Autumn Fruits

I love blackberries. When I was a small person, my birthday treat was a bowl of stewed blackberries topped with a generous dollop of double cream. Considering my birthday is at the end of March, my mum did a brilliant job of ensuring my wish could be granted every year! So just now I am in my element, picking blackberries as we take our hound for his country walks, quickly filling a tub whilst he runs round getting covered in grass seeds, then popping the blackberries in the freezer when we get home.

Bearing in mind that we already have a LOT of blackberry and apple steeping in alcohol, that I am not so keen on blackberry jam (too pippy), and as there’s only so many crumbles, muffins and cakes a girl can eat (really…), and our freezer is getting a bit full, I decided to use some of my spare blackberries to make cordial.

We use a lot of cordial, because we make water kefir (a rather delicious probiotic & enzyme rich fizzy drink you can brew at home), and we flavour the kefir with cordial during the fermentation process. I usually buy Rock’s cordials, but they are expensive, so it’s brilliant to have an alternative. To make my blackberry flavoured water kefir even more nutritious, I decided to do more foraging and add elderberries to the cordial. These amazing berries are incredibly rich in vitamin C, so we will hopefully be free from ‘flu and colds this winter!

There are lots of stories about elderberry stems and twigs and toxicity – I don’t have any particular concerns, having reassured myself by reading this, but I do make sure to remove as much of the twiggy and stemmy bits as possible (more because of the bitterness that they bring than for any other reason). I find the easiest way to do this is to freeze the umbrels of berries whole, then pulling the berries off the stems by dragging a fork through them. You get cold hands, but it is quicker this way, and you don’t get quite so purple.

Look how gorgeous the blackberry and elderberry water kefir looks! It tastes as good as it looks, I promise:

cordials 2


You will need glass bottles to store the cordial – I like these glass bottles from Lakeland because they fit in the fridge without taking up too much room. I also buy this brand of extra virgin olive oil because it comes in lovely reusable bottles.  If you sterilize the bottles correctly (there’s a great method described on this very useful post about cordials – under the heading ‘Preserving’), the cordial will keep in a cool place (fridge or cool cupboard) for up to 3 months (but never drink anything that smells off or is bubbling!!). We are currently experimenting with putting some of our cordial in plastic bottles and freezing them – I shall let you know how that goes.

The recipe I am giving here made 2 litres of cordial, plus an extra 500ml that I popped into a a plastic bottle and froze. But you can reduce the quantities (as long as you keep the proportions) without any trouble. You might want to make just a small batch to start off with, just to check that you like it.

Enough of the preamble – here’s the recipe…

Blackberry and Elderberry Cordial


  • 1kg blackberries
  • 500g elderberries (after removing from stems)
  • 225g granulated sugar per 600g juice after straining (I used 750g for these quantities)

You will also need a large piece of muslin, or jelly bag to strain the juice, a large bowl to catch it, plus enough bottles to hold about 2.5 litres of cordial.


  • Put the berries in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes so that the fruits release their juices. Squish the fruit a bit with a wooden spoon, fork, or potato masher to extract lots of juice.
  • Whilst this is happening scald a large piece of muslin or a jelly bag by pouring boiling water over it. Once the bag has cooled a bit, squeeze out the excess water, and drape it over a large bowl.
  • Pour the contents of the pan into the muslin cloth/jelly bag, then catch up the corners of the muslin and bring them together, suspending the muslin/bag over the bowl so that the juice can drip out. I tie my muslin cloth to one of my cupboard handles with the bowl on the work surface beneath.
  • Leave the juice to drip overnight – don’t squeeze the fruit or you will get very cloudy, slightly unappetizing cordial.
  • The next day, measure the juice into a large pan. Make a note of the amount of juice you have and calculate how much sugar you need to add. Add the sugar, bring slowly to the boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Whilst the cordial is simmering make sure you have the bottles ready sterilized and sterilize a funnel and small jug or ladle to transfer the juice.
  • Once the 15 minutes are up, allow the cordial to cool a little then pour the juice into the prepared bottles.

cordials 1

As you can see, I’ve also been making plum cordial, with the 2014 plums that were still hanging round in the depths of our freezer. I used the method outlined here, which works very well, although I like to add a touch of lemon juice when I serve it, to perk it up a bit.

