Right, here we go. A nice quick one this week.
I’m running around like the proverbial blue-bottomed fly at the moment, my normally peaceful weekends filled with chores, visits and long trips away around the country.
So these summer pieces are often written on the hoof, and compiled and cooked when I get to the relative sanctuary of the café. And I guess we’re all quite busy at this time of year, aren’t we?
The kids are now well into the school holidays, and we’re all desperate to cram in those barbecues and weekends away while the good weather holds.
So now isn’t the time for a two-day recipe. We need some quick ideas that we can whip up (if interested) and enjoy pronto. With this in mind, this week, it’s a little recipe for a delicious summery cordial drink I’ve been making at home for a few years now.
I do love a good cordial or squash – there’s something quintessentially British about a glass of cold squash drunk on a hot summer’s day. And the memories that flood back with each glugged glassful; orange squash takes me back to hot 1970s summers on Birkdale Road in Dewsbury, where I would take only a matter of seconds to gulp down a glass of orange before getting back on my bicycle and heading off to solve more crimes.
A chilled jug of Robinson’s Lemon Barley Water reminds me of watching Wimbledon, back when tennis was a skilful, enjoyable game, and not the cannon fight it has largely become today.
Watching Borg and McEnroe sipping their Barley Water always raised a terrific thirst, and there’s still nothing like the sour kick of lemon barley water.
When I was feeling under the weather, there was always a reviving mug of warm Ribena to cup in clammy hands, the soothing sweet blackcurrants working as well as any medication.
I developed a keen taste for Rose’s lime cordial at college – it was not only a refreshing mixer on its own, but it went rather well with the cheap vodka we were partial to – during revision all-nighters, of course. Ahem.
And lately, there’s all manner of wonderful new varieties to please the taste buds.
My wife Tracy makes an absolutely knockout elderflower cordial which is wonderful with chilled mineral water, and also pretty darn good with a glass of cava.
The squash shelves are now packed with cordials and syrups from all over the world, made from fruits, herbs and flowers.
All delicious, but there’s nothing like making one’s own. And this week, we’re making a fruit cordial with a little herbal twist.
Raspberries are among my favourite fruit, and they’re now just entering their prime, especially the Scottish-grown varieties which seem to have an intensity like no others. Here we’re combining them with, of all things, fresh dill, to make a decidedly Scandinavian syrup.
The two seem to work so well with each other, the sharp fruit and the fragrant dill, and when diluted with still or sparkling water, it makes for a most refreshing summer treat.
You could, of course, use other herbs (thyme would work well, for example, or even mint) or omit them altogether, but I do recommend you try this, because it’s a real revelation. It also makes a great base for gin or vodka cocktails. Careful when working with fresh fruit, by the way.
It mustn’t touch any aluminium or other reactive metal (including sieves), or it will become horribly tinny and completely inedible, wasting all your efforts.
Best to invest in a good plastic sieve – it will come in handy many, many times.
For the cordial:
1.2kg fresh raspberries
125g fresh dill 600g unrefined golden caster sugar The juice of a lemon 2 litres water
Fresh dill sprigs
Sparkling or still mineral water
Chop the dill finely. Pick over the raspberries in case there are critters and/or leaves, and place in a suitable non-reactive saucepan.
Add the sugar, the lemon juice and water.
Place the pan over a medium heat and bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for five minutes, or until the raspberries begin to disintegrate and the sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove from the heat, add the chopped dill, stir well and allow the pan to cool slightly. Pass through a plastic sieve, pressing firmly to extract as much pulp as possible, but leaving the bothersome seeds behind.
Allow to cool, then pour into a suitable sterile container.
Dilute to your taste with sparkling or still water.