Pretend it’s still summer with an Appletiser mocktail

appletiser mocktail 2

The weather’s turned rather grim here in the West Country. Just yesterday we were out paddling in the local stream, and then the heavens opened overnight and it suddenly feels rather chilly and wintry today. The slippers and big jumpers have come o ut and I think the central heating might be back on soon.

But that hasn’t stopped us from pretending it’s still summer. Appletiser sent me some bottles of their new Apple & Pomegranate sparkling fruit juice to try out, which are the perfect base for some summerlicious cocktails and mocktails, particularly if you have a bag of berries stashed in the freezer.

berries ice

We enjoyed the Apple & Pomegranate juice just as it was – it’s deliciously refreshing and not overly sweet – but even more so in this fruity Big Apple Berry mocktail. It got a big thumbs up from my two girls!

appletiser mocktail

The Big Apple Berry Mocktail

15ml sugar syrup
handful of frozen berries (I used raspberries and blueberries), defrosted, plus a few extra for garnish
1 bottle Apple & Pomegranate Appletiser

Pour the sugar syrup into a glass with ice. Add the handful of berries and mix it up with a stirrer.

Top with Apple & Pomegranate Appletiser and garnish with a few more berries. Drink it down and dream of summer!

Disclosure: I received complimentary bottles of Apple & Pomegranate Appletiser. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.

Strawberry & Rose Ice Cream Soda

strawberry and rose ice cream soda

Ever since my step-mum Sue took me for an ice cream soda in the restaurant at Peter Jones in London’s Sloane Square, I’ve been in love with this heavenly combination of fizzy pop (soda), ice cream and syrup. Something simply magical happens when the ice cream hits the fizz and I am instantly transported to seventh heaven. Throw in some of my current favourite ingredient, rose water, and wow – I am in ecstasy.

I have fantasies of one day opening my very own retro soda fountain with mini juke boxes on the counter playing Chantilly Lace and True Love Ways, and this Strawberry & Rose Ice Cream Soda will definitely be featuring on the menu.

It’s every so easy to make. I did use homemade strawberry ice cream (from a Ben & Jerry’s recipe), with gorgeous chunks of juicy strawberries, but of course you can always use shop-bought. But do please make your own strawberry and rose syrup. It takes hardly anytime at all and tastes incredible.

strawberry and rose ice cream soda

Strawberry & Rose Ice Cream Soda

Serves 6

1 litre bottle lemonade, chilled

For the strawberry ice cream

250g fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
330g caster sugar
Juice of half a lemon
2 large eggs
480ml double cream
240ml milk

Mix together the chopped strawberries, 100g of the caster sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Whisk in the remaining 230g of sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Take the strawberries from the fridge and mash to create a chunky puree. Stir this into the egg/cream mixture.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions. Alternatively, transfer to a plastic container and place in the freezer for around four hours, remembering to give it a good stir every hour to break up any ice crystals that are forming.

For the strawberry and rose syrup

200g fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
50g caster sugar
1 tsp rose water
150ml water

Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer gently for around 5 minutes until the strawberries are soft and the sugar has melted. Puree with a hand blender. If you like you can strain the puree through a fine-meshed sieve to remove the seeds. I must admit, I couldn’t be bothered with this stage.

For the ice cream soda

Pour a little strawberry and rose syrup into a tall glass. Add a couple of scoops of strawberry ice cream to the glass, followed by cold lemonade. I love the way it froths up at this point!

Drizzle with a little more syrup to finish. Armed with a straw and a long spoon, you’re good to go. Enjoy!

Strawberry and Rose Ice Cream Soda 4

 

I am entering my Strawberry & Rose ice cream sodas into the following blog events: Let’s Cook With Strawberries (hosted by Simply Sensational Food); Family Foodies (hosted by Bangers & Mash and Eat Your Veg); and Simple and in Season (hosted by My Custard Pie and Ren Behan).

Lets cook with strawberries family-foodies simple

Elderflower cordial

elderflower cordial

We have been drinking rather a lot of homemade elderflower cordial in recent weeks. It’s a wonderful thirst-quencher on hot, sticky days, served diluted with iced water, soda water or lemonade, but more than anything I love the actual process of making it, which is so simple and fills the house with the most incredible and evocative elderflower perfume.

