provide an environment that produces a happy, well-behaved dog? Do you view those changes as things that will make you a better person in the grander scheme of things?

Because that’s what owning a dog is – completely, utterly, life-changing. Where once I was able to basically do whatever I want, with only myself to worry about, I must now:

  • Establish a routine that works for me and the dog, and stick to it
  • Walk the dog every day, twice a day, whether I feel like it or not
  • Think about who’s going to care for the dog if I go away for the day, a weekend or longer
  • Vacuum way more regularly (Lord Dyson, you are my hero)
  • Handle animal faeces on a daily basis
  • Spend hours and hours training the dog to be obedient
  • Learn to be patient – as smart as Jay is, it will still take months and months of repetitive training to get him to learn the most basic commands
  • Learn to be consistently confident and authoritative with Jay so that he learns who’s boss
  • Care about someone other than myself for a change

Jay’s previous owners decided that, after 17 months, their circumstances meant they couldn’t keep Jay around. As for me, well, I want to believe that the trials of pet ownership are well worth it for the rewards to come.

But right there is MY biggest challenge, staring me right in the face:

I need to learn to love the process of owning Jay, and not only the product.

I'm coming to get you

I recently bought a book called Train Your Dog Like a Pro by Jean Donaldson. I felt like the Introduction was written for me:

Some people love cooking, while others cook only insofar as they must eat and are unable to afford restaurant meals every night.

Similarly, trainers love training, they love the process, they find it fascinating. They are “process seekers”, not “product seekers”:

…product seekers, those who do not become engaged even a little with the process of any task that requires significant time investment, famously peter out unless they have unearthly and steely discipline.

How often in my life has this been true? Could training Jay teach me to be a “process seeker”? Could I learn to love training the way I already love cooking?

I don’t know, but I’m willing to try.

Small improvements = huge progress

I was commiserating with my sister last night about pet ownership and she reminded me, “you need to reward small improvements.” I sometimes forget this, expecting Jay to make huge progress in one training session, but dogs move slower than that. Jean Donaldson calls it “biological speed”.

[Dog training] forces us to slow down from techno-speed back down to bio-speed. But however good for you this is, it will absolutely prove part of the challenge.

A challenge, yes, and already I’m feeling the burn. There is no instant gratification with dog training, so I might as well enjoy the journey, right? Or at least, this is what I keep telling myself. Can a person learn to be patient just through willpower alone?

I guess I’ll find out, because ultimately, I can only see good things coming out of this, both for me AND the dog.

I will learn to be patient, optimistic, in-the-moment and confident. Jay will learn his place in the world, who’s in charge, who gives the treats and the cuddles (and who can take them away). I get to stop worrying about staying fit, because taking care of this dog is like an endless workout in itself, and usually way more rewarding than the gym. And most importantly, I’ll wind up with a smarty-pants dog who’s calm, loving, and an amazing frisbee partner.

Of course, all of these changes are slow to come. I still have my moments of angst, and Jay is still far from being the dream dog who always comes when he’s called, walks with a loose leash at the heel position, and doesn’t chase sheep or bite the postman (yes, this happened, and my stomach turns at the thought of it).

But I’m trying to stay positive and be happy with the small improvements. I’m trying to embrace training. Most of all, I’m trying to give Jay a happy home.

His previous owners said one of the things that drove them nuts is that Jay was “always around”, following them all over the house and garden. Indeed, Jay certainly lets you know when he’s getting bored. But these days, with our walk routine in place and our training sessions coming along, I usually find him like this during the day:

Passed out

Passed out, at the foot of the bed. I think this is contentment. I hope so, because it certainly works for me.

Ultimate “Veggie Burger”

Does this really qualify as a

But is it a burger at all?

You could argue that Heidi Swanson’s “Ultimate Veggie Burger”, featured on her blog, 101 Cookbooks, and in her book, Super Natural Cooking, is not a veggie burger at all, but a different kind of sandwich altogether.

