Tag Archives: Elderflower

Black Badgers and Blood Oranges

Today’s bright and chilly; I’ll try to whisk myself along to The Lido for an outside swim once I’ve written this post. I’ve no problem with piling on the long johns and stuffing some extra fleece into the guinea pigs’ bed box, the cold feels invigorating and the light is a joy. Dingy, grey days are another matter; I’m often convinced that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, that awful drained and lethargic feeling during the dark months of winter. I have a S.A.D. lamp that I switch on beside my desk on the gloomiest of days, I’m not sure that it makes too much difference but at least I feel that I’m taking control of the situation.

People often talk about comfort food in dismal weather but actually what I need is a serious pepping up and so a salad packed with good stuff such as oranges, avocado and pulses is just the thing. It’s not that I would shun a doughnut (particularly if it happened to be a Borough Market Bread Ahead doughnut – once tasted never forgotten) but if I put together a really vibrant salad of fabulously tasty bits I will enjoy it just as much, yes I promise you, I really will. That’s just it, pulses are often considered rather stodgy and worthy, they can be, but given the right treatment they taste divine.

In Britain we produce vast, vast quantities of peas. Frozen green peas are the nation’s favourite veg’ and I’m not knocking them at all – sweet, quick, crowd pleasing and great for soups, (try this absolute cracker from Diana Henry), but it’s easy to forget that historically all the peas we grew were dried and cooked up into staples such as the  “pease pudding” we all know from the nursery rhyme. We get through a fair amount of marrowfat peas too; matured on the stem until starchy and rotund, and particularly popular for mushy peas. Nigella’s recipe for marrowfat pea and avocado hummus is inspired (just whizz up 1 ripe avocado, a drained 300g can of marrowfat peas, 1/2 a clove of garlic, juice of 1/2 a lime – then season with salt, pepper and more lime if required) Dried, split yellow and green peas make great soups – particularly the classic pea and ham soup  I wrote about on The Borough Market blog.

Today I want to tell you about my all-time favourite pea, the Black Badger, and not for the first time, here’s a “vintage” post (there’s an irritating title for yesterday’s news). Black Badgers or Maple Peas have plenty of other names: Carlin or Carling Peas in Yorkshire, Black Peas in Lancashire and Grey Peas in the Black Country.

The peas are said to have flourished in English monastery gardens hundreds of years ago, with their beautiful blooms. Geordie folklore tells a tale of siege and starvation back in 1327 when the people of Newcastle were saved by a shipload of Carlin Peas from Norway, other sources talk of the peas being gathered from a Spanish shipwreck  in Elizabethan times. Whatever their history these nutty little peas have only really been appreciated in more recent times up North. “Parched Peas” (just slow-simmered and served with salt and vinegar) are a Lancashire classic on Bonfire night whilst you’re more likely to be eating your Carlin Peas in Yorkshire on the Sunday before Palm Sunday  ( so best go buy some) with a little butter stirred in.

I like to cook up a pot of Black Badgers (they take about 45 minutes) and throw them into  salads, soups or stews. Try using them in the place of a chickpea in any recipe; they’re chameleons like all legumes, soaking up flavours and infinitely adaptable. I felt the need for a winter vitamin hit and never take any persuading when it comes to blood oranges. The citrusy sweetness is the secret to this salad, offsetting the hearty nuttiness of the peas and the richness of creamy avocado. Sprouted radishes add an almost mustardy nose-rush and then there’s plenty of coriander too. All in all the salad has attitude, that’s the best way with pulses.

Blood orange and Black BadgersBlack Badger and Blood Orange Salad

Serves 4 (as a light lunch, maybe with a bit of bread?)

600 g cooked black badgers, drained
4 blood oranges, peeled and segmented (reserve the juice)
2 avocados, flesh cut into chunks
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tbsp cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of sprouted radishes (you could use sliced, feisty radishes instead)
Fresh coriander, leaves from 2 good sprigs
1 tbsp black sesame seeds (if you have them, or white or even a few sunflower/pumpkin seeds)

So, drain your badgers and put them in a bowl with most of the orange segments.

Keep the orange juice to toss the avocado around in (then it doesn’t oxidise and go black)

Mix together the dressing, taste and balance it up and then tip over the badgers. Taste again pulses need to be well seasoned and love vinegar/acidity.

Add the avocado and any orange juice, the remaining orange segments, radishes, coriander and sesame seeds but DON’T stir (or the creamy avocado will make your glistening peas look murky and sad).