A few people have been asking for the recipe, so I thought I’d better post it quickly before the elderflower season comes to an end.

We’re lucky here in Somerset as we seem to be surrounded by elder trees and the flowers are there for the picking wherever you turn. But you can find elderflowers practically everywhere. As I drive to and from work in Bristol, I find myself spotting those beautiful bunches of white blossoms along the roadsides, down little lanes and in so many gardens and even on building sites, so it really isn’t a difficult flower to forage.

Elderflower Collage

My oldest daughter Jessie likes to help me harvest the elderflowers. She’s getting so tall these days, which is helpful for picking the biggest, whitest blooms – the ones that always seem to be right at the top of the tree.

elderflower lemons

Making elderflower cordial is ridiculously easy and you don’t need a long list of ingredients, although it does require a fair bit of sugar and do make sure you have a muslin cloth to hand for straining before you get started. The straining stage is the bit I like best; I enjoying  using my hands to squeezing as much sugary-syrupy cordial as I can from the bundle of cloth, and at this stage the scent of elderflower is almost overwhelming. To me, it’s the essence of an English summer. I don’t use citric acid in my recipe; instead I make sure I store my cordial in a cool, dark place or in the fridge.

elderflower cordial

Elderflower Cordial

Makes around 2.5 litres

plastic bagful of elderflower heads
3 unwaxed lemons, zested and sliced thinly
1.5kg sugar

Don’t wash the flowers. Simply shake them out to make sure there aren’t any bugs hiding in there. Place them in a large bowl, together with the lemon zest and slices.

Put the sugar in a large saucepan with 1.2 litres of water and very slowly bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Leave to cool for five minutes and then pour the sugar syrup over the elderflowers and lemons. Leave to cool, cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere safe for about for 24 hours.

Strain the mixture through a sieve lined with a clean muslin and decant into sterilised bottles. Seal and store in a cool, dark place or in the fridge.

Serve  diluted with water, lemonade or soda water. It’s also delicious poured over a fruit salad and or in this glorious elderflower and rhubarb fool. I plan to try making elderflower ice cream in the coming weeks.

family-foodies

Elderflower cordial is the perfect refreshment for a family picnic so I’m entering this recipe into June’s Family Foodies challenge, hosted this month by Lou over at Eat Your Veg where the theme is Barbecues, Picnics and Outdoor Eating, as well as July’s Family Foodies challenge (this time hosted by yours truly) where the theme is Chill Out, Baby!

SimpleinSeason

And since elderflower cordial is both Simple and in Season, I’m entering into the blog event of the same name hosted by Ren Behan.

 

Fig and honey smoothie

fig and honey smoothie

Since making the Cheeky Monkey smoothie, we’ve been experimenting with all kinds of fresh juices and smoothies at Chez Bangers. This one is currently one of our favourites.

I wasn’t sure my children would like the idea of a smoothie made from dried figs, so I told them it was a honey smoothie. They gulped it down in seconds and demanded another. They also asked whether there was chocolate in it. I guess that’s partly due to the colour, but the fig does give it a lovely richness which isn’t all that dissimilar to a chocolate smoothie.

So if you’re trying to encourage your children to consume a little extra fruit and fibre, this smoothie could be a good way to go…

fig and honey smoothie

Fig and honey smoothie

Serves 2

50g dried figs, roughly chopped
250ml milk
1 tbsp rolled oats
1 tbsp runny honey

Place the figs in a glass and cover with milk, around 50ml. Leave in the fridge for 2-3 hours, or even better overnight, to allow the figs to become all plump and squidgy.

Simply pour the figs, along with the milk in which they have been soaking, together with the rest of the milk, oats and honey into a liquidiser and blend well until smooth.

fig and honey smoothie

As my fig and honey smoothie is a great way to sneak some extra goodies into your children’s diets (and your own while you’re at it), I’m entering it into January’s Family Foodies challenge, where the theme is Hidden Goodies.

family-foodies

The cheeky monkey smoothie

cheeky monkey smoothie

A delicious smoothie packed full of goodness – plus your chance to win one of eight Passion 4 Juice recipe books

If one of your New Year resolutions was to take a healthier approach to food, then starting the day with a delicious juice or smoothie is surely one of the easiest way to pack in a whole heap of goodies. For the last couple of weeks, this is what I’ve been doing and I feel fantastic. I’m gradually working my way through the Passion 4 Juice recipe book, created by my good friend Trish Tucker-May, which features some brilliant recipes for juices and smoothies made from both fruit and vegetables.

