Amber nectar: Skye Gyngell adds a drop of maple syrup to dishes from curry to ice-cream

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The warmer days and freezing nights of February and March are the key harvesting months for maple syrup, which means it's never fresher than right now.

The warmer days and freezing nights of February and March are the key harvesting months for maple syrup, which means it's never fresher than right now.

Originally used by Native Americans as both a foodstuff and a medicine, 80 per cent of the world's maple syrup now comes from Canada, where sap is drained from maple trees then boiled to make the viscous liquid.

A dash or 10 of the beautifully rich syrup is the perfect way to impart an earthy sweetness to more dishes than you might imagine, which is why I always have a large supply in my kitchens at work and home. It's perfect on pancakes, of course, but also good in salad dressings or folded into yoghurt and served with fruit for breakfast. I even use it in ice-creams and curries.

What's more, it contains fewer calories and more minerals than honey – it's full of zinc and manganese, which are great anti-oxidants – so there are even health reasons to take a glug or two of this rich nectar.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627

Chickpea curry

Serves 4

600g/21oz dried chickpeas
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp mustard seeds
1tsp fennel seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
5 cardamom pods
1tbsp vegetable oil
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
1 small bunch of coriander, roots included
1 red chilli
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3tbsp maple syrup
The juice of two limes
3tbsp soya sauce
Two jars of good-quality tomatoes
50g/2oz unsalted butter

Soak the chickpeas overnight. Drain and place in a large pot of cold water. Add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Cook over a medium heat for around 45 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.

To make the base of the curry, warm up the spices in a small pan, being careful not to burn them, as this will result in a bitter taste. Grind using a pestle and mortar.

Add the vegetable oil to a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients comfortably and place over a medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the onions and cook for five minutes to soften them. Chop the coriander and the chilli very finely and add to the pot along with the garlic and the spices.

Add the diced carrots and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the maple syrup, lime juice and soya sauce, stirring well to combine the flavours, and cook for another few minutes. Add the tomatoes and turn up the heat slightly. Cook for 15 minutes to thicken the sauce.

At this point it should taste hot, sweet and slightly sharp. Keep the pan over the heat until the carrots are cooked through but still firm. At this point, add the chickpeas and the butter.

Baked maple-syrup custard with rhubarb

Rhubarb makes a lovely pudding with this baked custard or even simply folded through soft vanilla ice-cream.

Serves 6

For the custard

1 litre/35fl oz double cream
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways
The peel of one lemon
The yolks of 12 organic free-range eggs
4 whole organic free-range eggs
150g/5oz caster sugar
200ml/7fl oz maple syrup
150ml/5fl oz marsala wine

For the rhubarb

5 sticks of rhubarb
180g/6oz sugar
1 cup of water or verjus
1 vanilla pod
The peel of one lemon

To make the custard, start by placing the cream, vanilla pod and lemon peel into a saucepan, place on the hob and bring to just below a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside for around 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Beat the whole eggs and yolks together until well combined. Add the sugar and continue to beat. Add the maple syrup and marsala and stir well. Strain the infused cream through a colander into the egg mixture. Stir and pour into a baking dish. Gently lay the baking dish in a bain marie – in this case, a roasting tray filled with warm water. You need to make sure that the water comes no further than halfway up the side of the pan. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for around 30 minutes. The custard should be golden-brown on top but still wobbly in the centre. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Place the sticks of rhubarb on a baking tray and sprinkle with the sugar. Drizzle with the water or verjus and tuck the vanilla pod and lemon peel among the sticks. Roast on the middle of the oven at 180C/350F/Gas4 for 20 minutes or until soft. Remove and allow to cool before serving with the custard. '

Sweet potato with spiced yoghurt

Serves 4

For the potatoes

2 sweet potatoes, peeled
The juice of half a lime
2tbsp of maple syrup
1tbsp soya sauce
1 dried chilli

For the spiced yoghurt

200ml/7fl oz good-quality Greek yoghurt
The juice of one lime
2tsp Tabasco
3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Slice the potatoes into generous chunks. Place in a mixing bowl and spoon over the maple syrup, soya sauce and lime juice. Crumble over the chilli and combine well. Place in a roasting dish and roast, uncovered, on the middle shelf for 20 minutes. Remove and baste with the juices. Return to the oven for a further 20 minutes or until soft.

While the potatoes are cooking, place the yoghurt in a bowl and add the lime juice, Tabasco, olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Stir well to combine.

Remove the potatoes and place in a warm serving bowl. Spoon the yoghurt over them and serve immediately (pictured here with roasted chicken – but they work with almost anything, or on their own).

Maple syrup and pecan ice-cream

Serves 8

500ml/17fl oz whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways
10 egg yolks
100g/31/2oz caster sugar
11/2tbsp maple syrup
300ml/10fl oz double cream
20 pecan nuts

Place the milk and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to just below the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for at least 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod and set aside.

Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl and whisk together thoroughly.

Return the milk to the heat and again bring it to just below the boil. Remove and add the maple syrup. Pour over the egg and sugar mixture, then return to the saucepan and place over a very low heat. Stir in a figure of eight motion until the liquid coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Once cool, stir the cream through the mixture, then churn in the ice-cream maker. When the ice-cream begins to set, fold in the nuts and continue to churn for another 10 minutes. Transfer the ice-cream to a tub and place in the freezer for at least two hours before serving. You can serve it, as I do, with a few more chopped pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup.

The Forager by Wendy Fogarty

Petersham's food sourcer on where to find the best maple syrup...

The highest-quality syrup – light in viscosity and colour — is graded A or 1 and is the syrup of choice for pancakes. The slightly thicker and darker syrup is graded B or 2 and is ideal for glazing.

Shady Maple Farm, Quebec: The most commonly found maple syrup in the UK, this is sourced from the Shady farm as well as 1,500 producers in Canada. It is widely available from health-food stores and delicatessens

Selfridges: The department store's food halls sells Epicure Pure Canadian Maple Syrup Grade A and Highland Sugarworks Pure Maple Syrup ( www.selfridges.co.uk)

Whole Foods Market: sells syrups from Shady Maple Farm, TerraSana Organic Syrup, Meridian Organic and its own label, Fresh N Wild Everyday Maple Syrup ( www.wholefoodsmarket.com)

For further information: get a hold of The Maple Syrup Book by Janet Eagleson and Rosemary Hasner (£15.95, Boston Mills Press), which is filled with culturally distinct recipes, folklore and the history and traditions of its manufacturing

Suggested Topics
News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
I'm not worried about United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker