Monday, 31 August 2015

blackberry, garlic & bay vinegar

blackberry, garlic & bay vinegar, fruit vinegar, shrub recipe, sharbat, cooking with blackberries, foraging, seasonal food, recipes, vinegar,
blackberry, garlic & bay vinegar
My blackberry, garlic and bay vinegar recipe is a great way of using up the seasonal harvest of this delicious wild berry. You can of course buy them ready-picked if you are that way inclined, but we are surrounded with them here in the Limousin. It's been a very long blackberry season so far and the continued sunny weather has resulted in a bumper crop. That, and the fact we have not yet managed to tame the mass of bramble bushes in the garden/wild wood! 

This recipe is also an interesting alternative to the usual go-to recipe for blackberries; blackberry jam. It is my favourite jam - but there are only so many jars I want to get through over the coming year! I have made vats of this vinegar, but my thinking is I will use much more of it than I would a jam. It is a really versatile ingredient and adds a tangy flavour to many dishes.  

The recipe makes a thick, syrupy vinegar - similar to a sweet and sticky balsamic glaze or shrub/'drinking vinegar'. You can use this blackberry vinegar immediately, or store in a cool, dark place until you are ready to use it. It's an interesting sweet, spicy and savoury addition to so many dishes - from a dash or 2 in a meat marinade, to a drizzle on a goats cheese salad. You can even drink it - diluted in hot/cold water as a sort of 'toddy'. I imagine it could be good at keeping the colds and flu away - blackberries are packed with vitamin C. It's great added to stews and slow cooked dishes too - I will definitely add a good glug of it next time I make my blackberry pulled pork recipe. It goes very well with smoked, oily fish too - the sweet sharpness cuts through the fattiness. It also makes an unusual food gift for friends and family. 

Bon appetit and I hope you enjoy. Do please share your favourite blackberry recipes too - I am always on the look out for recipe inspiration and love to see what others are cooking.  I look forward to chatting with you soon. 

inspired by and adapted from a recipe by Galloway wild foods

cooking tips: 
  • As it's difficult to know exactly how many blackberries you have picked I have given a recipe that you can scale up or down depending on the amount you have/want to make. Use 500ml vinegar for every 350g blackberries, plus 1 garlic clove and 1 bay leaf. After you have drained the blackberry liquid add 350g sugar to every 260ml of blackberry liquid. 
  • you can play around with the flavours and spices in this recipe - as long as you keep the ratio of fruit, to vinegar and sugar the same. Possible variations you could try; cider vinegar instead of wine vinegar, a few star anise instead of the bay leaves, throw in a few dried chillies or pepper corns when boiling up the mix (remove before bottling) for a spicier vinegar. Let me know what you try. 
  • without the garlic in the recipe I would definitely try this as a drinking vinegar in a cocktail - watch this space...or if you have any ideas let me know. 
preparation time: 10-15 minutes
cooking time: 15 minutes

blackberries - washed and checked over
bay leaves
garlic cloves 
red wine vinegar

weigh your blackberries and add the correct amount of vinegar and garlic cloves. Give it a whizz in an electric blender (in batches if necessary) or mash. Leave overnight in a clean and sterilised air tight container. I used a kilner type jar.

the next day strain the mixture in a fine sieve, making sure to get as much liquid out as possible. Discard the blackberry mush that is leftover in the sieve. Measure the amount of liquid and add the correct amount of sugar and bay leaves. 

add to a large pan (a preserving pan is ideal) and bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Skim off any 'scum' that rises to the top of the mix.

leave to cool for a few minutes before decanting into clean, sterilised bottles/jars. Store in a cool, dark place and in the fridge after opening. 

blackberry, garlic & bay vinegar, shrub, drinking vinegar, foraging, wild foods, fruit vinegar
blackberry, garlic & bay vinegar

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Saturday, 29 August 2015

sticky date cake with orange & cinnamon

baking, cinnamon, date cake, food bloggers, orange, recipe, date walnut cake, easy cake recipe, desserts, orange flower water, home baking, date recipes, middle eastern food,
sticky date cake with orange and cinnamon
Spicy tea breads, sticky fruit cakes and cinnamon were often a feature on the tea table when I was a child. I remember chewing on cinnamon sticks and loving the strong, spicy flavour. Just a few of the taste memories I have brought together in this recipe.