Together with her husband Joe and two young sons, Trish spends half the year in the UK taking their mobile juice bar from one festival to another, and then the other half of the year she does the same but back in her homeland of Australia. Now doesn’t that sound like an amazing way to live? Before she headed off to warmer climes down under, she gave me some of her fabulous recipe books to give away to readers of Bangers & Mash. I’ll tell you how you can get hold of a copy at the end of the post, but first over to Trish to tell you a bit more about why she loves juicing…

“I feel really lucky as we leave the UK and head Down Under for the summer of festival fun. Spending six months in the UK and six months in Australia, keeping people healthy at festivals, is an unusual but rewarding way to live my passion. But it seems right to me as I get to go home and see family and friends. Also escaping the UK winter has its benefits!

“I have been juicing and making smoothies for 30 years now and I love introducing people to new taste sensations. Here are some other great reasons to make juices and smoothies every day:

  • Best way to fulfil daily recommended fruits and vegetables
  • Rapid intake and assimilation of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, enzymes and antioxidants in the body
  • Very cleansing/detoxifying – assists in the removal of toxins
  • Weight loss
  • Very alkalizing – diseases thrive in acidic conditions
  • Clears the mind and balances moods and blood sugars
  • Improves your complexion
  • Increased energy
  • Improves your hair, skin and nails
  • Improves your overall health.

“Why not kick-start each day with a taste sensation that will revitalise, inspire and rejuvenate you? With our on-the-move lifestyles and chaotic schedules, it is difficult to find the time to prepare and consume a meal that has sufficient energy and nutrients to sustain a balanced and healthy way of life. Quick and wholesome refreshments, rich in vital nutrients, are in high demand. This is the kind of daily boost we need.

“If it’s a tangy wake-up call, a smooth pacifier or a zesty jump-start you’re after, your personalised fresh pressed juice will do the trick.

“In the Passion 4 Juice book,  I have collected some of our bestselling recipes, plus some of my favourite juices and smoothies from around the world. This handy little book is in a wipe clean format, so it doesn’t matter if it gets splashed with juice. Keep it next to your juicer or blender and have a bit of fun trying some of my favourites.”

As I mentioned, I’m enjoying working my way through the Passion 4 Juice book. My favourite juice concoctions so far have been The Morning After featuring ginger, carrots and pineapple and Buzz Juice with apples, celery and beetroot.

And the whole family loved this gorgeous smoothie recipe from Trish called The Cheeky Monkey, made with almond milk, banana, raw cacao, dates and spices. We served ours cold over ice, but Trish recommends this served warm as a lovely winter warmer. We also left out the chilli from the children’s helping.

cheeky monkey smoothie

The Cheeky Monkey Smoothie

1 banana
1 cup of freshly made almond milk
a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon and chilli – the stronger for me the better
1 heaped tbsp raw cacao
1 tbsp peanut butter
3 dates

Blend all the ingredients in a liquidiser, and then warm in a pan on the stove top – don’t overheat but give it just a bit of warmth so it stays raw and delicious. This should warm you up on the coldest of winter days.

Win the Passion 4 Juice recipe book

All you have to do to win one of eight Passion 4 Juice recipe books is leave me a comment below, providing your ideas for new smoothie or fresh juice combinations. Trish will select her eight favourites to receive a prize.

The closing date for entries is Sunday 2 February 2014 and please note that books can only be shipped to UK addresses.

I can’t wait to hear your suggestions!

Mulled cider with a spicy chilli kick

mulled cider

This post first appeared in the Wells Journal on Thursday 19 December 2013.

Perhaps it’s a sign my roots are now well and truly planted in the West Country but I much prefer mulled cider these days to mulled wine. Red wine, in my opinion, is best drunk as it is. Cider though is just lovely served warm with festive spices. In my version, I add chilli, peppercorns and star anise for an extra spicy kick.

I encourage you to use a traditional farmhouse cider and not some of that cheap, fizzy stuff, which Julian Temperley of the Somerset Cider Brandy Company recently described to me as “industrial cider”.