If you don’t do water kefir (I know, it’s a bit obscure, but I do urge you to research its benefits), these cordials are lovely served like standard squash or with sparkling water, and the blackberry and elderberry cordial is particularly delicious diluted with hot water, when you are feeling like you need a bit of comfort.

A new magazine: Today’s Quilter

I was delighted to be asked, by the team behind Today’s Quilter, to review the first issue of their lovely new magazine, which aims to take a fresh look at traditional quilting. It’s a really great start – with the emphasis firmly on gorgeous fabrics, creative projects, quilting traditions reinterpreted for today and quilting techniques. This mix makes for a rich and rewarding read.

Today's Quilter 1


The list of contributors – Susan Briscoe, Lynne Edwards, Jen Kingwell and Carolyn Forster, to name a few, immediately inspires confidence – we are in safe hands – and the magazine is almost worth buying for the Jen Kingwell Block of the Month alone! In fact the first section of the magazine, ‘Inspired By’ features a pic of the wonderful Midnight at the Oasis quilt design by Jen Kingwell, and sets a vibrant tone for the rest of the magazine. Absolutely love it:

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The quilt project designs are traditional, but stylish, and imbued with a real enthusiasm for our quilting heritage. A case in point is Susan Briscoe’s pretty Dryslwyn Quilt – which is a re-interpretation of an Edwardian Welsh scrap coverlet. As well as a full step by step project, we also get a little about the story behind the quilt and the patchwork it was inspired by:

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There’s also a section, inspired by the design of the quilt, about how symmetry is used in quilting to create movement and interest. Finally there’s a new technique to learn – using a knife edge finish rather binding the quilt:

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There’s a lot here for experienced quilters and beginners alike – with a good mix of skill level across the patterns. And even the most experienced quilter would probably find something to learn from the incredibly detailed and really useful section on templates, written by Linda Clements, author of The Quilter’s Bible.

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A particularly useful section is Diary Dates – so good to be able to find out about all those brilliant textile exhibitions and events that might pass you by otherwise:

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My only request is that it might be better to organise it by area, rather than type of event…. but that’s a tiny moan!

So here’s that BOM I mentioned – I defy you not to be reaching for your fabric stash to have a go at this one. I do LOVE Jen Kingwell’s unabashed mixing and matching of fabrics:

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And if all that wasn’t enough – you have a fab little extra gift, a booklet celebrating the glorious Kaffe Fassett’s 50 years in textiles:

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Excitingly, the next issue is going to feature Welsh quilts, and the renowned Welsh quilt collecter Jen Jones, as well as Pauline Ineson (author of the innovative book How to Make an Heirloom Quilt), and you can attend Lynne Edward’s virtual workshop on strip piecing. It’s certainly worth signing up for a trial, at just £5 for the next 3 issues.


Schnitzel & Boo Mini Quilt Swap

It feels like an awful long time since I have written about sewing, which is supposed to be the main thing round here… I’m busy (as usual) working on a few bits and bobs – a project for Love Patchwork and Quilting for next year, a Christmas project for Ochre & Ocre and a cushion pattern for the lovely people at Black Sheep Wools, and a mini-quilt for the Schnitzel & Boo Mini-Quilt Swap (round 4). I have become slightly addicted to making mini-quilts for swaps over on Instagram – it is such fun and such a brilliant way to test out ideas and skills. It seems like a lot of other people love them too because swaps seem to be kicking off all the time – I have to restrain myself! – and there are 1008 of us doing the Schnitzel and Boo swap.

