fruit. booze. autumn.

allotment, growing, recipe

At this time of year, the warmth, the sweetness, the shine of summer is gone from the air, but now it hangs in berries and fruit, hedgerows and trees.

One of the best things about growing your own is picking food at the perfect moment. Supermarkets have to pick under-ripe, so it makes the journey from field to shelf without bruising or bleeding. In my own allotment, I wait til the fruit is almost bursting its skin with juice and sugar, before twisting it from the branch.

Damson gin

Booze is good and fruit is good and the two together are even better. You can make alsorts of fruit liquors by just leaving fruit and sugar in alcohol to slowly do its thing- but this is perhaps my favourite.

damson treeDamsons are in the same family as plums- but sharper and smaller. Their soft, huey purple is like the colour of the sky at night.

weighing damsons

750ml bottle of gin

500g damsons/plums/blackberries

300g sugar

Either give the damsons a light bashing or a little pricking (like a sexed up Mrs Beeton), pour them into a jar with the sugar, and then glug in the gin. Leave it for as long as you can. I have the first of mine at Christmas- its colour and warmth is perfect for an icy December day.

damson gin

early summer and elderflower

baking, fruit, recipe

There are some things which mark the passing of each month, season and year. On the calendar- birthdays, bonfire night, Christmas, and outdoors- hedgerows bursting into leaf, and later on, blood-red, ruby and crimson berries ripening under the sun. Perhaps my favourite of these markers is the elder and its flower.

elderEvocative of early-British summer and most famous in cordials and cocktails, elderflowers are a fleeting moment of growth and scent and bygone days.

Here, we use them in alcohol, cakes and to simmer with sweet-sour gooseberries. We discovered elderflower gin last summer, crafted by the Edinburgh gin company.

This summer, we made our own.

BeFunky_Chromatic_1.jpgTwenty elderflower heads went into a glass bottle, along with a few tablespoons of sugar, and filled with gin. And after a week of gentle shaking and expectation, we tasted it… we’ll be sticking with the professionals next time!

The same evening, gooseberries were simmered in a heady mix of elderflower cordial and lemon juice. A sponge mixture was beaten up, topped with the gooseberries, and a crumble mix was scattered over the top.

We slid the cake into the hot oven. The air hung heavy in the kitchen with the scent of elderflower, citrus and homemade cake.

All cake is good cake, but this, this cake was perfect.



a risotto for midsummer

recipe, risotto

It’s July. The garden is bathing in a deep, midsummer light. The hens are dustbathing, honeybees are feeding on the wildflowers, and the peas are ripening in their pods. Tonight, its risotto- a pan of silky smooth rice, peas and flakes of pecorino. Sometimes, life is good.

BeFunky_peas1.jpgThe peas were planted indoors in March, and as the near-constant rain lashed down, the peas sprung up with a promise of summer and sweetness. A month or so on, they were dotted around the garden- in the borders, in tubs and anywhere-there-was-a-space. They grew up hawthorn, apple twigs and garden canes. The shoots and the snow-white flowers are as perfect as crunching into the first ripe pod of peas.

BeFunky_10352188_10204543537809469_1811135794742751499_n.jpgEight weeks on from planting those first peas in kitchen roll inners and a few inches of damp compost, the plants are a mass of emerald leaf, curling tendril and fattening pods.

BeFunky_10547449_10204543538169478_8799732549647781040_n.jpgTonight, they have been picked and stirred into a pan of risotto.

BeFunky_peasblog.jpgYes- you do have to stand for twenty minutes, stirring, ladling, stirring, but it’s a calming, soothing experience. Fry an onion and garlic until tender, pour in the rice (100g per person), stir, and then add a a ladleful of hot stock, stirring all the time. Once each ladleful of stock has been absorbed, the next is poured in and twenty minutes later, you have a pan of fragrant, silky rice.

BeFunky_peas3.jpgUse whatever you have to hand or is in season. I team up a vegetable with a herb and a cheese- tomatoes, basil, oregano and mozzarella, butternut squash, rosemary and parmesan, peas, mint and pecorino.

This risotto was finished with a few generous handlefuls of peas, butter, finely sliced mint and pecorino, and the plates with a few curls of the rich, grainy cheese. Dinner was served, and the auburn sun sank below the skyline as we ate and drank.