I like making something that has multiple uses, particularly at this time of year when the kitchen is in catering mode and is grateful for small efficiencies.
A simple sugar syrup can make everyday things special. Pouring the thick liquid over a colourful bowl of fruit salad results in a glossy array of jewels, accented with a hint of emerald from torn mint leaves. Dressing berries in the syrup and adding a scoop of lemon sorbet is deliciously refreshing. And the same flavours work just as well with a big glug of alcohol in festive cocktails.
This syrup combines citrus and herbs to elevate it to a more posh offering. This fresh, zingy syrup is as much a pleasure for your nose as it is for your tastebuds. The lemon and lime are wonderfully fragrant and add a marmalade-like flavour to the syrup, with vanilla hitting the palate as a parting note. The herbs release their oils to add a depth to the sweet and sour syrup, making it a perfect accompaniment to grown-up indulgences.
A friend visited this weekend with a stack of pancakes for brunch (friends bearing pancakes are keepers). We ate them with a summer fruit salad, a dollop of creamy yoghurt and this syrup drizzled over the top. Many happy eating noises were made.
I had reserved some of the syrup sans herbs as we didn’t need it all for brunch. This meant one thing: afternoon cocktails. I had some ginger ale in the fridge and some vodka in the freezer. After a quick trip to the garden to pick some basil, I had the makings of something delicious on a hot day. I stirred the basil into the remaining syrup and shook it with some vodka and ice to pour into a fancy glass, topping it all off with the ginger ale. On a 35 degree celsius day, I can assure you that this was much needed refreshment.
If you’re after a last-minute gift, bottling up this syrup and presenting it with a bottle of vodka or gin would be a lovely gesture.
Speaking of gift-giving, tomorrow is Christmas Day. There’s many people running around like crazy things today doing their last-minute preparations. I hope that you are not one of them, and that your festive season is full of fun and fine food. Thanks so much for stopping by Simple Provisions this year. It’s been a pleasure creating it and ‘meeting’ you all, and I look forward to more in 2013. I hope you can join me! Merry Christmas.
Sugar and Herb Syrup
Takes around 20 minutes, makes 1 cup of syrup
250g castor sugar (superfine sugar)
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 vanilla bean, split
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 bunch mint (or other herb like basil or lemon verbena), leaves picked
Combine sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan and add lime zest and vanilla bean. Stir over a low heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime and lemon juices. Leave to cool, then stir in mint or other herb.
The syrup can be made ahead and warmed through with the herbs at the last minute.
To serve as a fruit salad topping:
Pour sugar syrup over fruit and set aside for 15 minutes before serving.
To serve in cocktails:
Use in place of simple syrup or sugar in cocktails such as mojitos and daiquiris.
Recipe from Karen Martini’s Where the Heart Is.