Archives for posts with tag: healing recipes


I’m on a kick to simplify, and Kvass in its method seems to be the simplest fermented drink possible.  Kvass just happens, really. Read the rest of this entry »

New Lives for Your Christmas Tree, and Pine and Juniper Needles in General

The link above is a wonderful resource– great ideas for infusing oils, vinegars, fats, booze, spices, teas, syrups, and more.   Our Christmas tree happens to be plastic, something my husband found in a skip and eagerly rescued, and we’re all attached to setting it up and taking it down every year.   But we miss the scent and the naturalness and sacredness of a real tree.  So many things to do with conifer needles.  Looking forward to exploring the writings on this link in general.

Here’s another, if you are a high-end meat-eater, roast your lamb on a Christmas tree branch:

Vegan Chicken Soup

Vegan Chicken Soup: that’s not actually an oxymoron. I come from Chicken Soup Culture and I can promise you this. Because chicken soup is about the chicken, yes, but it’s also the way it makes you feel when you are ill — hot, steaming, clarifying, herbally, salty, peppery, a broth with kick and comfort.

The New Laurel’s Kitchen was the vegetarian cookbook that I really grew up with, the way many people like me used The Moosewood Cookbook. This was a book with almond butter cookies and wholemeal rolls and lots of salads with shredded carrots and nutritional advice, and you could imagine happy families sitting down together for happy meals. Laurel made “Golden Broth” with yellow split peas, turmeric, onions, garlic, salt and pepper, and she recommended this as a vegetarian substitute, with noodles et al, or plain. Which was close but no cigar.

Fast forward the years –I made a discovery as a fermenter. I like to lacto-ferment cauliflower, with carrots and garlic, ginger, onions, mustard seed, black peppercorns, kalonji, turmeric– the flavours of an English Piccalilly. When the texture gets too soft, and it’s less appealing as a pickle, there’s still the brine rich in healing probiotic bacteria, and the preserved vegetables.

Boil some red lentils. Add more ginger if you like. When soft, add your fermented vegetables. Top off with the brine, cook for as little as possible to preserve its nutrient, or just don’t worry. Puree if you like, and dillute to taste. If you had fresh dill , that would be lovely. Parsley too. Fresh Pepper. A matzoh ball, were you inclined. What you get is not Chicken Soup but it is chicken soup, somehow. The slight sour adds that healing je-ne-sais-quoi and this works for me. (Brine from Lacto-ferments really improves most soups — more recipes to come!) A magic, secret formula that you might not be able to guess.

(The brine from this fermented Piccalilly, rich as it is in anti-inflammatory turmeric, once functioned for me as a miracle pain relief from a terrible tooth problem. I intended after to make this Piccalilly to always have on hand.)

By the way, I’m not vegan.  I’m not even vegetarian.  But I do strive to eat meat rarely, and this is a soup I’d choose on its own merits, not just as a substitute.


I had loads more elderberries that I’d picked on that abundantly fruiting hedge.

Pontack Sauce, writes Richard Mabey in Food for Free,  is “a relic from those days when every retired miltary gentlman carried his patent sauce as an indispensable part of his luggage. Pontack’s was a famous restaurant … which was no doubt on these gentlemen’s town circuit, and from there this recipe was taken back to the country seats and adjusted to the owners idiosyncrasies.”

I’ve made some, barely adjusting to any of my own likely idiosyncrasies– just followed RM’s instructions below,  using a half bottle of neglected red wine instead of vinegar or claret.

“Pour one pint of boiling vinegar (or claret)  over one pint of elderberries in a stone jar or casserole dish. Cover, and allow to stand overnight in an oven at very low heat. Next day, pour off the liquid put in a saucepan with a teaspoon of salt, a blade of mace, 40 peppercorns, 12 cloves, a finely chopped onion and a little ginger.  Boil for ten minutes then bottle securely with the spices….  The Sauce was reputedly meant to be kept for seven years before use. ”

I love it:  not to be used before, rather than only good until…

Will it last this long with us?  Maybe!  RM writes that it’s delicious with liver, which I can imagine, while everyone else around the web talks about game.  We don’t really eat liver or game so often– sometimes rabbit (cheap and local) or pheasant.  Maybe this Pontack Sauce will occasion an Occasion.