The basic premise: veggie burgers are often way too “dry and bready”, so turn the burger patty into the bun and fill that with all your toppings.

To me this recipe violates veggie burgers are all about: the overwhelming satisfaction of taking a soft delicious bun, filling it with a substantial patty and delicious toppings, then eating it with your hands. However, in my research of ultimate veggie burgers, time and time again I came across posts recommending Heidi’s burger, so I felt I had to give it a try.

How did it stack up? Surprisingly well on all accounts but the most important of all: flavor. I found it rather bland, and quite unsatisfying. Her recipe makes 12 “mini burgers”, which means you can have a few and try different toppings (fillings?) in each. But in the end I felt like I’d eaten a bunch of little appetizers, and not a meal.

  • Ingredients – 2/4 – While the short list of ingredients is certainly inviting, two of these ingredients make me feel like this recipe was created by someone who does all of their shopping at Whole Foods. “Sprouted garbanzo beans” and “micro sprouts” are not exactly easy to find. Yes, you can use canned chickpeas instead, and yes, the “micro sprouts” are optional. But beyond this, there isn’t much else going on: a little cilantro, lemon zest, bread crumbs, onion, eggs and salt. On the positive side, the chickpeas outweigh the breadcrumbs: this is not a bread burger.
  • Preparation – 3/4 – I must give this recipe props for preparation – it’s so wonderfully easy. Just throw it all in the food processor and bla-zam. Burger mix. Of course, if you don’t have a food processor, the story changes – minus one point for special equipment.
  • Texture – 3/4 – Not perfect, but definitely above average. My hippy organic tinned chickpeas still had some bite to them, 4 eggs added moisture, and I love a burger that uses raw onion in the mix.
  • Structural integrity – 4/4 – I must hand it to Heidi, her burgers held together, despite being sliced in half and used as the bun. They didn’t crumble, or mush, but held their own as a supportive wall around my myriad of toppings.
  • Flavor – 2/4 – Boring. More salt may have helped, but there wasn’t much going on in these burgers to begin with. A burger should be bold, flavorful, enough to be noticed over the toppings and the bun. Even without the bun, these burgers didn’t seem to stand out as having much flavor at all. The lemon and cilantro were far too subtle. This would work in a salad, but it fails in a burger.

2hstar

Overall rating: 2.8 out of 4

101Cookbooks 101Cookbooks Does this really qualify as a Does this really qualify as a

Toppings

Heidi recommends “topping” these burgers with avocado slices, “Cipollini” onions, sliced roma tomatoes, a sprinkling of smoked paprika, and/or grilled vegetables. I tried all but the grilled veggies, but found them all a bit too “light”. This burger has a very mild flavor, and I found that it needed something more robust like pickles or spicy mustard. But maybe that’s just me. Or maybe it was the weather. Perhaps on a hot summer’s day, a light filling of your favorite salad ingredients make the most sense. But here in England, I need something a little more punchy to get me through the night. Pass the Coleman’s please!

Modifications

  • Eat them as nature intended, bun and all: Check out RecipeGirl.com‘s adaptation, which also includes delicious peas and beautiful pictures!
  • Add more veggies: RhodeyGirlTests did this with great success by adding spinach. Lovely color!
  • Go vegan: Talesofaspoon accomplished this with cornstarch and flaxseed.

Ultimate “Veggie Burger”


Rating:
2.8 out of
4

Recipe adapted from 101cookbooks.com. Although the recipe calls for using the patty as the bun, there’s no reason why you couldn’t eat these as regular burgers on a bun.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups sprouted garbanzo beans (chickpeas) OR canned garbanzos, drained and rinsed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Grated zest of one large lemon
  • 1 cup micro sprouts, chopped (try brocolli, onion, or alfalfa sprouts – optional)
  • 1 cup toasted (whole-grain) bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (or clarified butter)

