Sunday Telegraph "The leaves were exceptionally good".
Anneka Rice on Radio 2 - "Almost too beautiful to eat"

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Edible Flowers for Summer Drinks & Wedding Cocktails




Whilst outside we are all starting to think about Christmas and the frost has finally reduced the last of the edible flowers to pulp, in my head I am planning the flowers that we are going to grow for next year and we already have three times the number of weddings in the 2014 order book than we had this year which is very exciting.

I'm not sure whether it is because the weather has been kinder to us this summer or whether is it because people are growing more adventurous about eating flowers but we've had a lot of flowers going out all over the country for cocktails and other summer drinks this year. We have edible flowers heading to London for the cocktail set; to smart catering companies for corporate events and weddings; to one of my favourite customers who is producing a cocktail book next year (but more on that later) and also directly to brides for their wedding drinks.

Maddocks Farm Organics edible flowers also appeared in cocktails on the sofa at RHS Chelsea Flower Show where they were enjoyed by Alan Titchmarsh and Joe Swift and in Lavender cocktails on  Sunday Brunch where they were tried by the lovely Simon Rimmer, Tim Lovejoy and their guest, Olympic Athlete,  Christine Ohuruogu.




My favourite wedding of 2013 was that of the lovely Carla and Nick . Carla's fabulous mum Marion and her partner Cliff have been working at Maddocks Farm Organics for nearly18 months under the WWOOFing scheme so they are very much part of the family and Carla and Nick's wedding was the first opportunity for Maddocks Farm Organics to grow traditional wedding flowers for Carla's bouquet and to decorate the venues instead of just the usual edible flowers - extremely nerve wracking stuff but the bride was extremely happy and Marion did a wonderful job of arranging everything.


 Edible Flowers in your Wedding Drinks


Edible flowers work brilliantly in Wedding drinks irrespective of whether your wedding is a formal ‘champagne all the way’ kind of do or whether you are casually pitching a teepee in the back garden and opting for the DIY route.

Edible flowers come in all shapes and sizes and add a wonderful sense of glamour and celebration to Weddings and other special occasions.  Pimms has long been associated with the beautiful blue stars of borage flowers and  tagetes work well citrus based drinks. Snapdragons are wonderful at ‘snapping’ onto the rim of glasses and work particularly well with very fizzy drinks such as champagne. A confetti of lovely petals will make any drink look appealing and brides should opt for smaller rather than larger blooms with drinks so that they compliment rather than compete with the drink.

As important as adding ‘class to the glass’ they can also make the poor drivers’ non-alcoholic offering a lot more interesting and appealing.  It’s lovely to be able to really push the boat out for the designated drivers and also for children by making lovely fruit based punches. To be fair over the past few years the quality of the ready made soft drinks that you can buy in the supermarkets has improved dramatically but there are also many recipes on-line for lovely non-alcoholic punches and cocktails and adding fresh herb, fruit and edible flowers transform these into something really special.

As well as using flowers whole to garnish drinks, petals can also be crushed with salt or sugar to coat the rim of glasses for cocktails. They then form little jewels of flavour and colour that are just stunning.



Edible flowers are also wonderful set in ice either on their own or with mint to add some lovely colour and flavour to drinks and these can be done well in advance to be added to the drinks at the last minute. It is worth noting that ice cubes don’t have to be made purely of water that just dilute the drinks as they melt. I had a wonderful Gin based cocktail a few weeks back which had ice cubes made from Elderflower Cordial that released its wonderful flavour and fragrance as it melted changing the drink from one thing to another. Lemon juice can be added along with the flowers or lime or ginger. It’s entirely up to you.

Thank you to our lovely real life bride Carla and her mother Marion for allowing the photos. All photos takes by Maddocks Farm Organics using our edible flowers which have also featured in cocktails at Chelsea Flower Show and on Channel 4s Sunday Brunch. Details of our edible flowers can be found at www. maddocksfarmorganics.co.uk .