According to Temperley, the cider world has become divided between the craft ciders, where up to 20 varieties of local grown apples are pressed and blended, and these ‘industrial’ newcomers, essentially apple-flavoured alcohol, rapidly replacing the gap left by alcopops on the drinks market.

Cider has been pressed on Temperley’s farm at Burrow Hill for the past 150 years, amidst 160 acres of cider apple orchards.

More discerning cider drinkers do care about the provenance and integrity of the product. Andrew Quinlan of Orchard Pig reports a growing demand for cider “that not only tastes good but also tells a story, with strong heritage and character.” Nearly all Orchard Pig’s apples are grown locally, although Quinlan says they do “allow a few foreign ones from Dorset and Devon that make the grade.”

It’s not just us Brits who appreciate a glass of farmhouse cider. “We are truffling out new fans in far off corners of the world,” says Quinlan, “as Orchard Pig plants its trotters in places such as Finland, Australia, Holland and Singapore. All this from making my first barrel in my garden shed as a hobby in 2004!”

The Hecks family have been making farmhouse cider in Street since 1840 and they continue to use the old traditional methods of cider making to this day. This is the local cider sold in our village shop and it was one of their vintage ciders I used for this recipe.

Last week saw the funeral at Pilton Church of Frank Naish, who at 89 was Britain’s oldest cider maker, using what is thought to be the oldest cider press in the country. Temperley describes him as a fine example of a true cider maker and a wonderful ambassador for Somerset cider. Please raise a toast to Naish as you drink a cup of warming mulled cider this Christmas.

mulled cider

Mulled cider

Makes 6 to 8 cups

1 litre Somerset cider
500ml apple juice
2 tbsp honey
3 star anise
4 cloves
A few peppercorns (I used Indonesian long pepper)
1 tsp dried Ancho chilli (or any dried chilli you prefer – I like the smoky flavour of Ancho)
2 cinnamon sticks (I used cinnamon and cassia bark)

Simply place all the ingredients in a large pan and heat gently for about quarter of an hour. Do not let it come to the boil. You may need to strain it through a small sieve as you serve.

Cheers and merry Christmas!

spice trail badge square

Cinnamon is one of the spices used in this mulled cider, and so I’m entering it into December’s Spice Trail challenge.

Sloe gin – because good things come to those who wait

sloe gin Collage

Patience is a virtue they say. Good things come to those who wait. But I happen to be a rather last-minute kind of girl and a little on the forgetful side. Forward-planning doesn’t come naturally to me. This sloe gin is a case in point.

I had every good intention to make friends and family bottles of sloe gin for Christmas presents this year. We have a large blackthorn in the garden, which has been bursting with berries this autumn. I thought I had plenty of time. However, here we are, already in mid-November and my sloe berries are still sat in the freezer having been picked at the weekend, and of course sloe gin takes at least two months (preferably three months) to make.

So then I thought, well I can cheat. There’s always a shortcut to everything these days, isn’t there? I Googled ‘quick sloe gin’ and found a couple of posts suggesting you could bake the sloes for a little while in the oven to get the maceration going. But when I looked through the reader comments, I wasn’t impressed to see remarks about “ending up with jam rather than gin” and “what a waste of good sloes”.

sloes

It would seem there are no shortcuts. Sloe gin is slow gin for a reason. And I’m prepared to wait for it. I just need to figure out what to make for Christmas presents instead…

sloe gin

Here is the sloe gin we bottled last autumn. It really is beautiful stuff. Sweet and syrupy, almost medicinal-tasting, it must surely be good for you? I love to drink mine neat, or in a gin and tonic.

And here is how I made it last autumn. You can picture me making it again this weekend, giving us something to look forward to come the New Year, once all the festivities are over. There’s really not that much to it. It’s simply a waiting game.

Sloe gin

450g sloes
225g caster sugar
1 litre gin

Prick the skin of the sloes with a needle and pop them in a large sterilised jar or bottle. Pour in the gin and sugar, seal tightly and give it a really good shake.

Hide it away in a cool cupboard and shake every couple of days for the first week. Then shake it on a weekly basis for the next two to three months – the longer you leave it the better.

Finally, use muslin to strain the sloe gin into sterilised bottles.

Cheers!

sloe gin and tonic