Ginger and Fennel Syrup

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A couple of weeks ago my friend, and fellow blogger Sam (from Me and my Second Self), and I, had a little jaunt out to Silverdale to do a recce on a campsite we’re thinking about booking for a church camping trip in the spring.

We chose the wettest, windiest day of the year to do this. It could not have been wetter!H

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Here we are soaked to the bone, dripping hair plastered on our faces and waterproof jackets anhilated…

So, after we’d succumbed to the wrath of the Great British weather, we called in at the Wolfhouse Kitchen for a spot of lunch, and to warm up and dry out. The food there is fantastic and I really couldn’t fault my celeriac rosti with wilted greens, poached duck egg, chilli and peanuts. It was a taste sensation. Sam and I both enjoyed a ginger and fennel hot chocolate too. I’d never experienced ginger, fennel and chocolate together before but the flavours really work. It inspired me to have a go at making my own ginger and fennel syrup and I finally got around to doing it today.

I’ve made a large batch with the intention of giving it away as Christmas presents, so, if you want to, quarter the recipe to give a smaller batch. I used:
1200g sugar
800ml water
A large chunk of ginger root
4 tablespoons fennel seed
1 tablespoon of ground ginger

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Scrub the ginger (but there’s no need to peel) and slice thinly. Put the fennel in a dry pan and toast lightly until you get a whiff of that distinctive aroma. Bash the seeds up a bit with a mortar and pestle to realease the flavour, but don’t grind them to a powder.

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Put all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about ten minutes until the syrup starts to thicken. Your kitchen will smell divine!

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While the syrup is thickening sterilise a large jar or bottle. I use my daughter’s old bottle steriliser to do this, but there are various methods, just have a look online if you’re unsure. Poor into the jar/bottle, seal and leave to cool.

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Once cooled I opened the jar and strained the ginger slices and fennel seeds out, re-boiled the syrup and re-sterilsed the jar before decanting the syrup back into the freshly sterilised jar. At this point you could decant into smaller bottles (which is what I would have done had I been organised enough to buy some!).

You can use this syrup however you wish. The initial distinctive aniseed flavour of the fennel, is followed by deep warming ginger tones and it works well as a cordial, over ice cream, to add a wintery touch to a fruit salad, in coffee, or best of all in a hot cocoa, served with whipped cream and a sprinkling of ground fennel, ginger and cocoa.

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Smoked bacon and maple scones

You may have noticed I’ve got a hankering for bacon & syrup at the moment. It’s the heavenly amalgamation of sweet, salty and smokey that does it for me. It sounds so wrong on paper, but seriously all you sceptics should give it a go. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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For these swirly scones I simply whipped up a batch of basic scone mixture. I happen to like this one by good old Delia Smith. Once the dough is made, set it aside and fry off 150g smoked bacon bits until cooked. I prefer to use a lean cut, but you could use lardons from the belly pork if you like. Once they’re cooked and a little crunchy, turn off the heat and add in 4 tablespoons of maple syrup. I added in half a teaspoon of sea salt flakes as well as I didn’t think my bacon was salty enough to offset the sweetness of the syrup, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether yours needs it. Let the mixture cool as you roll the dough out.

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Roll out the dough into a roughly oblong shape.

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Use a pastry brush to brush the dough with the warm syrup from the bacon bits pan. Sprinkle over a scant amount of dark brown sugar, before scattering over the bacon leaving a gap if about an inch on one of the long sides. Roll it up starting from the opposite side.

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Slice off the scraggy ends and squish them together. This is important. You’ll see why later. Put it on a lined baking tray. Now slice the roll into 6 equal portions and add to the baking tray.

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Bake for around 16 minutes in a 200oC oven, or until golden brown.