You can order edible flowers for cocktails or drinks direct from our on line shop  www.maddocksfarmorganics.co.uk  - http://www.maddocksfarmorganics.co.uk/cocktail_box.html




Sunday, 10 November 2013

Poached Pears - puds and salads



At this time of year, if we are lucky, our ancient and wonky pear tree comes up trumps and provides us with a couple of handfuls of pears. I've no idea of the variety but they have a lovely flavour however they are inclined to be a little hard so we tend to poach them. This is a good use of the bullet pears that you can buy from the supermarket as well.

I use two different recipes for poaching pears - spiced red wine or cider. The quantities in each recipe will poach about 4 pears in a small but deep pan but the liquor doesn't reduce that much so you could always do a second batch or double it up. I use very little sugar in my poaching liquid relying on the natural sweetness of the pears and this means that the end results can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes. They can be made up to 2 days in advance if kept in the fridge.

Spiced red wine recipe:
1/2 bottle of reasonable red wine
1 star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon of sugar

Cider recipe:
1 can of cider or perry
1 cinnamon stick
1 large orange cut into quarters
A vanilla pod cut lengthways in half
1 tablespoon sugar.


Peel your pears and cut off the bottom level so that they sit flat. Use a small knife to dig out the small core in the bottom. Doing this helps the pears to cook evenly. Ideally you need the pears to sit in the poaching liquid up to their stalks but you can always use a flatter pan and just keep turning them so that they cook evenly and get an even colour. You want the pears to be only 'just cooked' i.e. still firm so test them with a cocktail stick or sharp knife. I then pack my pears into a measuring jug so that they are completely covered with the poaching liquid and allow them to cool overnight in the liquid. This gives them a great flavour and colour. 

If you are planning on using the pears as part of a dessert then drain them from the poaching liquid, add another tablespoon of sugar to the liquid and cook on until you have reduced the liquid by half so that it is thick and syrupy. If you are using them in a savoury dish them freeze the liquid as it has a wonderful flavour and can be added to your mulled wine or cider at Christmas. 





The sweet pears can be served warm or cold with the syrup, here decorated with spices and mallow petals and are they also great with a wonderful dollop of good quality vanilla ice-cream. 

Pears also have a wonderful affinity with blue cheese and make a wonderful addition to a salad. Here we've used the classic combination of our lovely Maddocks Farm Treviso chicory (which balances the sweetness of the pears and richness of the cheese) spicy mustard and watercress; blue cheese; walnuts and olives. We've decorated it with pansy petals and radish flowers. 




Both recipes  take full advantage of lovely seasonal produce so enjoy!



Friday, 8 November 2013

Rose Petal Marshmallows

Floral Marshmallows made by My Mummys Yummy Cupcakes
using Maddocks Farm Organic Rose Petals. 


The recipe for floral marshmallows here uses our organic red rose petals but any edible flowers could be substituted as you wish. Having said that, the more fragrant the petals then the more intense the flavour. Other suggestions might  be lavender or geranium. Lovely Lindsay from My Mummys Yummy Cupcakes kindly shared the recipe.  

Floral Marshmallows
(Adapted from a Martha Stewart's Vanilla Marshmallow recipe) so apologies for the american weights

Rose Petals
1 1/2 cups of sugar
Layer the sugar and petals together (flavouring the sugar whilst keeping the roses petals whole) and leaving aside some petals for sprinkling over the mallow mix before it sets.

Leave to one side overnight for the flavours to infuse.

2 1/2 tbps unflavoured Gelatin Powder (Dr Otker is fine)
1 cup of golden syrup or honey
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla paste

Corn flour for sprinkling

Method

First take the petals out of the sugar mix (don't worry if a few get missed).

Combine the infused sugar, golden syrup, salt & 1/2 cup water in a small heavy saucepan. Place the pan over a low heat and stir well until the sugar has dissolved. Wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve the sugar crystals.

Once dissolved, clip a sugar thermometer and raise the heat to high. Cook the syrup without stirring until it reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage). Immediately remove pan from the heat.

