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Category: RECIPES

  1. BITTER AND TWISTED When life gives you Lemons, make a cocktail

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    At the back of the sideboard when I was growing up there was a strange green bottle with a densely printed lable with intriguing images, names and phrases …It came out very occasionally, usually at Christmas or my parents parties and seemed glamourous, mysterious and exciting … it was one of the things in my childhood that sparked my interest in herbs and spices … A bottle of Angostura Bitters Now, following in the footsteps of Gin, “Bitters” are enjoying renewed interest, both as a Cocktail ingredient and for digestive health … but what are they and where do they come from?

       angostura    angostura2

  2. And It Was All Yellow ....

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    Since I started tradng, I have only dropped and spilled two of the big 1kg bags of wholesale herbs and spices that I buy .... the first was a bag of Turmeric powder (of course!) ... which produced a spectacular golden mushroom cloud that covered me and the entire contents of the boat in a yellow film .... the second was ... yes, you guessed ... a bag of Turmeric, organic this time .... so messy!!!


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    So it seems that Lovage is enjoying a much deserved renaissance. I have seen a surge in sales lately of this big, hearty, robust herb, both in its dried form and as young plants through my sister business Alchemy Plants. Last winter in London. I spied trendy young hipsters sipping Bloody Marys through hollow Lovage stem straws, found young lovage leaves in restaurant salads and my Mother’s Day treat was a delicious meal out of roasted beets with Lovage pesto. lovage2 

  4. Herbs during Wartime

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    I will be trading at the Stoke Bruerne “Village at War” weekend on 10th and 11th September. This annual event looks back at the impact of the Second world War on life in an English village.  Several people have asked me what herbs have to do with war, particularly World War2, and are surprised to hear of the crucial role the humble herb played in our nation’s health and survival.

  5. Wassail .... Tis the Season To Be Jolly

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    Whatever you celebrate, the cold, dark nights of winter are a great time to gather with friends to eat, drink and be merry. Wassailing is an ancient, Saxon (or probably earlier) custom that was celebrated on Twelth Night when the feudal Lords would give their "serfs" gifts of food and drink, in exchange for goodwill. The word 'wassail' comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase 'waes hael', which means 'good health'. Originally, the wassail was a drink made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, spices and sugar. There are many recipe variations, but I like the one here

  6. Some like it HOT !!!!

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    I have only ever dropped two of the bulk bags of herbs and spices whilst bagging and labelling .... a huge bag of Turmeric .... (there is still a general yellowness from that on the Herb Boat) ... and yesterday I dropped a bag of my new Piri Piri spice mix ... it went everywhere and by the time I had finished cleaning it up my lips and eyes were tingling .... because it is HOT .... SERIOUSLY HOT

    This is part of my "Taste the World" exotic spice range; a collection of spice blends from around the world. These are great for using in recipes, to mix with oil for a marinade, or rub dry into meat for the barbeque or just to liven up a one of your normal dinners .... beans on toast and popcorn need never be the same again.

    Talking of popcorn, it seems to be enjoying a comeback, with all sorts of flavours appearing on the supermarket shelves .... but it is so cheap, quick and easy, and such fun to make yourself, why not try this recipe for Sweet and Spicy Togarashi Popcorn. It uses my Togarashi Spice, also known as Japanese 7 Spice, a mix of sesame seeds, chilli, orange peel and seaweed, with a lovely nutty, aromatic, hot taste. You don't need much. And if you don't fancy the sweet / spicey mix, leave out the honey and try adding some melted garlic butter



    You will need 

    • about 2oz popcorn kernels
    • 1 tbs olive oil
    • 2 tbs butter
    • 1 tbs honey
    • 1 tsp Togarashi Spice

    Place the oil in a large lidded saucepan and heat over a high heat. Stir in the popcorn kernels and cover. Leave to cook for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan every now and then. As the popping dies down, remove from heat. 

    Melt the butter in a small pan and add the honey, mix well.

    Transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and immediately add the butter, honey and Togarashi, mixing well with a wooden spoon. Add more butter, honey or spice to adjust taste. Try with 2 cloves of garlic instead of the honey .... TASTE-TASTIC 



  7. Gather ye Elderflowers While Ye May

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    Here in Yorkshire the elderflowers are just right to gather for drying or making cordial, champagne, syrup ... whatever. In fact now is a great time for harvesting and drying any cultivated and wild herbs. You will find foraging courses being offered everywhere now to help you identify wild plants, and be sure not to overpick or uproot the plants (against the law!) ... and obviously avoid endangered species on the protected list.

    The simplest way to dry elderflowers, and save them for winter when their anti-viral and anti-inflamatory properties are useful to help with colds, flu, sinus infections and winter aches and pains, is to pick the flower heads and shake off any beasties and bugs, and lay them on a sheet of cardboard. Place the cardboard in a warm, dry, shady place with good ventilation and leave until the creamy flowers are dry and can be rubbed easily from their stems. they can then be stored in airtight containers for use in teas, wines, cordials etc all year round.

    Many recipes for elderflower cordial contain citric acid as a preservative ... this can help preserve your cordial but some people have concerns about the way it is manufactured ... if you don't want to use it, add a couple more lemons and try freezing the cordial.

    There are hundreds of recipes online ... here is one I use

    30 elderflower heads

    1 litre water

    1kg sugar

    2 or 3 lemons (or add a lime or some orange)

    30g citric acid

    Shake any beasties and insects off the flowerheads and place in a large pan or bowl with sliced lemons. Boil the water with the sugar and citric acid, if using, until dissolved. Allow to cool slightly and then pour over the elderflowers and lemons, cover with a clean tea towel or similar and leave to infuse for 3-4 days in the fridge. Strain through muslin and seal in sterilised bottles. 

    Try adding a lime or an orange for a different flavour.


    Elderflowers can also be added to vodka or gin and left to infuse for a few days. Elderflower syrup is great added to ice cream and with gooseberries.

    If you miss the chance to pick and dry your own, you can always buy some dried ones from me 



  8. Mmmmm Custard ...

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    Custard is one of those Marmite things ... you either love it or hate it .... here on the Herb Boat we are BIG custard fans .... sweet and savoury (oh yes, you can make savory custards). 

    Vanilla custard is popular, but you can infuse your milk and cream with almost any herb or spice. The recent Masterchef finals featured a Star Anise infused custard. Bay leaves were often used in sweet dishes in the past, and Bay custard (or even Bay Leaf Ice-cream) is enjoying a renewed popularity. Just infuse 3 or 4 bay leaves in your warm milk and cream mix for 15 minutes, and remove before adding egg yolks. 

     bay custard

    Or how about a savoury, cheesy bread and butter pudding with Rosemary or Basil infused custard ....

    Or add dried flowers or petals .... Lavender, Rose .... the possbilities are endless ....

    Herb Boat re-usable tea / spice bags can be used so you don't have to strain the milk / cream infusion. These handy little bags are made from unbleached cotton and are £1 for two bags.

    There are many basc custard recipes online, this one from the BBC website gives basic proportions .... you can replace some of the milk with sngle cream, and omit the vanilla and sugar if you want to try savoury custards.

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