My everyday cake recipes are also inspired by looking for solutions to what goes well with a cup of tea or coffee. They generally have to involve minimum kitchen fuss, no fancy techniques, have ingredients that are easy to find, and above all taste great. I love experimenting with flavour combinations from all around the world. My sticky date cake has hints of the Middle East with the use of dates, cinnamon and orange flower water - flavorings I love. Feel free to mix up the spices to your own personal taste though - I have given a few suggestions in the cooking hints and tips below. 

A lovely moist cake, this lasts well for a few days in an airtight container - and actually seems to improve after a day or 2. I hope you enjoy. 

Thanks for stopping by. Do say hello and feel free to share your recent recipes and makes in the comments below.  

200g chopped pitted dates
140g plain flour
50g wholemeal flour
100g brown sugar
180ml hot tea
2 eggs
2 tbsp marmalade
100g butter
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp orange flower water 
pinch of salt

cooking hints & tips:
  • this cake would be great with a few optional extras too. You could add 75-100g of chopped walnuts or stem ginger to the mix after you add the flour. 
  • you can also swap the spices I used in this version to your personal taste. Ginger, mixed spice, quatre epices and nutmeg would all work well. 
  • I think the wholemeal flour adds a little more 'bite' and density to the cake which I like, but the recipe works well with all plain white flour if this is all you have.  
  • a quick and easy cake to prepare - and a healthier choice for packed lunches and snacks. A useful 'back to school' or work recipe for you to try. 
preparation time: 15 minutes
cooking time: 35-45 minutes

  1. add the chopped dates to the hot tea and leave to plump up for about 20-30 minutes then give them a quick whizz in the food processor (or mix/mash by hand) to create a thick date paste.
  2. preheat the oven to 180c then grease and line a 20cm square baking tin
  3. melt the butter with the sugar, marmalade and orange flower water then stir into the date mix
  4. add the eggs and mix well
  5. sieve in the flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix
  6. spoon into your prepared baking tin and bake for 35-45 minutes. It's cooked when a skewer comes out clean
  7. leave to cool for 5-10 minutes in the tin before turning out. Leave to cool before slicing and serving.
Bon appetit! 

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Monday, 24 August 2015

stories so far: dinner time

My gran seemed to just know how ingredients went together; a handful of flour, 'this much' sugar, a pinch of salt. It was effortless...or at least seemed like that to me when I was a small child.

I remember pots of chicken stock bubbling away for hours in the kitchen and the acrid, burnt smell when she was singeing the feathers off the chicken on her electric hob. Probably a technique more suited to outdoor cooking!

Food was a precious luxury, you didn't waste it and ate everything on the plate. It was always prepared from scratch and cooked with love.

Even when she was too weak to cook lavish three course meals she would never let us leave until she had made us a sandwich or wrapped a piece of cake in a napkin for us to take on our way.

I grew up with my gran's cooking – she would pick my sister and I up from school when my mum and dad were at work. We would walk back to her flat, via the parks and playgrounds. A diary entry from those days recalls a time 'we went to 4 playgrounds today!!!!'. When we got back her flat, exhausted and full of fresh air, my gran would start cooking. Sometimes we would help, but more often than not we would slump in front of the television and catch the latest episodes of Grange Hill, while the clanks, clatters and smells drifted out of her tiny kitchen.

There would always be soup – chicken noodle or tomato and rice were my favourites, then maybe boiled dumplings and fried fish as a main course. As a treat my gran would sometimes buy cream meringues or choux buns from Marks and Spencer. She loved Marks.

It was too late for me to write down her recipes, by the time I realized this would have been a good idea she was no longer able to cook. I have to go on taste. Like playing music by ear – trying out combinations of flavours until it works.

My taste memories take me back to where I was – a place of comfort and being looked after. She did always say I thought too much – even as a small child I always found something to worry about.

One of my favourite traditions she passed down to me was setting an extra place setting at Christmas Eve. I think it was for any weary travellers that passed the door, but it was also to remember those no longer with us.


