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  1. 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 



  2. One of the most common plants I saw growing wild on my recent trip to the Faroe Islands was Angelica. Whether it survived the ice age here, as it did in Iceland, I am not yet sure. But there is evidence that it was harvested by the Vikings on Iceland and used for trade. Angelica was so valuable during the medieval period in Iceland that there was a specific law to prevent Angelica theft in the first law book.

    The whole plant has been used medicinally for centuries across the world, as an expectorant and for stomach upsets, and there is some evidence that it acts as a mild stimulant. Historically, it was held in high esteem as a cure for all ills, blood purification and to ward off the plague. The flavour of Angelica is slightly musky and it has a long history of being used to flavour alcohols and liqueurs, being a key ingedient in Vermouth and Gin. 


    This picture shows Angelica growing wild in Torshovan, behind the other ubiquitous wild plant, Marsh Marigolds (or King cups ... Caltha palustris). Marsh marigolds have been used medicinally, to cure warts and fits, and the leaves can be eaten like spinach, but the whole plant is an irritant and best avoided. It was used historically in May Day festivals.

    The other surprise herb for me on the Faroes was Sweet Cicely, with its dainty, fresh green leaves and sweet smelling flowers. The whole plant is edible; the leaves are good in salads, with a fresh aniseedy / liquorice flavour, the roots can be used like parsnips, it is a good natural sweetener and combines especially well with rhubarb. Gerard, agreeing with Culpeper on it's value for lifting the spirits, states that the roots, boiled and dressed with oil and vinegar are   “…very good for old people that are dull and without courage; it rejoiceth and comforteth the heart and increaseth their lust and strength.” It is a key ingredient in Chartreuse liqueur.

    Medicinally, it was, like Angelica, used as a plague herb. It has expectorant properties and is a mildly stimulating anti-spasmodic. Tea made from the leaves has been used to relieve period pains. The roots anti-septic properties, in a decoction, have been used for snake bites and as a poultice on septic wounds. the sweet smelling seeds can be chewed and were ground and added to beeswax polish for their perfume.





  3. 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 



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