With a mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour the syrup into the softened gelatine. Increase the speed to high; beat until the mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume. This will take about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla paste and beat to incorporate.

Generously dust an 8-12 inch baking pan with corn flour. Pour marshmallow mixture into the pan. Wet your hands and pat it smooth. Tear the remaining petals & sprinkle over the top of the marshmallow. Dust with more corn flour. Let it set overnight, uncovered, to dry out. Turn out onto a board which has also been generously sprinkled with corn flour. Cut the marshmallows with a hot dry knife into 1 1/2 inch squares and dust with more corn flour to coat the cut sides of the marshmallows to prevent them becoming sticky.

Pop them in an airtight container to let the flavours penetrate even more. These will last for up to 10 days if kept in a fridge. 


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Chocolate Lavender Truffles






Lavender Truffles

12 sprigs of lavender
2 tablespoons finely chopped lavender
10oz high cocoa chocolate
2oz unsalted butter
142 ml carton of double cream.
Either cocoa or further melted chocolate for finishing.


Put clean sprigs of lavender into the cream and just bring to the boil.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes to infuse and repeat the process until required strength is reached. I did this twice but our lavender is pretty strong.(You can only really tell this by sticking you finger in and tasting it!). Just remember that whilst lavender has a strong flavour it has to be able to stand up to the dark chocolate. Ideally you want the truffle to deliver all chocolate taste up front and then a nice lavender flavour as it melts in your mouth. (Hark at me!) 

Put chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl and place over a pan of water to melt.

Bring cream to the point and strain over the chocolate mixture. Add finely chopped lavender if you require a stronger flavor. Mix thoroughly and place in the fridge.

Allow to chill for approximately 3 hours until firm.

Form into balls. Refrigerate again until cold and then either roll in cocoa powder or place on a wire rack (with a plate underneath!) and cover in melted chocolate. 

A great idea for the end of the meal or for wedding favours, this also works brilliantly with a white chocolate covering. 


This recipe is part of a selection of ideas for homemade wedding favours which features on The Natural  Wedding Company's Blog at http://thenaturalweddingcompany.co.uk/blog/

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Floral Salads

Maddocks Farm has been making floral salads for more than a decade and it is for these that we are most famous. We started growing a whole range of vegetables but the salads and edible flowers seemed to fit us best so we began to specialise fairly quickly and the business has gone from strength to strength.
Some of our seasonal salad bags.
All despatched on the day
that they are picked.
We sell floral salad in bags to local shops including the multi-award winning Darts Farm. Part our success is our committment to freshness and our guarantee that our salads will be in the shops on the same day as they are picked. We also sell locally to pubs, restaurants, hotels and cafes and for the past fewyears we have been sending our floral salads out via our on-line shop as well as the edible flowers for events all over the UK.
A rose petal salad going out for an August Wedding.









We have provided beautiful florals creation for a wide range of events from christenings, anniversaries, venue launches, pop up events and frequently for photo shoots for culinary magazines and cookery books. Whilst our main custom seems to be for weddings (we have many wedding caterers that use our leaves and flowers for all their functions), we are delighted to liaise directly with Brides and Grooms to match their menu and colour themes.
Our Herb Salad. Winner at the 2012
Soil Association Organic Awards
Bowls of floral salad for Summer Garden Party
Our salads are bespoke and picked to order on the day that they are sent out - ie you decide the flavours and the colours to match your menu and event. We can cater for as little as one and for as many as you desire (with a bit of notice!).









If you'd like any more information please drop Jan an email at www.maddocksfarmorganics@gmail.com and she'd be happy to help.
A wee Christening floral salad for a wee little girl called Flora.

A summer herb salad for a 'yellow' themed wedding.
An OTT Ruby Wedding Anniversary salad for some avid Gardeners!
An Autumn Salad rich in earthy colours for a Darts Farm
Producers Evening.




