If you would like to share your short stories please leave your links in the comments below. You can also share them on twitter with me at @DeToutCoeur_ using #StoriesSoFar

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Sunday, 23 August 2015

my Sunday photo 23.08.15

photograph copyright: De Tout Coeur Limousin

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

spiced blackberry pulled pork & a blackberry BBQ sauce

pulled pork recipe, blackberry recipe, bbq, spicy, slow cooking
spiced blackberry pulled pork with a blackberry BBQ sauce
Inspired by the current blackberry season and my garden being slightly over run with them I went out blackberry picking with the intention of making a quick and simple blackberry jam. However a large joint of pork also needed cooking - and what better solution than combining the two? Homemade blackberry jam and a delicious fruity and spicy pulled pork recipe. 

Cooking with blackberries always brings back lovely memories of blackberry picking when I was a child - and making jars of blackberry jam or crumbles with our haul. It's still one of my favourite fruits and I really enjoy cooking and developing recipes using them. I often find that the recipes and ingredients I am most passionate about have their roots in childhood food memories and experiences. So even if this recipe is not something I would have eaten when I was growing up, it roots are planted in the tastes of home. 

My blackberry pulled pork is sweet, smoky, full of spice and accompanied by a homemade tangy BBQ blackberry sauce. Don't be put off by the long list of herbs and spices - it really is a very simple recipe to put together. Prepared in minutes - all you have to do after this is wait as it cooks low and slow, for all the flavours to mingle and the pork to become meltingly tender and easy to pull apart with a couple of forks. 

You can serve the pulled pork in burger buns, wraps, on rice or pasta. It's up to you. I always like to have enough leftovers to use in an Asian inspired spicy noodle soup the following day too. The pulled pork leftovers are also really good stirred into a simple tomato sauce and simmered away for 10-15 minutes - for a tasty pork ragu you can serve with pasta. 

Just a few suggestions if you have any leftover blackberry BBQ sauce; it's also delicious with roast or barbecued chicken, on grilled halloumi cheese and vegetable kebabs, or just as a dip for chips - the list could go on...I almost put it on my scrambled eggs this morning! 

top cooking hints & tips:
  • homemade blackberry jam is definitely preferable in this recipe. I used my tried and trusted basic blackberry jam recipe from my old food blog (without the added flavourings of lavender and orange flower water though!). A good quality shop bought blackberry jam could be used as a substitute. 
  • you can cook this pulled pork recipe in a slow cooker on in a covered casserole dish in the oven on a low temperature. Each piece of meat with be tender at different times but I have found that with a boneless pork shoulder joint of about 1.5 kg it is usually cooked at 6-8 hours. It is ready when a knife/skewer goes into the cooked meat with no resistance and the meat is falling apart and easy to shred with a couple of forks.
  • you can substitute fennel seed for the aniseed if this is difficult to find or use a couple of star anise instead
  • to prepare ahead you can make the spicy BBQ sauce the day before and also marinade the pork for a few hours or overnight in the pork rub. Cover and leave in the fridge, bringing it out for about 30 minutes before you want to cook it
  • a new and interesting way of using up blackberries 
  • a great 'back to school' or work recipe - easy to prepare and put in the slow cooker, and lots of leftovers for mid-week meals too. 
serves: 6-8 as a main meal 
preparation time: 10-15 minutes
cooking time: 6-8 hours (see cooking tips)

pork ingredients:
1.5 kg boneless pork joint (I used a boneless rolled shoulder joint)
2-3 endives/chicory bulbs - sliced in half
2-3 onions - peeled and roughly chopped 
small bunch of bay leaves
small bunch of fresh sage
500 ml water

pork rub ingredients:
1 tbs caraway seeds
1 tbs aniseed
1 tbs smoked sweet paprika
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs pink peppercorns 
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup blackberry jam
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

spicy BBQ blackberry sauce ingredients:
3/4 cup blackberry jam
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sriracha chilli sauce (or other hot chilli sauce)
1/4 cup tomato ketchup

  1. if using the oven (rather than the slow cooker) preheat to 140C/gas mark 1
  2. add the onion, endive, sage and bay leaves to a large cooking pot/slow cooker along with about 500 ml of water
  3. mix all the pork rub ingredients together then rub over the pork joint. 
  4. put the pork joint into the cooking pot on top of the vegetables, cover and leave to cook for 6-8 hours (or until done - see cooking tips)
  5. while the pork is cooking prepare the spicy blackberry BBQ sauce by gently whisking the ingredients together - simple as that! Taste and adjust to taste - I like the sauce spicy, but you can add a bit less of the chilli sauce if you don't like it as hot. 
  6. wait...
  7. when the pork is cooked - remove from the heat and using a couple of forks pull the pork apart till shredded to your liking. I leave the meat in the cooking juices while doing this and also don't bother about removing the meat from the endive/onions. These will be well softened and have melted into the cooking juices. Don't forget to remove the bay leaves though! 
  8. serve the pulled pork with your accompaniment of choice and a good few spoonfuls of the spicy BBQ blackberry sauce. 

