Primrose Curd – A taste of spring to come

The dirty palette of winter landscapes has suddenly been injected with splashes of vibrant tones, fields are greening with neon new shoots and verges are speckled with yellows of all hues; primroses. gorse flowers, celandine and daffodils, signalling that spring really is coming.

Up here is the hills we’re still in the throws of winter but even here we’ve spotted a few buttery primroses celebrating the very welcome, very delicious flavours of early spring. So whether you’re in sunny parts where spring is springing, or in a colder pocket where you need a glimpse into spring, this is for you…..  What better way to celebrate the coming of spring than with a sweet treat full of spring sunshine flavours, and if you have primroses in your garden you can turn a handful of flowers into a desert to delight even the saddest Jack Frost.

My friend Rebecca lives in a little cottage which has a beautiful shady garden which is covered in primroses in the spring, it is so carpeted in fact that the cottage is called Primrose Cottage and her 2 sons Tim and Rob gather the primroses I use in my curd. Rather than collecting from verges, gather your primroses from clumps in your own gardens. You can pluck and propagate at the same time as primrose seeds can be sown green – pop open the fruit capsule & push the tiny seeds just under the earth – you’ll have your own Primrose Cottage in no time.

Primrose Curd  – with Primrose Meringues

Makes 8


4 large egg whites

240g granulated or caster sugar

8-10 primrose flowers, chopped

Primrose curd (see below) or lemon curd

300ml double cream, whipped

Preheat the oven to 300F/150C/Gas 2. Put the egg whites and about a quarter of the sugar in a large bowl and whisk to soft peaks. Still whisking, gradually sprinkle in all but about 3 tbsp of the sugar, beating until it is holding soft peaks again. Finally, fold in the last of the sugar and the chopped flowers.

Line a large baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment and spoon the mixture in eight well-spaced mounds (they’ll need a good 3cm between each).

Bake for 45 minutes, or until palest gold and dry and firm to the touch. Leave to cool on the paper.

Very carefully peel the meringues off the paper — they will be fragile. Turn upside down and spoon cream and primrose curd on the base. Decorate with more flowers, crystallised if you like.

Primrose curd


A generous handful of unsprayed washed primrose petals

450g sugar

450g Bramley apples

125g unsalted butter

4-5 large eggs

The zest and juice of 2 lemons

Day one: finely chop the primrose petals, place them with the sugar in a container and stir through the primrose flowers. Cover and leave for at least 24 hours (this will allow the flavours from the petals to be released into the sugar).

Day 2: peel and chop 450g of apples, put them into a pan with 100ml of water and the lemon zest. On the hob, gently cook the apple until it is yieldingly soft, then mash it into a purée.

One-third fill a pan with water and place a snug-fitting heat‑proof bowl on top of the pan. Add the apple, butter, lemon juice and primrose sugar mixture to the bowl. Heat the pan and stir the mixture until the butter has completely melted.

Turn off the heat and add the eggs to the mixture through a sieve. Stir the eggs in thoroughly with a balloon whisk.

Put the pan back on a gentle heat and stir the mixture for about 10 minutes, until it thickens. (It will thicken further as it cools.) Pour the curd into sterilised jars, seal immediately and store in the fridge, where it will keep for up to a month.

If you want to use the curd straight away, transfer the mixture to a wide bowl (ideally a stainless steel one) and sit in a larger bowl of iced water. Stir occasionally until cold.

Lavender love

lavender & lemon jelly

My husband can’t get his head around eating lavender, he says it’s like being 7 and eating his Grannies perfume. I think if I’d known he ate her perfume before I married him, I’d of thought twice. But, he hasn’t done it since we’ve been married as far as I know so I think it was just a phase..

He’s not alone in his distrust of the purple flower, I’ve met one or two people along my travels who turn down a tasting of my sorrel jelly because it has the L word in it – but if I can bribe them into trying it, they change their view. You see, lavender is one of the most delicious herbal flavourings, done right with subtle pinches, rather than clumsy handfuls they not only add delicate perfume to sweet and savoury treats, but balance the other flavours in a dish – salty, spicy, hot, cool, bitter, sour – they all love a waft of lavender love. We pair lavender with salty lovage, savoury, thyme and hyssop in Potager, with rose petals, cardamom and fennel in our Rose el Hanout and sour, tangy sorrel in our summer jelly.

