This week has been fun, and pretty random so far – all in line with the weather as things at Salad Club often tend to be. Bank Holiday Monday (16ºC, overcast with sunny spells) began with a hungover household, some strong coffee and a huge plate of delicious enchiladas courtesy of our current lodger (recently returned from Mexico City where her taste buds and mealtimes remain). Late breakfast gently merged into a Salad Club afternoon with a frustrating crossword and our first attempt at homemade elderflower cordial. Ellie, swearing explicitly as she went, fought bravely against stinging nettles, a clunky ladder and some rotten tree trunks to reach the whitest of blossoms from on high while I, being ‘in the family way’, stuck to pottering around the lower branches. We gathered around 30 elderflower heads giving us four bottles of concentrated cordial – increase or decrease the quantities accordingly. There are loads of elderflower trees in public spaces, parks and front gardens all over London – we urge you to go foraging before all the blossoms turn brown for another year. This cordial is too good to miss.
Shake the elderflower heads to free any bugs and set them aside in a large, heatproof bowl (the blossoms not the bugs). Peel and slice 4 unwaxed lemons, put all the zest to one side and add the slices to the elderflowers. Dissolve 1.5kg of sugar in 1.5litres of water in a large saucepan over a low heat. Once the liquid is completely clear, bring the syrup to the boil and stir in the lemon zest and 75g of citric acid (we got ours from the chemist). Pour the hot syrup over the elderflower blossoms and lemon slices, cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to steep for a day. Strain into a jug with a sieve or muslin-lined funnel and bottle up. Serve over ice with sparkling water for a refreshing, everyday thirst quencher or with gin and muddled mint for a delicious summer cocktail.
Tuesday (13ºC, relentless drizzle) kicked off in Mexico again with a second helping of breakfast enchiladas: baked corn tortillas stuffed with refried beans, cottage cheese and spicy tomato sauce, topped with fresh lettuce, tomato and avocado. Far healthier than many a British breakfast, with a slow release of energy from the beans and protein from the cottage cheese easily seeing you through until supper. Pumped up from breakfast and too much coffee, I braved the rain to get furious about Lambeth and Southwark’s pothole problem on camera (tune in to tomorrow’s episode of Watchdog for more on that). Then onto Crystal Palace for an appointment where I stumbled upon the amazing Haynes Lane Market. A cavernous and creaky two floors of nooks and crannies crammed with vintage clothes, furniture, crockery, oddments and tiny old ladies popping up from behind things for a chat and some light haggling. This place is a real discovery – it feels otherworldly inside and I suspect it has been unchanged for many years. I urge you to make the journey there for yourselves, especially you fellow South Londoners, as I don’t think business is going too well for the tiny old ladies.
Today (22ºC, clear skies) marks 40 weeks of my pregnancy and so the arrival of the first Salad Club baby is now imminent. The weather is perfect. It was back to England this morning for a breakfast of sage scrambled eggs on toast and this evening my kitchen table will be brimming with salads, cheese, wine and wonderful girlfriends for one last, uninterrupted Salad Club supper before motherhood beckons. I can’t wait.