I finished the quilt top for the swap yesterday:

Mini quilt 1

It’s hard to tell from the pic, but it is pretty small – the little triangles have 2″ sides – and it’s 16″ across as the widest point. Because it is small and accuracy was at a premium, I decided to foundation piece each row onto paper, then stitch the rows together. I had an inspiration and realised that if I worked first from the right hand side of the row, then from the left hand side of the next, the seams would be in alternate directions and so would fit together nicely when sewing the rows. It worked like a charm! And I am very pleased at the way my triangles match up, mostly, very nicely.
Mini quilt 2

Now I’m putting it aside for a while whilst I figure how to quilt it – hand or machine? And bind it – contrast, blend, coordinate….? It’s all so tricky! But good to give it a bit of space whilst I think about it, and for once (the deadline isn’t until early November) I am actually ahead of the game. Remind me of this when I am still faffing about binding on November 1st…

Recipe: Fiery Courgette Relish

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I’ve been really looking forward to sharing this recipe for courgette (zucchini) relish – it is a wonderful way to get rid of a glut of courgettes at the end of the season, when you are getting a little tired of them… It will transform a kilo (2lb) of those green monsters that you have left on the bush for just a little too long into 2 jars of the most incredibly addictive relish. It has the advantage of being one of those chutneys can be eaten straight away, but it will also keep well (although I have never kept it for more than a couple of months because it gets eaten up too quickly) in a cool cupboard in properly sterilised jars.

It’s very definitely an Indian style chutney with the smoky pungent spice of black mustard seeds, onion seeds, cumin and more, and a not insignificant kick of chilli, but it also preserves the summer-fresh fruity flavours of the tomatoes and courgettes. We eat it with curries (of course – I love it with chana masala and especially with lamb curries), but also on sandwiches with cheese, ham or (fantastically) bacon and spinach,  and it is absolutely at its best with a homemade beef burger.  I use a Scotch Bonnet chilli and then add further heat with quite a lot of dried crushed chilli. If you are worried by this kind of fieriness, then feel free to start small – use a bog-standard supermarket chilli or 2 and halve the quantity of dried chilli – then have a taste towards the end of the cooking process and add a little more if you think you can take it! Remember that it is meant to be a relish, and a little will go a long way, so it needs to be punchy.

Courgette Relish header

Fiery Courgette Relish

  • Servings: makes about two 500g jars
  • Print


  • 6 large cloves of garlic (8 if they are on the puny side)
  • 30g piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 red Scotch Bonnet chilli
  • 1kg courgettes (zucchini)
  • 500g vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of onion seeds (aka nigella or kalonji)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 320g white wine or cider vinegar
  • 350g golden granulated sugar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 level teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 level tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 tsp salt

You will also need two 500g (1lb) sterilized jars


  • Peel and chop the garlic, fresh chilli and ginger very finely and then scrape onto a small plate or saucer. WASH YOUR HANDS AND RINSE THE CHOPPING BOARD AFTER HANDLING THE CHILLI.
  • Chop the courgettes by slicing them lengthways and then chopping them into fairly chunky half moons (1cm wide) and slice the tomatoes thinly and put together in a large bowl.
  • Measure the black mustard seeds, onion seeds and cumin seeds into a small cup or bowl.
  • Heat the oil in a large sturdy pan until it smokes a little. Tip in the mustard, onion and cumin seeds and as soon as they start popping and crackling, turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Fry for about 5 minutes to allow the ingredients to soften and release their flavours.
  • Stir in the courgettes, tomatoes, vinegar and sugar and bring them slowly to a simmer.
  • Add the chilli flakes, turmeric, garam masala and salt, and then simmer gently for an hour or more until you have a nice chunky relish consistency. The length of time this takes will vary depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes you have used, so just be patient and stir the mixture from time to time to make sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Before you pot up the relish, take a little from the pan, allow it to cool a little and taste the mixture for flavourings. Now is the time to add extra chilli or salt if you need to.

Really hope you like it! Do let me know if you give it a try.