Lavender is a taste of summer sun, and at this time of year we could all do with a ray of sunshine smothered on our comforting buttery hot toast…


Lavender & Lemon Jelly

This little recipe will make one medium sized jar of jelly, Just enough to keep you going until it’s time to make nettle & orange conserve (that’s for another day)

Take 2 lemon & bramley apple & chop them up. Pop them skin, core, pith and juices in a pan add a pinch of dried lavender flowers, cover with water, cover with a lid & simmer until the lemons & apple are soft. Strain the cooked liquid through a sieve (you can keep the pulp & use it in a steamed lemon pudding – do a google search, it’s good) Measure how much liquid you have, and weigh out the equivalent in sugar. Heat up the liquid, add the sugar and bring to a rolling boil. It’ll just take a few minutes to bring the jelly to a soft set.  Jar, cool and eat on a scone or with toast, or stir a spoonful into a gin & tonic. Drink whilst doused in lavender talc.

Cleavers, the apple of my January eye…


The fields are brown, our boots are muddy, trees are bare and the sky is grey.  It’s the time of year when hibernation is a clever idea, but if you are made of sturdy stuff & able to pick with numb fingers, there are treasures to be found right now. Low growing shoots & winter greens that’ll add well earned flavours to winter stodge…Right now the weedy apple of my eye is a truly delicious herb that I’m sure you all know, it’s just you probably don’t love it in the way I do..yet. Let me introduce you to the very clever Cleaver…
You might know this herb (it’s not a weed I promise) as sticky weed or goosegrass, gardeners amongst you will probably of battled with it’s leggy stems in the middle of the summer, jumpers covered in its sticky burrs as a long lasting memory of your encounter.. You might not have a very positive view of this plant, but bear with me, it’s one you should get to know right about now…. Cleavers have been used for centuries in herbal medicine, they make an incredible tonic, are thought to help push toxins out of the body &  and are proven to support our lymphatic system – the glands which are all over our body & are key to healthy immune systems. Just as importantly maybe, they are natures very own brand of botox…try rinsing your face for a couple of weeks with Cleaver infused water & you’ll never buy an anti aging cream again….Cleavers have a unique taste, I describe them as being like new growth in spring – if you’ve ever stood outside on a spring morning & breathed in the smell in the air you’ll know the taste – it’s earthy, herby & full of life. And at this time of year we all could do with Cleavers in our diet, in the depths of the ‘run down’ fluey, broke after Christmas season the little weeds growing in our back gardens are natures free super food, and super they really are.
When you gather cleavers at this time of year, the stems are tender enough to eat – they are about 10cm long right now, easily identified with their slightly hairy appearance and whorls of sets of  narrow leaves that grow up the stems. If you were pulling up metres of Cleavers last year from your garden, go to where they were growing & you’ll probably find the young shoots waiting to be gathered..
This recipe is for a simple, delicious and nourishing salad & bound to win your heart…
Wilted carrot, Cleaver & Ras el Hanout Salad
cleaver carrott rose el hanout
You’ll need:
Gather a fat posy of cleavers, wash and dry them well.
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
tbsp ras el Hanout  (I make Rose el Hanout which you can buy online but any good Ras will be fine)
Light olive oil or hazelnut oil
Lemon juice or a good apple cider vinegar
heat a glug of oil in a wide pan, add the carrots and cleavers with a splash of water and the Ras el Hanout  and stir the vegetables for a few minutes until the cleavers start to wilt slightly and carrots sweeten.
Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of cider vinegar to give a subtle zing, season with a sprinkle of salt and leave to cool to room temperate.
Serve with flat breads, and curd cheese or chicken thighs with apricots & almonds – loverly.

Pine needle & sloe gin mincemeat

Christmas is done. Phew. The only sign left of festive cheer  is an expanded waist line, a prolonged hangover  & malingering tree you need to take outside.  But the shower of pine needles that fall like missile splinters everytime a butterfly even thinks about batting her wing is enough to put you off moving it out. You’re in no fit state to do anything to your tinkling tree apart from eat it.
If you don’t know me, you’ll probably think im joking but, those who do know me know I am very serious indeed. You could do an awful lot worse than chewing on a pine needle in January & here is why…

Pine trees are good to eat for 2 very important reasons,  they are  really good for you and they taste incredible – really really incredible. And food that is very delicious & very good for you shouldn’t be sniffed at (in pines aromatic case it should of course)

Firstly the health bit;  pine needles are full of vitamin C & fat soluable vitamin A – they are thought to be good for the cardiovascular system, skin, eyes and fighting colds. Used as a super tea in North America for hundreds of years, the early settlers were taught by Native Americans to drink the brew to fight scurvy – and from all accounts it worked! If you want to be convinced by the health benefits of pine, do a google for it – you’ll be amazed!

