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When the leaves have newly arrived it is time to make beech leaf gin, otherwise known as noyaux – a French word meaning a nut liqueur. Its easy and simple to make, tastes amazing and will always remind you of your 4 Winds Lakeland Tipi holiday.
- Pick a bagful of beech leaves ( be careful not to harm the tree by dragging at the leaves).
- Put these leaves into a jar and cover with gin – the more leaves, the more gin you’ll need.
- Place in a dark cupboard and leave for at least 2 weeks – the gin should go a yellow-green colour and take on a nutty scent.
- When you can’t wait any longer, strain off the gin, pressing the leaves to get the last of it out, then to every pint of gin add 1/4 lb of sugar or honey, dissolved in a little warm water or brandy.
- The flavour is hard to describe – a sweet, nutty flavour, reminiscent of hazelnuts, or perhaps sake.
For every ten flower heads I use one litre of water, 250-500g of white sugar (depending how sweet you like it) and 3 sliced and squeezed lemons. Try to use freshly opened blossoms, and not the slightly brown fading ones. Give them a rinse in water then put in the pan and bring the water to the boil, dissolve the sugar in it and pour over the elderflowers. Set aside for 48 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain the liquid in muslin (or a stocking/pair of tights) and bottle into clean glass or plastic bottles. Dilute as necessary. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, or up to a year if frozen.
- 200g plain flour
- 250ml (half pint) milk
- medium sized egg
- Elderflower heads – 2-3 per person – with enough stalk to hold onto 50g sugar
- pinch of cinnamon
- grated zest of one orange
- Mix all the ingredients apart from the elderflower
- Heat some oil in a pan or deep fat fryer, dip flower head in batter and fry until golden brown, drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with a little icing sugar and eat with a dollop of ice cream.
Wild Garlic or RamsonsPredominantly a woodland plant. The plant has broad basal leaves and a large stalk with a cluster of white flowers which appear from April to June around the campsite. They provide a dark green carpet and an explosion of colour and smell in late spring. The scent goes as the plants die back, so you are not aware of them the rest of the year. Mixed with Bluebells a woodland planting of Ramson can look spectacular. Unlike cultivated garlic, the bulbs are very small and not worth bothering with. Just cut some leaves at the base without disturbing the plant. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The best uses for them are the simplest: an omelette made with your freshest eggs with some garlic leaves snipped into them.
For something more substantial why not try Wild Garlic and Potato Soup:
- 25g butter
- couple of handfuls of wild garlic leaves
- 2 medium-sized potatoes
- 800 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
- salt & pepper
Melt the butter in your soup pot. Roll the leaves, cigar-fashion, and then slice across into strips. Add them to the pot and put the lid on. Let them soften in the butter while you peel and chop the potatoes into cubes. When the leaves are wilted add the potatoes and the stock. Bring up to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are really soft. If you like, add a spoonful of cream and liquidize the soup. Enjoy with damper bread cooked on your 4 Winds Lakeland Tipi out door fire.