Monday, 17 June 2013

Floral Butters and Oils


Floral Butters & Oils
Beautiful little sage orchid
Chives - an overlooked punchy little allium














Like quite a few folks I used to love making herbal oils for home, particularly basil oil, by shaking the insects off some choice flowering stalks and shoving them down the neck of a bottle of good quality olive oil. Then I went on a food safely course and learned that this was one of the easiest ways of giving the family botulism so my attractive bottles had to go - although it wasn't an immediately easy decision. They did look lovely on a sunny kitchen windowsill!

My other issue nowdays is time. By the time that the herbs start to flower at Maddocks Farm I am usually  working 15 hour days and my priority is to get something, anything, on the table that vaguely resembles food so what end up happening is that the herb flowers come and go and I immediately regret their passing without having taken advantage of their wonderful flavour and scent.

Recently however, I read a great article about freezing herb in butter and realised that I could translate this to flowers but to be honest, with the whole family prone to overeating we avoid butter where possible so there was limited use for this until I realised that this technique also worked with olive oil. Eurekka moment!!


I now make a concerted effort to grab a good handful of herb flowers when I put everything to bed at night and I'm stocking up the freezer for the darker days of winter or even sunny summer days when time is short.


Gather a good selection of herb flowers and either pull or cut them off their stalks. Most herb flowers can be used but my favourites are basil, sage and chives. They can either be used individually or mixed.
Coriander flowers - completely underrated 
Place the flowers into icecube containers and top up with a good quality olive oil. You can also chop some garlic in if you like or mix with some of the herb leaves. Entirely up to you.

Pop in the freezer until they are solid and them they can be  banged out and put in plastic bags.

The uses for these little frozen capsules of flavour are endless. Almost anywhere you'd slug a dollop of olive oil you can use them. Great for a base for sauces or soups to sweat onions in; perfect just melted over pasta or in couscous; fabulous with new potatoes; great on the barbie; perfect with a squeeze of lemon for a salad dressing. The list is endless so please just find five minutes to have a quick harvest. You really won't regret it.






Sunday, 19 May 2013

Darts Farm Demo at Devon County Show

Stuffed Tulip Petals
I was inspired last year by a wonderful recipe created by the very talented Urvashi Rowe otherwise known as @botanicbaker for stuffed tulip leaves http://www.lovefood.com/guide/recipes/15057/goats-cheese-dip-in-tulip-petals-recipe.

This year, I wanted to use some really hot colours to produce some really 'zingy and slap you in the eye catching canap├ęs'! These could easily be worked up into a really lovely vegetarian starter with the addition of  salad leaves, dressing and fetta cheese or grilled halloumi cheese.

I have some wonderful yellow and green striped tulips which look just stunning stuffed with a salsa verde and popped on the side of a plate of boned out leg of roasted lamb. You could also stuff them with hollandaise to go with fish etc etc. Pretty much anywhere where you need a really small ramekin of sauce. I will admit that when I've been short on time (and taking into account the excuse I am first a foremost a gardener and not a chef!) I've just raided the local supermarket and stuffed these with whatever is there from hummus to salsa.

For the really hot coloured tulips above. I've attached some really cracking recipes used to generate the wonderful colours above.

Recipe for the Red Pepper & Goats Cheese dip comes from http://greek.food.com/recipe/roasted-red-pepper-and-goat-cheese-dip-240190

The beetroot dip came from http://www.bestrecipes.com.au/recipe/roasted-beetroot-dip-L972.html

I've not tried it yet but I also think that these would be wonderful as part of a dessert stuffed with mousse or quinelles of ice-cream. Food for thought!


Floral Elderflower & Lemon Prosecco Cheesecake


This cheesecake is an amalgamation of three different recipes in order to get the result that I wanted and it went down such a storm at the Darts Farm  Food is Fun Teepee.

