Here are some of my absolute favourite recipes.
In the interests of research, I have sampled all of these recipes extensively and can confirm that they are, without exception, greatly enhanced if eaten with a cup of tea and a lovely new magazine.
I would really love to know what you think about these if you make them - it's always great to get feedback or suggestions for improvements.

Elderflower cordial
I can't remember where I got this recipe from, but I know it's not terribly new as it's in imperial.  It's an annual favourite with me and big nut in particular (and my father-in-law, who always pinches a bottle.)  It's very simple and somehow very satisfying to make - I love seeing the bottles lined up on my shelves, though they don't hang around for long.  The recipe says it keeps for up to three weeks (though my father-in-law did just tell me he finished one of last year's bottles off last week, and he lived to tell the tale...)  I can't see why it wouldn't be okay for longer, there's a lot of sugar in it!

20 heads of elderflower (shaken)
3lb 5oz sugar
1.5oz citric acid (you can get this from old-fashioned chemists or online)
2 lemons (sliced thinly)
2 oranges (sliced thinly)

1) Place sugar and 2.25pts water in a jam pan.  Warm slowly to dissolve the sugar
2) Bring slowly to the boil
3) Add the flowers, bring back to the boil then remove from heat.
4) Add all the other ingredients, stir well, cover and leave in a cool place for 24 hours
5) Strain into sterilised botles*
* I lay a muslin square in a sieve over a big jug and strain the cordial through this, then pour into the bottles through a funnel, I find this the least messy way to do it!  I sterilise my bottles by standing them in a sinkful of very hot water and then pouring boiling water into them (and over the stopper) just before I fill them with cordial.  Or you can put them in the oven at a low heat for about half an hour (just be careful the stoppers aren't plastic though, or they'll melt, I know this from experience...)


Nana's gingerbread
This recipe is a very, very old family recipe passed down from my granny's granny (her nana).  I absolutely love that fact.  Every time I make it I think about how my great-great-granny made it too and I feel a real connection with her.  I think this recipe could be 150 years old.  This isn't gingerbread like gingerbread men you get from the baker's; this is literally, gingery bread/cake.  It tastes amazing and keeps for ages in a tin (it just goes stickier and nyummier).

12oz golden syrup
4.5oz butter
1 egg, well beaten
half pint of sour milk (less 1 tbsp)*
9oz self-raising flour
1.75 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 heaped tsp ginger
1 level tsp mixed spice

* no idea why it's 'less 1 tbsp', but there you go...  I don't use sour milk, I think this is used because the recipe pre-dates fridges, so sour milk was pretty commonplace, instead I use a mixture of natural yogurt and cream or milk, whatever I've got to hand really.

1) Put butter and syrup in a pan and cook until they boil.  Remove from the heat and add the milk.
2) Sift together the dry ingredients and mix with the syrup.  This needs to be done pretty quickly as the wet and dry mixtures react with each other and start to fizz - you need to get it in the tin before all those lovely bubbles start to pop.
3) Add the beaten egg and pour into a lined, greased, big roasting tin.  You need a big tin as the mixture really, really fizzes up and grows massively while it's cooking.
4) Bake for 25-30mins at gas mark 5 or about 180 degrees.  Don't be tempted to open the oven until right at the end, to check it's done, because it will deflate.
5) The cake is ready when it's dark golden brown and springs back from the touch.  Slide carefully out onto a cooling rack and leave until cool (if you can bear to!)


Squash and sweet potato soup
This recipe I made up after one of those 'oh god, there's no food in the house' moments.  It's a complete breeze to make and tastes absolutely yummy.

1 butternut squash
1 large onion
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
Olive oil
1-1.5 litres stock

1) Peel the squash and sweet potato.  Chop into pieces about 1inch square.  Put in a large roasting tin.
2) Peel and chop the onion into eight wedges.  Add to the roasting tin.
3) Drizzle the veg generously in olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.
4) Put in a medium oven to bake until the veg are soft and slightly browned.  This should take about 30 - 40 mins.
5) Transfer the cooked veg and all the cooking juices to a large saucepan and add about a litre of stock.
6) Whizz up with a hand-held blender until smooth.  You may need to add more stock to get the right consistency.
7) Heat through and serve with lovely crusty bread.  Yum!


Best-ever banana loaf
This recipe was given to me by a good friend and very quickly became a complete family favourite.  Mr Nut loves it straight from the oven, so hot it almost takes the skin off the roof of your mouth, I like it the day after I've made it (if there's any left) when it goes a bit sticky and nyummy, and a good friend says she loves it toasted with butter.  However you like it, it's very, very quick and easy to make and is also completely yum.


3 bananas (the riper, the better)
11/2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
Optional: you could also add a handful of: chopped nuts such as walnuts; chopped, dried apricots; choc chips or raisins

1) Mash the bananas in a big mixing bowl and add everything else.
2) Mix well, but take care not to over-mix, and put in a greased, lined loaf tin 
(you need a fairly small one)
3) Bake at 175c for 50-60 mins 
(yes, really - I am always amazed by how long this takes to cook)

Handy hint: after about 40 mins, peep in the oven to see how the top of the loaf's looking - if it's starting to look a bit too dark, move the shelf down in the oven.  After about 55 mins, test with a skewer - if it comes out clean, the loaf's ready.  Leave to cool in the tin, before turning out onto a cooling rack.