Cooking Black Badgers

or any whole dried peas for that matter

I soak my peas overnight, drain and then cover with plenty of cold water. Simmer for about 45 minutes ( I put a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda in with 500 g dried beans to spend up the softening process as an experiment – yes they cooked marginally quicker and are definitely a bit softer and creamier than my last batch) Marrowfat, green or yellow peas may take a little longer to cook.

Leaving the peas overnight in the fridge in their cooking water has given the peas a darker look – more dramatic black than brown now.

You may have a local source for Black Badger Peas, I can find them in a number of Bristol stores, if not you can track some down on line at the wonderful Hodmedods  And, a little advice, don’t just stick with the Badgers, Hodmedods sell a whole range of fabulous British  Peas, beans and quinoa. The roasted peas are my current desert island snack.

No Black Badgers?

A black bean would work nicely (I love the contrasting colours here) as would a pert lentil (of the Puy/ French green style rather than softer brown) or even a chickpea. I know that I’ve said it before but here we go again…. legumes are wonderfully versatile.

If you’d like to learn more about cooking pulses how about coming along to my day workshop ?

Pulse: At the heart of the kitchen 
The Bertinet Kitchen on Saturday May 7th








Elderflower Vinegar – Chapter Two

I finally got around to straining the elderflower vinegar that I made last month. My funnel had gone walk about and so I had ample excuse to buy a very natty lime-green, rubber snail version that I’d spotted up the road. It’s fabulous because it folds flat like a concertina and so I can wedge it into my over-filled kitchen draw. It came from a great shop, Sense in Clifton, where there’s a very tempting selection of fun, culinary gadgets. In fact my vinegar ended up being quite an extravagant affair because once I’d found my snail I couldn’t resist one or two other luminous rubber must-haves for my kitchen, but more on those at a later date.

I’ve kept my elderflowers steeping in vinegar in the fridge for the last few weeks, I probably didn’t need to but it’s been so hot lately that I worried about the flowers going mouldy. Today I strained the vinegar through muslin and put it into some old bottles I had stowed away. It tastes wonderful; really floral.Green salad with Elderflower Vinegar

I’m sure that I’ll come up with some more exciting moments to use my vinegar but today I dressed a simple green salad with Arbequina olive oil (that I simply adore), the vinegar and a bit of seasoning. We ate the aromatic salad with Cumberland sausages and new potatoes, hardly gourmet but very good all the same.
I’ll definitely be making larger quantities of the vinegar next year, and plan to begin collecting up any attractive bottles in the meantime.

Elderflower Vinegar

What a weekend, who’d have believed it?  Summer’s arrived at last, Murray’s won Wimbledon and we finally got around to picking some elderflower blossom. Rather than making some cordial I plumped for vinegar this year; I may even christen my finished bottle with some suitably corny, Murry-esque title if I can think of one (all suggestions welcome).

I’ve been eyeing up the bounteous blossom for weeks. Has it been a particularly good year or is it just the fact that I’ve been frustrated at never getting out there ? Well, what with the sudden heat-wave I really did think that I might have missed the boat, as the flowers must be fresh and new or there’s the chance of that rather nasty cat-pee bouquet. We finally made our way up to The Downs, Bristol’s fabulous open park land, to find the place heaving with cars and runners and so we were forced to retreat to one lone elder we’d spotted on the way.

We perched precariously on our steps, reaching out with the loppers over a very uninviting bed of nettles and managed a rather measly pile of flowers. So, gallons of cordial were obviously out of the question and suddenly Diana Henry’s suggestion of Elderflower vinegar (from her fabulous book salt sugar smoke) seemed perfect. It’s a cinch to make too.

Elderflower Vinegar

1 suitable  jar, such as a kilner jar, sterilised
Enough elderflower heads to fill your jar
1 bottle of white wine vinegar.

Clean off the blossom, shaking off any bugs, but don’t wash it or you’ll lose all the fragrant pollen (don’t pick after a dewy dawn or rain either, for the very same reason).

Push the flower heads into the jar and cover with vinegar. I put a plastic pastry cutter in on top of the flowers to keep them below the surface of the vinegar. Leave for 3 weeks in a cool, dark place and then strain through muslin.

I couldn’t resist a little taste today and amazingly the vinegar has already taken on some fabulous floral notes. I’ll update you in a few weeks time.