For the base:
100 grms of softened butter.
250 grms of a mix of digestive and ginger biscuits or all of one or the other depending upon your taste

For the filling:
600 grms of cream cheese
125 grms of caster sugar
200ml of sour cream
3 unwaxed lemons, zest grated & juice reserved
3 large organic eggs
5 leaves of gelatine
2 tablespoon of elderflower cordial
1 cupful of finely blitzed edible flower petals
(use brightly coloured ones to stand out against the creamy coloured filling)

For the glaze:
Just under pint of prosecco or fruity white wine.
4 sheets of gelatine
3 tablespoons of elderflower cordial
Selection of pretty edible flowers

Method:
Base
Blitz the biscuits until they are crumbs (or pop in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin) and then mix with the melted butter. Firm down into the bottom of a pre-greased  9 inch spring base baking tin and refrigerate to set.
Filling
Pop the gelatine sheets into a bowl of cold water to soften for a few minutes.

Slightly warm the lemon juice and elderflower cordial in a pan and add the softened gelatine sheets that you have squeezed the water from. Gently swirl around the pan until all the gelatine has dissolved and put aside to cool slightly.

Separate the eggs and put the yolks into a bowl with the cream cheese, sugar and sour cream. Blend until just smooth but don't overdo it or it will split and then stir in the flower petals and lemon zest.

When blood temperature or cooler (ie stick your finger in & see that its no longer warm) then fold into the mixture along with the egg whites  that you have blended in a separate bowl until they form soft peaks.

Pour the mixture onto your buttery biscuit base and pop back in the refrigerator to set.

Glaze
Put the additional gelatine leaves into cold water to soften.
Whilst you are waiting (and assuming you don't have to drive anywhere or operate heavy machinery), the open the bottle of prosecco and taste for quality! Pour 3 tablespoons of elderflower cordinal into a measuring jug and make up to a pint with the prosecco. Put a couple of inches into the bottom of a small pan and warm just enough to melt the squeezed out gelatine (exactly as you did earlier) switch off the stove and add the rest of the liquid.

Very gently pour half the glaze on top of the filling. If you do this with gusto from a great height you will make a crater in the soft mousse like filling so be careful and then roll the tin around so the glaze settles.

Put into the fridge and leave until sticky to the touch. At this point you can 'stick' your edible flowers to the top of the glaze in the pattern that you
like. Pop back into the fridge to chill again until firm (a hour or so) and drink the remains of the prosecco as you might need its calming influence for the final stage!

Very gently spoon the remaining glaze over the top of the flowers to set them in place. The glaze needs to be at room temperature. Too cold and it will have started to set, too warm and it will melt the lower layer of glaze and release the flowers which will float to the surface like champagne corks. Told you it was tricky!

Alternatively, opt for the no pattern approach and throw on petals in a random manner which looks just as lovely and takes a fraction of the time!

Pop in the fridge to chill and serve cold.

The marvel of this recipe is that the parts can become the whole and you can mix and match as you see fit. Add an extra spoon of elderflower cordial to the filling and a little extra grated lemon and you have a beautiful dessert served in its own right. You can glaze this with flowers if you wish or leave it plain.

















If you double up the ingredients for the glaze (ok, ok  - replace 1/4 pint of the wine with water) then you can set flowers and fruit within it to make a wonderful summer jelly.