spice rub, bay leaves, pulled pork, peppercorns, caraway, aniseed, paprika, smoked paprika
bay and dry spice rub mix for the pulled pork
ready for the slow cooker: pork joint covered in wet and dry blackberry spice rub, sage, mustard, endive,chicory,onion,
ready for the slow cooker: pork joint covered in wet and dry blackberry spice rub 
spiced blackberry wet rub for the pork joint
sage, endive & onion - a vegetable base to cook the pork on
sage, endive & onion - a flavoursome base for the pork to cook on
sage, bay, endive & onion - a vegetable base to cook the pork on
sage, bay leaves, endive & onion - a tasty vegetable base to cook the pork on
Bon appetit! I hope you enjoy. I served my spiced blackberry pulled pork with a fresh and crunchy green salad with a mint tzatziki dressing. 

green salad, tzatziki, mint, salad dressing,
fresh and green salad with a mint tzatziki dressing
fresh mint, garden, mint flowers, fresh herbs, gardening,
beautiful fresh mint flowers from the garden

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Sunday, 16 August 2015

A rather virtuous & moreish vegan banana cake

I love this banana cake recipe. Why I should be so surprised that it's moist, moreish & totally delicious & what a banana cake should taste like is beyond me. I guess because I think a cake is usually helped along by a generous dose of sugar! However this definitely disproves that theory. Healthy, wholemeal, vegan, processed sugar free, low fat and packed with oats too. 

If you feel this recipe is just a step too far into healthiness you could always add a cream cheese or (throwing all caution to the wind!) a peanut butter icing. Both would be a tasty addition but I personally don't think this recipe needs it. 

For all my cake baking experience it is still something of a mystery to me and I am always surprised when the chemical reactions have done their thing and something edible appears. I am much happier with a savoury dish - where I can add a pinch of this or that and more often than not create without thinking too much. Using my mental back catalogue of flavour & ingredient combinations. 

Baking involves me having to concentrate - which can be a struggle for my butterfly mind. You have to weigh things out and measure! But a good lesson in mindfulness I am sure. Your mind cannot wander too far off the present moment to be a successful baker, and being in the 'now' is something I am always aiming for - in life as in baking...
Let me know what you think, and also if you have any of your own tried and tested favourite banana cake recipes.

Bon appetit and I hope you enjoy. I think it's delicious. Great with a cup of tea, on picnics, for a healthy snack whilst out and about and for packed lunches. Also a great food for cyclists - who we all know only cycle so they can eat more cake. I am of course only basing this on personal cycling experience! This recipe does however have a good combination of slow and fast release energy with the combination of dried fruit and oats. 

vegan,vegetarian, baking, banana cake, banana loaf, sugar free baking, banana recipes, healthy cooking,
a rather virtuous and moreish vegan banana cake recipe

preparation time:5-10 minutes
cooking time: approx 50-60 minutes

cooking hints & tips: 
  • you can add chopped nuts to the recipe if you would like - just add your choice of nut (about 75-100g) when you add the dry ingredients. 
  • a great way of using up ripe bananas - cutting down on waste food is always a good thing.

360g ripe banana
115g raisins/sultanas
115g wholemeal flour
115g oats
90ml oil (I used rapeseed)
60ml cold tea/water
1/2 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

  1. preheat the oven to gas 5/190c and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin
  2. mix and mash the banana with the raisins, then add the oil and tea/water. You can do this by hand or give it a quick whizz in a food processor
  3. fold in the flour, oats, cinnamon and baking soda and spoon the cake mix into your prepared tin.
  4. bake for 50-60 minutes. It's done when a skewer comes out clean
  5. leave for 10-15 minutes in the tin before turning our to cool on a wire rack. Leave to cool completely before slicing and eating. Enjoy!

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