As soon as we got talking to Ella Martin over coffee (one cup became four and that's always a good sign), we knew we wanted to incorporate her passion for seasonality and quality local produce into our blog. Ella is a mother and countryside lover. She recently started her country living inspired blog, The Wild Buds, a celebration of great local food and recipes.
So, as the trees start to lose their leaves and we gather round the fire as we head into the chilliest and most festive time of the year, here is Ella's first seasonal feature. You can expect more seasonal loveliness as we welcome Spring but for now it's all about embracing winter...
Winter is here and it's time to think about all the essentials - entertaining, gifting and amusing the kids! Ella Martin has given us the low-down on what's hot this winter and how to make the most of nature's seasonal bounty!
Jelly on a plate
Hosting a dinner party? Want to give your Sunday lunch the wow factor? Or perhaps you're having the neighbours over for Christmas drinks? I have been been waiting to try this out for a couple of months. After I added edible petals to into my French 75 boozy lollies for my son's third birthday (for the parents!), I was itching for my next project. And jelly it is!
This recipe can be adapted in heaps of ways, using different edible flowers. Tweak the recipe using your favourite tipple - Pimms, champagne, wine and gin and tonic all work, as well as non alcoholic options such as grape or apple juice or elderflower cordial.
Just remember, the more boozy you make the recipe, the more gelatine you'll need.
Edible Petal and Prosecco Jelly
10 leaves of gelatine
150ml elderflower cordial
A large handful of organic edible flower petals
Soft fruit (optional)
Put the jelly moulds/mould in the fridge along with the prosecco and chill for at least an hour. This is particularly important if you are using anything fizzy in the recipe. The colder the ingredient going into jelly, the faster it will set. If it sets quickly. then the bubbles will be trapped within the jelly, and these will burst as you eat releasing the flavour and "fizz"!
Place the gelatine in a bowl of cold water to soften for a couple of minutes.
Put the elderflower cordial into a small pan and add the squeezed out sheets of gelatine. Gently heat until the sheets are completely dissolved. Take off the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.
The next stage is a bit of a faff but without doubt makes gives the end result the wow factor! Put one third of the gelatine mix into a jug with one third of the prosecco and give a quick stir. Pour into the mould and add one third of the fresh flowers giving them a gentle nudge to make sure they are trapped within the jelly. Put the jelly in the fridge and re-cork or clingfilm the prosecco and return to the fridge as well.
Chill for at least 45 minutes until the jelly is just firm to the touch. Repeat this process two or three times - you may need to warm the gelatine mixture again if it sets in the pan.
This method ensures even distribution of flowers through the jelly - likewise if you are adding fruit or mint leaves - otherwise there is a danger of them floating to the top and you'll lose the visual effect.
Return the jelly to the fridge and finally set (it will sit happily for 36 hours or so).
To serve, dip the mould briefly into hot water to loosen the jelly and then turn out onto a plate. Serve with ice cream or creme fraiche.
* Make sure the petals used are both organic and edible. Do not use petals from the supermarket, garden centre flowers or florists as they are sprayed with a cocktail of preservatives, herbicides and insecticides which are not fit for us to consume!
This recipe is courtesy of Jan Billington of Edible Flowers. Visit her website here.
Wrap it up; wrap it in
It has crossed my mind that I may have OCD tendencies in the gift wrapping department. A little effort goes a long way and adds a personal touch to each gift.
Here are my three favourite winter wraps that won't break the bank.
Get the paints and brushes out and get creative. You can purchase a roll of lining wallpaper really cheaply from your local decorating shop. Roll your sleeves up and let the children get stuck in. The little ones love it and they look fab when wrapped with a contrasting colour ribbon. Good fabric scissors make for a sharp ribbon cut. Little details go a long way.
I appreciate that some of you don't have the luxury of calling someone up for some pheasant feathers as I did! Ask your local butcher for handful or good old eBay will come up trumps. The feathers do the talking here so opt for plain paper - traditional brown parcel wrap looks good and can be found for around £1 per roll.
I found glitter tape at my local Card Factory shop but you could use any statement tape. They can be found all over the hughstreet. Paperchase is another good call.
These look gorgeous but take a little longer to prepare. Green foliage can be found in the garden, foraged in bushes or at your local florist quite cheaply for a few stems. I love eucalyptus, bay and olive branches. Keep in a cool place and in water until you need to wrap.
Newspaper looks quirky with this option, and the Financial Times adds a pink hue to the mix after you've read up on the latest Trump circus.
I used eucalyptus and white string here, tied at the back.
Wrapping my gifts always kick starts my festivities. I hope I have inspired you to think outside the box and add some nature to your Christmas. Must haves also include - the Scotch tape wrist dispenser, Baileys (original), ice and Love Actually.
All wild birds need a little extra help in the winter. It is the most important season to feed them - natural food supplies are scarce, and if we get a cold snap they will be reliant on your contributions.
If you can feed or top up at the same time each day the little birds will really appreciate it! They have a built-in body clock just like us and appreciate the routine. Early morning is great as birds lose weight overnight and need a good start to the day - just like us!
My little one spends around £7 per week on bird seed. Fat balls, peanuts and wild bird seed mix are his favourites and he tops the feeders up with me. Pick the perfect spot to hang them in your garden so that you can watch the birds feed whilst cozied up indoors... it really is a form of meditation.
We would love you to join in with us and try out he simple bird feeder cookies below. Use the hashtag #wefeedthebirds so we can see your creations! We used Christmas themed cookie cutters but you can use whatever you fancy or have in your kitchen drawer, or Play-Doh tub!
200ml of liquid gelatine
300g wild bird seed mix
A few straws
String or ribbon
Make up the gelatine according to instructions. I did try this out with Vege-Gel but it did not seem to bind well enough. Play around with the quantities if this is your preferred choice of gelatine.
Once heated, simply mix with the wild bird seed. Small hands enjoy doing this with a bog mixing bowl and a wooden spoon.
Cover a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper. I sprayed with an oil spray but if that's not to hand, just smear some cooking/vegetable oil on top of the paper so the cookies don't stick.
Press the bird seed mix into the cookie cutter ensuring they are quite tightly packed in.
Cut up a few drinking straws and put where you'd like your string to hang on the cookies.
Place in the fridge for as long as possible - overnight is best.
Get out of the fridge and allow to dry at room temperature.
Loosen the cookies from the cutters, tie a loop of string or ribbon and voila! Tie these onto a tree and watch the birdies feast.
Farming is in Ella's blood - her family's farm has been running for over a hundred years in rural Essex. Nestled in the countryside and happily buzzing around the wild flowers and river meadows, Ella and her bees are celebrating their first ever honey harvest. Local small-batch, hand poured honey. With minimal cold filtering, the honey isn't heat processed so it retains all the pollens - it's virtually a hive-to-jar process! We have been lucky enough to try her honey and we can vouch that its absolutely delicious... you can find out a little more about it here!