But, I am greedy & even if it wasn’t good for health, i’d still be eating it for its flavour. From pine infused vinegars that make green perfumed dressings, to flavoured sugars for cakes and shortbreads, infused salts and oils for basting on fish & meat through to pine needle flavoured vodka & gin, once you discover pine as a flavour, you’ll never be able to look a Christmas tree in the eye again without wanting to nibble…

This months recipe is a post Christmas mincemeat – fruity, nutty & slightly boozy. Full of the goodness of pine, it’s an ambrosia for the depths of January & certainly too good to stop eating once the decorations are down…

Pine & Sloe gin mincemeat

This spring I made a bottle of beech leaf & pine gin – since May this little bottle has sat next to the remnants of last years sloe gin, waiting to be turned into something to do justice to the aromatic flavour that could ruin the most puritanical of mothers.
Recently I mixed the piney gin with a slug of syrupy sloe gin, poured the tempting elixir over wet walnuts, russet apples and raisins. The result was tasty. Woody, aromatic, fruity & rather boozy. This years mincemeat was born – it’s too good to keep to myself & you can emulate the spring flavours with your Christmas tree.

It’s too early to make beech  & pine gin this year – but in the spring force some zingy  & sour beech leaves & pine shoots into a 2/3rd filled bottle of gin – you’ll thank me.

you’ll need:

100g shelled wet walnuts or dried walnuts
250g chopped russet apples (russet apples hold their shape when cooked & are a perfect mincemeat apple)
250g raisins
a large sprig of pine
150ml sloe gin
150ml gin – the more botanical the better.
sugar or zyiotol (a delicious sugar free sweetener extracted from birch trees) to taste

chop the walnuts & russet apples until they are the size you like your mincemeat to be (no rules, you know how you like your mouthful)
add them to a bowl with the raisins, pour over the gin, stir in the sweetener & taste to check for sweetness.
Press into the mixture a handful of pine sprigs.
Cover the mixture.
Pour yourself a gin, make a cup of tea, unload the dishwasher (reload the dishwasher with the dishes you just unloaded but look dirtier than when they went in)
Wait for a couple of days…tasting every so often.
When the fruit is plump & tastes of pine woods take the pine sprigs out &  it’s ready to cook into mincepies that will make you want to eat your Christmas tree.
There will be quite alot of liquid left at the bottom of the bowl. What ever you do, don’t throw it away – pour it into a hipflask, go into the woods & drink it with the Whisps.

*You can use pine needles from dougla fir, scots pine  and spruce. Just remember not to mistake Yew trees for pine as they are incredibly toxic & you won’t see January out let alone next Christmas if you nibble on Yew leaves.
Pregnant women also should avoid pine, as it can have abortive properties*


Pontack is a legendary sauce made with cider vinegar, elderberries and spices. Use it like a wild worcestershire sauce or as you’d use a balsamic vinegar. All our customers have their own ways of using it, from splashing it over tofu to marinating squirrels with it…here are a couple of our favourites:

For hunters….haunch of venison marinated in pontack sauce
rub 2 tbsp of Pontack into a haunch of venison, leave in a casserole over night and then add a wine glass of good red wine, 2 bay leaves and 8 juniper berries. Cover the venison in a very fatty bacon (thinly sliced lardo – cured back fat, is ideal) Seal the casserole with a tight lid and cook slowly (120c)  for hours.. and hours. Occasionally check there is enough liquid and baste the venison well. Serve with a buttery potato and chestnut mash and irony greens.
(If you like this you’ll love deglazing the pan of any dark meat especially liver with a splash of pontack)

For gatherers…Home made coleslaw with a pontack and honey dressing
good coleslaw is one of life’s simple pleasures. The flavours of pontack pair amazingly with sweet carrots, onions and cabbage.
To make the dressing, pour a tablespoon of honey and 2 of pontack with twice the amount of good olive oil and a pinch of salt into a jam jar, seal and shake well. Finely shred equal amounts of carrots and cabbage and add a finely chopped red onion. Mix in a tablespoon of lightly toasted cumin seeds, and a handful of sultanas; stir through the dressing, leave for a while for the flavours to take hold and tuck in!