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Ten modern twists on traditional rural recipes


Caroline Bretherton has worked in the food industry for 17 years. The author of The Allotment Cookbook Through the Year shares some simple ways to update your traditional fare.

1. Elderflower cordial

This simple homemade cordial has long fetched a premium price on supermarket shelves, yet it is really easy to make at home. Many parks and green spaces play host to elderflower trees, so next time you pass one, gather a bagful of blooms and try your hand at this quintessentially English drink.

2. Jam

The lure of homemade preserves is strong, but few of us have the time or the patience to make our own jams and jellies. Take a more modern approach and try your hand at freezer jam, which is set with agar flakes and frozen until needed.

3. Chutneys

Chutney often has overtones of the Fifties, when it was too often crammed full of soggy raisins and brash-tasting curry spices. Today it is just as easy to whip up a batch of tomato and chilli jam or red onion marmalade to complement a variety of cold meats and cheeses.

4. Pies

A meat pie is a wonderful thing, but homemade pastry can be difficult to master and takes time to produce. Hand pies are an easy alternative, where circles of ready-made puff pastry are wrapped around fillings such as spiced lamb, curried spinach and potato or salmon and asparagus.

5. Flowers

For centuries, flowers, petals and flowering herbs have been used in British cookery, and they are enjoying a comeback. Try sprinkling bright purple chive flowers on a salad, or mixing a scant teaspoon of lavender into a shortbread dough.

6. Crisps

Most of us have fond memories of the apple or rhubarb crumbles of our childhood, but they can be heavy and stodgy. A simple upgrade would be to make a crisp, where chopped fruit such as cardamon-flavoured plums or peaches and blueberries are covered with a thin, uneven layer of oats, butter, flour and sugar that has been roughly rubbed together.

7. Pickling

Traditional pickles such as onions take time and care to produce, and need to be preserved under certain conditions. It is far easier to produce a jar or two of quick pickles to keep in the fridge for up to a month. Try finely sliced Lebanese cucumbers with dill, or thinly sliced radishes and red onions, doused in a mixtureof white or rice-wine vinegar, sugar and salt.

8. Possets

A posset is a dessert dating back hundreds of years in which citrus juice is used to‘curdle’ and set cream. They are gelatin-free and super simple to make, and are enjoying a comeback with new flavours such as blood orange and rosemary or lime and coconut.

9. Drying produce

When your garden produces a glut of tomatoes or apples, it is tempting to try and cook or freeze them all. Yet it is equally simple to dry them for future use. Lay them on a baking sheet in a single layer and leave them in a very low oven (with the door propped open with a wooden spoon) until they are completely dry before packing into jars for storage.

10. Game

Game and wild meats such as venison, pigeon and rabbit have long been part of the countryside diet, especially when people hunted for their own kitchens. Today, such lean wild meats are more popular than ever when the alternative is bland and mass-produced.