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These tasty morsals are a present for a friend who’s celebrating his birthday tomorrow, so I transferred them to a foil container and allowed them to cool whilst I concocted a glaze. I’m afraid I don’t have measurements for this as I made it up as I went along. To icing sugar I added maple syrup, a teaspoon of camp coffee, a glug of double cream and then I loosened it all with a dash of milk. When you’re happy with the taste, spoon it over the scones.

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These are best enjoyed warm, so if you can resist eating them straight away store them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them, then warm them through in the oven for a few mins.

Now, remember I told you to cut the two scraggy ends off the roll, squish them together and bake along with the others? Here’s why…

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Chef’s treat. Enjoy!

Smoked bacon and pancake dippers

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Oftentimes I dream food. I’m sure I can taste in my sleep. Occasionally whatever I was dreaming about cooking tastes so good in the dream I have to make it for real. This was one of those times.

I awoke from my slumber thinking I had come up with the most amazing amalgamation of two world renowned breakfast staples, so was slightly disappointed when I looked online and realised that actually my American brothers and sisters cottoned on to this phenomenon a long time ago!

Crispy smoked bacon encased in fluffy American style pancake batter, sprinkled with icing sugar and dunked in maple syrup. OMGOSH, heaven on a plate. I was trying to wait until our upcoming camping trip before making these, but caved when I decided to make the batter ahead of time and freeze it ready to take with us on our jollies.

Firstly, whip up a batch of your favourite American pancake batter.  My go to recipe is here. If you’re using it right away pop it in a piping bag, or a condiment bottle as it makes it easy to shape when cooking it.

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Grill some smoked streaky bacon until crisp. Then set it aside on some kitchen roll to absorb the excess fat.

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Pipe long oval shapes in a greased frying pan, top with a piece of bacon and then cover the bacon in another thin layer of batter.

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Cook over a low/medium heat until bubbles appear in the batter then flip over and cook the other side.

To serve sprinkle with icing sugar, and dip in warmed maple syrup.

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Divine!

I tripled the recipe on the link, poured the rest into a zip lock bag and will freeze it to take with us. If you lie it flat in the freezer it makes it easier to transport as it will stand up in the cooler and there will be lots of space for other meals too. Also, the bag will double as a piping bag when you come to cooking it.

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Rose hip and Manuka Honey Syrup

Rose hips have long been used as an immune system booster, reportedly containing 50% more vitamin C than oranges. It’s no wonder these shiny little autumnal powerhouses have been made into syrup and gleefully spooned into mouths winter after winter.

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Instead of using just sugar for the syrup I decided to experiment with Manuka honey to really give this syrup a health boosting kick.

Unfortunately, I only had a small amount of rosehips, but that’s part of the fun of foraging I guess, making the most of what the land gives you.

Wash the rose hips and cut in half removing the furry whiskers where the stalk attaches (don’t worry too much if you miss a few as we’ll be straining through a muslin later). Throw them into a saucepan, seeds and all, and cover with boiling water. The exact amount really doesn’t matter too much at this stage. Boil for 15 minutes before breaking them up a bit with a potato masher (obviously do not drain). Once mashed, boil for another 5-10 minutes. Add more water at any time during this process should it be evaporating too quickly.

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After 20/25 minutes line a sieve with a clean tea towel or muslin and drain the mixture. Let it sit there until the pulp is cool enough for you to squeeze the remaining juice out of.

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Now, pour the flavoured water into a measuring jug and take note of how much liquid you’ve got. How much sugar and honey you add depends on how sweet and thick you want the syrup. I ended up with 250ml water and added two tablespoons of sugar and two of honey. I poured the water back into the pan with just the sugar and allowed to come to the boil and reduce. I purposely didn’t add the honey at this stage as I wanted to limit the amount of damage done to the goodness of the honey through the heating process.

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After about ten minutes I added in the two tablespoons of honey and allowed it to melt into the mixture without boiling.

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The result is delicious! I put it in a sterilised jar and will be looking forward to enjoying a teaspoon or two a day be it over yoghurt, in my morning smoothie or simply off the spoon.

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