Friday, 30 April 2010

May Day Eve Recipe ~ Elizabethan English Herb and Flower Salad With Honey Dressing

An Elizabethan May Day Eve Flower and Herb salad, just the recipe for this ancient celebration - I think Shakespeare would have approved!

Elizabethan English Herb and Flower Salad With Honey Dressing

An old Elizabethan salad recipe, but with an air of modernity about it, as our interest increases in herbal and floral remedies in today's busy, stressful and hectic world. I have made some suggestions about which flowers and herbs to use - but PLEASE do check that the flowers and herbs you choose to use are edible!! The French also use flowers in their salads, and although the title suggests this to be an English recipe, this style of herbal and floral salad will have been very common throughout Medieval Europe. I serve this with freshly picked flowers and herbs from my garden; it is always enjoyed with great relish and is a vibrant topic of dinner party conversation! It makes a lovely appetiser or can be served with the cheese course for an unusual and pretty accompaniment. Make sure that your flowers and herbs are insecticide free, and are not traffic polluted as well.........wipe them or wash them gently, allowing them to dry before using them.

1 bunch watercress, washed and trimmed
6 spring onions, finely sliced
4 leaves sorrel, shredded
1 bunch lambs lettuce, washed and trimmed
6 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 sage leaves, chopped
3 mint leaves, chopped
1 stalk fresh rosemary, leaves from
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon clear honey
salt & freshly ground black pepper
fresh edible flowers (calendula flowers, roses, primroses, lavender, blue borage, violets, nasturtiums, pansies, marigolds)

1. Toss together the watercress, lamb's lettuce, spring onions, sorrel, sage, mint and rosemary leaves.
2. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice and honey - season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad with the dressing.
3. Place the salad in an attractive serving dish. Scatter the edible flowers over the top of the salad.

May Day Eve ~ A Magical Day of Mischief and Merriment!

Today, the 30th April, is May Day Eve........the day before May Day, one of the loveliest English celebrations. Not long ago, as recently as the 1950's, the day before May Day was still observed and celebrated as a special day. An old May Eve custom was to spend much of the day in the fields and woodlands gathering wild flowers to decorate the villager's homes and the local church. Shakespeare's play "Midsummer Night's Dream" was set around this day, and not Midsummer as most people believe. This was the time of year where the link between us, mere earthly mortals and fairies was at its strongest, and this magical connection is steeped in English folklore.
In the Northern counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire, the 30th May was also know as Mischief Night; a night of trickery and merriment! Young children would play tricks on their neighbours, such as adorning the thatched rooves with rakes, mops and brushes, these were often adorned with household items such as mugs and pails (buckets). Simple tricks that harmed nobody but gave the little ones an innocent chuckle, and their elderly neighbours a muted grumble!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Victorian Watercress Tea Sandwiches

I happened upon some fresh watercress from the local farm shop - crisp, green and peppery, I could hardly wait to get it home to undress it from its brown paper bag! Soup I thought, no, not this time...........I wanted something simple, elegant and yet filling. I decided to make some sandwiches, classic Victorian style sandwiches which were the mainstay for most country children, a cheap and cheerful luncheon in those days as the watercress would have been freely available to pick from babbling brooks and local streams. All that was needed to complete my Victorian watercress lunch, was fresh wholemeal bread, freshly churned local butter and a cuppa!

Here is the recipe for your lazy luncheon requirements:

Victorian Watercress Tea Sandwiches for High Tea and Picnics

During Victorian times, children used to take watercress sandwiches to school in place of meat ones. I love them, especially when cut into small trianges and served with a cuppa. Use the freshest bread - I like to use wholemeal, and a fresh salted farmhouse butter. I have inlcluded a soup idea at the end of the recipe, to be made with the excess stalks! So a soup and sandwich recipe then!

SERVES 4: 8 Rounds of Sandwiches

2 bunches watercress
softened butter
16 thin slices bread
sea salt and black pepper

1. Snip the stalks from the watercress and place the leafy ends on kitchen paper to absorb any water. Butter the bread generously, arrange the watercress over 4 slices and season. Top with the remaining bread, cut into triangles or fingers and serve.
2. Don't discard the watercress stalks; they can be made into a soup. Soften a chopped onion in a pan with butter, add 250ml whole milk and bring to the boil. Add the stalks, cook for 1 minute then liquidise until smooth and foamy.