Recipes: elderflower cordial, elderflower tea

26/05/2011 at 10:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Elderflowers: fragrant and good for you

We are busy gathering elderflowers for cordial right now. The fragrant flowers are all around us in the hedgerows, and easy to collect. Each head is a frothy summer’s bowl of wellbeing.

Elderflowers have been used for centuries for their health benefits. Elderflower water is mildly astringent and has traditionally been valued for the complexion. Make your own fresh elderflower toner by steeping a head or two of the fresh flowers – remove the pungent stalks first – in half a cup of boiled water, then straining. Apply on cotton wool, or spritz on to your skin. You can use it over a couple of days if kept in the fridge.

Elderflower cordial is an uplifting summer tonic – delicious with still or sparkling water on a hot summer’s day. If you have a cold or flu or feel run down, a hot drink of it in the evening is comforting and healing. Elderflowers are diaphoretic – they help the body during a fever by inducing sweating.

The recipe: we take around 25 elderflower heads, with the stalks removed, and add them to a big bowl in which 1.3 kg of sugar have been dissolved in 1.8 litres of just boiled water. We add a couples of lemons, sliced, and a couple of oranges (or limes, for a more sharply refreshing summer drink). We mix the whole thing up, cover and leave for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, strain the liquid through a muslin cloth. It’s ok to give the cloth a good squeeze to get out more of the juices. Then decant into clean, sterile bottles (You can sterilise bottles by putting them through a dishwasher, or by gently simmering in a big pan of water.) The cordial will keep for at least a month in the fridge. I have kept it for up to six months, though it usually gets drunk long before that! You can also pour it into washed plastic bottles – leave space at the top as it will expand once frozen – and store it in the freezer.

We also gather the flowers to make herbal tea, which has all the health benefits of cordial, without the sugar. Discard the thick stalks, and leave the flower heads to dry. When dry, crumble the flower heads, discarding more stems as you spot them and place in an airtight container. This will keep for a year, until the next elderflower harvest. To make your tea, put one teaspoon of flowers in a cup of boiled water, brew for three to five minutes, then drink. You can add a slice of lemon or orange and maybe a spoonful of honey…. You can also make fresh elderflower tea by steeping some of the florets (without the thicker stalks) in hot water for around 5 minutes.

Feed the skin from within

31/03/2010 at 9:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Mango smoothie

Take one ripe mango, peel and chop. Add two dessert spoons of natural live bio yogurt. Add one teaspoon of natural unrefined caster sugar. Blend altogether. Add enough apple juice to achieve the right drinking consistency. Enjoy!

Why it works: mango is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. It contains a generous supply of antioxidants including masses of Vitamin C as well as Vit A and skin-friendly Vit E, all of which can help to prevent disease and ageing. Another constituent, a triterpene called lupeol, has been shown to inhibit skin cancer.

Yogurt, like mango, is rich in AHAs which are great at helping skin cells to renew themselves. A daily dose of live bio yogurt will also help to keep your insides healthy, which in turn will help your skin to glow. And the apple juice will deliver some more health-boosting anti-oxidants.

Recipe: Rosewater and Glycerin

15/11/2009 at 11:13 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments
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This is another solution to the issue of preserving the skin’s moisture levels, and it comes to you with love and radiant skin from my mother, Shirley. Shirley has a beautiful complexion: glowing and dewy. She looks far younger than her age.  And for much of her grown up life she has used Rosewater and Glycerin. If she swore, she would swear by it.

As a young mother sailing from England to Russia in the 1960s, she carried with her a gallon of Rosewater and Glycerin. It was enough, she calculated, to last her for the duration of her husband’s two-year posting to the British Embassy. Of course, she didn’t get through half of it, and left the rest to her cook, Nadia, who no doubt enjoyed her own radiant complexion for a long time thereafter (and perhaps a few valued friends and customers did too).

Nowadays, I blend my mother’s classic recipe for her, and here it is for you.


1/2 cup  rosewater 1 tsp vegetable glycerin


Put the ingredients in a glass bottle, shake vigorously, and let it settle. Shake before use. Use as a toner/moisturizer morning and evening.

Why it works

Glycerin is a fantastic humectant, which is why it’s valued in soaps (glycerin is actually a natural by-product of soap-making). Whereas oil locks moisture into the skin and prevents it from escaping, a humectant attracts it from the external environment, and draws it up from the internal layers (so keep drinking the water). A humectant such as glycerin is  particularly helpful during the winter months, when the central heating comes on.

Rosewater is skin-soothing, anti-inflammatory, healing and anti-bacterial, with a mood-enhancing scent.

My mother uses Rosewater and Glycerin at night on its own, after soap and water, and in the morning she adds a moisturiser with sun-screen. I love the simplicity of this approach – and it works.

PS Plenty of rest plus regular doses of meditation also help keep the skin young. Check out this easy guide.

Recipe: yummy skin food face mask

01/10/2009 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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This is my favourite exfoliating facial treatment: great for your skin, and absolutely good enough to eat.


1 teaspoon oats

1 teaspoon clear honey

1 teaspoon plain, Greek-set yogurt


Take a small bowl, or teacup. Lightly crush the oats with a pestle and mortar, or with the back of a spoon in the base of the bowl, then add the yogurt and honey.

Mix thoroughly. Taste some if you like – it’s yummy!

Apply all over face, making sure hair is well clear, and rub gently in using small circular movements, up and away from the centre. Then pat evenly all over, and leave mask for around 10 minutes. Wash off. Your skin will feel tingly, smooth, clean and  moisturised.

Why it works

The oats, rubbed over the skin, act as a gentle exfoliator helping old skin cells to be shed, and new ones to glow. Additionally, oats contain wonderful emollient, skin-soothing properties and have relaxing qualities too.

The yogurt is rich in lactic acid which is a gentle and effective alpha hydroxy acid (AHA): anti-ageing, exfoliating, it moisturises, improves skin texture and helps skin to renew. Yogurt also contains skin-boosting nutrients.

The honey is moisturising, anti-bacterial and skin-healing and contains a host of botanical traces to enhance its effect.

Please note: it is a good idea especially after giving your skin a treatment to ensure you don’t spend too long in the sun; use a good sun-screen.

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