Thank you Darts Farm for inviting me to demo at Devon County Show. Enjoy the recipes.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Die Hards - Out in the cold wearing just a Persil white vest.....
                     A wee blog on winter salad
Whilst salad is generally associated with the balmy days of summer (obviously not in the UK!) there are several salad plants which not only enjoy our winters but positively thrive on them.
Poly in the snow.
They need no heat and will pretty happily grow outside in winter or in a cold greenhouse if you like to pamper them. Having said that I do live in the girly south so perhaps a cold greenhouse is preferable to outside under a fleece if you live
north of Brizzle. Here at Maddocks Farm we manage to organically produce year round salads using unheated polytunnels, outdoor beds and a very large pile of fleece.
Lettuce
When it comes to lettuce sometimes the clue is in the name. Lettuce called Arctic King, Winter Density or Marvel of 4 Seasons generally do what they says on the tin. I have found, even in Devon, that there is little point having lettuce outside the tunnels in winter if you are an organic grower. Lettuce will survive under fleece but will be ravaged by every slug/snail out wearing thermals and won't thrive until April time when it will leap into action. In reality it is better to manure the bed over winter and then plant out new babies in late March under a couple of layers of fleece.  Ours went in outside under a double layer of fleece a couple of weeks back and apart from checking for slug damage they will be left undisturbed for a few weeks. In protected tunnels winter hardy lettuce produce a steady stream of leaves all winter.
Lambs lettuce
Corn Salad, Lambs Lettuce or Mache
Whatever you like to call it it,  Lambs Lettuce is the Bruce Willis of winter "lettuce". On a negative side it has small leaves that for some reason seem to attract dirt like Spot the Dog and in my personal view has a slightly wooly texture in the mouth but on a positive note they has a fabulous fragrant spinachy flavour and will grow outside without cover from October through until March or April when the plants erupt into pretty white edible flowers and seed themselves everywhere. During winter you can use the cut and come again technique to get several crops of lovely fresh green. Perfect!
Winter purslane flowers
Winter Purslane is a favourite both with me and the slugs. Teardrop shaped leaves followed by lovely mild cucumber flavoured flowers. Crunchy, fresh and if it doesn't sound daft really "green" flavoured. A brilliant cut and come again.  Seeds itself prolifically to lie dormant all summer and pop up in the beds around late September to thrive through the winter. Doesn't get better than this.

Mustards
Green in the Snow with Lambs Lettuce behind
There are a lot of spicy leaves which do well over winter in an unheated polytunnel including Giant Red Mustard, Golden Streak and Wild Rocket but outside three will thrive down here. The most prolific of them all is Green in the Snow (see - back to does what it says on the tin!). It is also a bit of a dirt magnet but even in the harshest conditions thaws out a treat during the day and sends up lovely little spears of spicy perfection which are hot enough to rival horseradish and which will just keep on going all winter. Here photographed a few weeks back with Lambs Lettuce behind. Come April it will be covered in lovely edible yellow flowers (beloved by the bees) and then self seed. Salad rocket will also seed itself well to suddenly make an appearance in February with tiny seedlings that don't look strong enough to cope with the cold but which hunker down to produce prolific leafy loveliness in April. The last to cope will outside with a fleece tunnel is American Land Cress which can get a bit robust and tough but cut back hard will produce lovely cress flavoured leaves for weeks over winter and early spring.
Sorrel piercing the snow.
Herbs
As well as the winter purslane mentioned above, four herbs struggle on in a manly fashion over the british winter. Well, it would be more honest to say that they give up partying last in winter and are then first up for coffee in the morning.  The hardiest of them all is the sorrel which starts pearcing the snow with arrow head of tangy freshness as early as the beginning of February and if picked hard will continue to produce sharp lemon blades until a Spring sowing comes to the rescue. Chives are another herb that heralds the start of Spring and bring a lovely oniony tang to early salad. Flat leaf parsley also keeps going over winter producing a few leaves here and then and then suddenly leaps into action with frilly freshness at the beginning of March. Coriander is surprisingly hardy and will sulk in a bed over winter to suddenly flush into new growth in late February.

Chervil won't do so well outside but will happily grow in an unheated bed in a poly tunnel and bring a sophisticated hit of frondy aniseed to any winter salad.
Chives in early February
Flat leaf parsley in the frost

Frosty radicchio
Red ribbed dandelion
There are two additions which add a bit of winter colour to the bowl. One is red ribbed dandelion which brings some bitter endive taste and the other is radicchio. If you leave the stumps of your autumn crop in the ground then you are rewarded with perfect rosettes of regrowth around the base in early spring which will cope with any amount of cold but rot if they get too wet. Be warned they also act as slug hotels over winter to check them carefully.
Salad picked 7th March for Mothers' Day
Others that you can add to the pick & mix are swiss chard, winter spinach and baby kale leaves as well as wild garlic in early Spring. This Mothers' day salad is also decorated with the earliest of the edible flowers violas and primulas.