Method

  1. If you are using sprouted garbanzos, steam them until just tender, about 10 minutes. Most of you will be using canned beans, so jump right in and combine the garbanzos, eggs, and salt in a food processor. Puree until the mixture is the consistency of a very thick, slightly chunky hummus. Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in the cilantro, onion, zest, and sprouts. Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for a couple of minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. At this point, you should have a moist mixture that you can easily form into twelve 1 1/2-inch-thick patties. I err on the moist side here, because it makes for a nicely textured burger. You can always add more bread crumbs a bit at a time to firm up the dough if need be. Conversely, a bit of water or more egg can be used to moisten the batter.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium low, add 4 patties, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown. Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes. Flip the patties and cook the second side for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties. Carefully cut each patty in half, insert your favorite fillings, and enjoy immediately.
Makes: 12 mini burgers
Amount per burger: 74 Calories | 3.3g Fat | 3.5g Protein | 7.6g Carbohydrates | 0.6g Fiber

Also seen on ultimateveggieburgers.com.

Elderflower Champagne Success

Elderflower champagne success

It’s a little late in the season to be posting about elderflower champagne – the elderflowers have come and gone months ago. But it was only last night that we had an opportunity to try our first successful bottle of the bubbly stuff.

We started the batch on June 17, 2010 from elderflowers picked around the farm. The inspiration: an episode of River Cottage in which Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall made elderflower champagne with mushroom man John Wright. They made it look so easy, and indeed, it is… sort of.

The recipe (details below) is pretty simple: mix up four liters of hot water with some sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, a little vinegar, and a bunch of elderflower heads in a big bucket. Let it ferment for about 7 days, then bottle it. After another week of fermentation, the champagne should be ready for consumption. It should keep for several months.

Elderflower champagne in progress

Four liters is a lot of champagne (a typical champagne bottle is 750ml). We bottled half of it in glass bottles with Grolsch-style stoppers, the other half in plastic bottles 2L bottles. And about a month later, we tried our first bottle, one of the Grolsch-tops.

Major disappointment.

Lots of flavor and elderflower aroma. But no fizz.

C’est la vie. The rest of the champagne was left to languish behind the couch in the office, and we mostly forgot about. Until last night.

We had a few friends over from London and thought it was a good opportunity to see if the plastic bottle champagne did any better.

Though much more cheap and hideous in appearance than their fancy Grolsch-style neighbors, the plastic bottles did an incredibly job of holding in the fizz, as you can see by the protruding bottle cap and steamy champagne-like opening effect.

Contents under pressure Elderflower champagne success

And after nearly four months of fermenting in the bottle, the champagne was very dry – and very alcoholic. It want down a treat and I’m psyched that, despite our initial disappointment, the recipe was a success after all. Will make again. Cheers!

Elderflower champagne success

Elderflower champagne

Adapted from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s elderflower champagne recipe. The link is well worth a visit for the very helpful (and amusing) comments from other people who have tried this recipe.

  • 4 litres hot water
  • 700g sugar
  • Juice and zest of four lemons
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • About 15 elderflower heads, in full bloom
  • A pinch of dried yeast (you may not need this)

1. Put the hot water and sugar into a large container (a spotlessly clean bucket is good) and stir until the sugar dissolves, then top up with cold water so you have 6 litres of liquid in total.

2. Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently.

3. Cover with clean muslin and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. Take a look at the brew at this point, and if it’s not becoming a little foamy and obviously beginning to ferment, add a pinch of yeast.

4. Leave the mixture to ferment, again covered with muslin, for a further four days. Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin and decant into sterilised strong glass bottles with champagne stoppers (available from home-brewing suppliers) or Grolsch-style stoppers, or sterilized screw-top plastic bottles (a good deal of pressure can build up inside as the fermenting brew produces carbon dioxide, so strong bottles and seals are essential).

5. Seal and leave to ferment in the bottles for at least a week before serving, chilled. The champagne should keep in the bottles for several months. Store in a cool, dry place.