A fingertip dipped in the sauce and licked suggests a hint of bitterness that gives complexity to a British style sauce, which usually are sweet and fruity, sometimes a little sour.   This feels different, so I understand why it might be in the category of the old-style ketchups and sauces like Worcestershire and anchovy-based condiments.  Somewhere I read Pontack Sauce is a wonderful base for gravies.  Seven years from now: my little boy might have a moustache, my daughter, moved away, and at some family meal we’ll all sit together and ponder where we were, seven years ago.  Seven years hence, these are my hugest wishes of today:

There will have been a moratorium on all new fossil fuel development, and any use of fossil energy will be galvanised to a renewable energy future.  Government and civil society will be benevolently oriented to a socially-just adaptation to the challenges a changing climate is wreaking, with rich countries taking responsibility for the damage our technological history has brought the rest of the world.  There’s been an incredible techno-fix that sinks Greenhouse gasses somewhere safe  (I’m allowed to want this– this is MY fantasy!).  We’re all about community and happiness and health, and everyone has enough to eat, and water, and clean air, and all species of bees have recovered in number.  My hollyhocks have spread everywhere around the garden.   I’ve gotten on top of those piles of paper.   All the yoga balancing poses are really easy for me.  The Pontack Sauce is more delicious than today I ever would have imagined.

Elderberry Cordial

There was a year several years ago when I was feeling the fear, maybe a little too intensely :), about bird flu and swine flu and any old terrible bug that could make us all unwell. And especially regarding my son, who can have a dangerous asthma-type reaction when he is struck by infectious respiratory illnesses. Convinced by what I read on how well elderberries stimulate the immune system, I was buying Sambucol (TM),  the elderberry medicine that tastes so good, sweet with glucose– and a little expensive given that elderberries grow so profusely where I live.

A DIY version, if you are able to find an Elder tree in autumn, is cheap and easy– and dried berries, from mail-order if necessary, would not be so expensive either.  Last year, I steeped some dried berries in brandy, and that has become a wonderful night-cap of hot, flu-fighting power. But I wanted something to give my children, a sweet, purple, medicinal spoonful, maybe similar to cordial and Calpol, for which they beg even when perfectly healthy!  (I don’t give them that Calpol unless really serious, just need to say!)

So I found a recipe online, one that was good enough but not perfect. There are actually so very many, and in the Permaculture spirit of “pattern before detail” I will give a kind of summary, and encourage anyone who wants a precise recipe just to do an online search– you’ll certainly find one you like.

–Freshly foraged elderberries, stripped from their stalks as well as possible
–Maybe a few cloves or pinch of clove powder, cinnamon, fresh or dried ginger, some say lemon, I think grated orange peel would be nice — however you wish
–Maybe for every cup of berries, an eighth to a quarter a cup of liquid– I used a light, home-made vinegar and some apple juice, but didn’t need to– could have used water.  You could use very little liquid if you wanted a less fluid, more syrupy texture.
–Maybe for every cup of berries, a half cup of honey or of sugar.

Simmer the berries with the spices, push through a sieve with a wooden spoon and a little elbow grease,  boil your pureed treasure with the sugar or honey, then put in sterilised bottles.   That’s your medicine for the winter, or a cordial, to dilute in any concentration you prefer.

The more sugar, I guess the longer lasting?  I get trapped in puzzling conundrums when I preserve anything but jam or chutney.   I always like to reduce the sugar I use, but it is an effective preserver.   But things taste too sweet to me when I use the prescribed amount.  I am sure many readers find the same– please if you can , comment on how you resolve this in your life.   Some people just preserve berries– very clean, perfect ones– in honey, but others worry about botulism in situations of no oxygen and low acidity (which sugar gives); this is where I get confused and would welcome insight or conversation.   Also, it’s a reason why with vegetables for savoury preserves I most enjoy lacto-fermentation, because the sour means acidity and those baddie spores just don’t thrive.

I have a Danish friend who every year made an elderberry cordial– she freezes hers until use.  (And serves the cordial in hot water, as a kind of rejuvenating fruit tea.)  Freezing is good but it’s a relatively energy intensive solution, and I always prefer to go lower carbon if possible.  (Though maybe boiling the heck out of jars and bottles and berries uses more than just making than using a spot in an already temperature-controlled freezer.)  Other people keep their bottles in the fridge– but we don’t have the fridge space really.  To preserve it to keep outside refrigeration, one needs extra sugar and  extra boiling — thus reducing the vitamin content. Seems like in so many cases there’s no perfect solution.

Writes the ever-wonderful Alys Fowler here :  “The volume of honey must be greater than the volume of liquid if you want the syrup to remain preserved (if you wish to use less, freeze the syrup). The safest bet is to store the syrup in the fridge: it should last the winter” :

I shall sing “A Spoonful of Sugar” to help the medicine go down, and hope to jolly my children through any winter travails…


%d bloggers like this: