Limeflower cordial – sirop de tilleul

linden 012My very favourite period of summer in London is just about to begin……when the lime trees (linden) come into flower and the perfume wafts down the street – you can see the bees going literally crazy, getting tipsy in a massive honey fest. Different trees come into bloom over a period of 2 or 3 weeks, mainly depending on how much sun they get, but there are different varieties. Some of the later flowering trees seem to have a muskier perfume, which I’ve never used for this syrup.

Continental Europeans have being using the flowers for tisanes and syrups for eons but it’s not quite so commonly used in the UK, so I originally got this recipe from
http://cuisinesauvage.blogspot.co.uk/2007/06/sirop-de-tilleul.html
(which is a really good site for forage recipes – it’s in French, but the recipes are so simply written that even a web translation usually comes out reasonably understandable, if you’re not fluent) – over the past couple of years, I have changed the quantities a bit ( less water, more flowers), but I’ve used the same process, which is the same as I use for elderflower cordial. As ever, you want freshly picked, newly opened blossoms – if you live somewhere with lots of trees, there’s less need to be quite so responsible about foraging, because there are so many blossoms and mature trees are so, so big and tall, you’ll spend half your time finding a tree with low hanging flowers 🙂 As far as I know, there aren’t any of our fellow creatures that depend on the seeds for food.

Ingredients – for every litre of water
250-300 grams of limeflower clusters – this translates as half a carrier bag, loosely packed, when you’re out collecting
500g sugar
5-10 grams of citric acid

Method
Lime flowers grow in clusters on a stalk with a pale green, paddle shaped bract. Remove the stalk and bract and put the flowers into a bowl big enough to take the amount of water you’re using. Boil the water, pour over the blossoms, cover with a teatowel and leave to infuse overnight or for at least 8 hours.
Strain through a sieve lined with muslin. Leave this to do it by itself, don’t try and squeeze the cloth to hurry it up.
Bring the infusion to a simmer with the sugar and 5g of the citric acid until the sugar has dissolved, then boil for 5 minutes. Taste and add more citric acid if desired. It keeps fine for a month in the fridge – I freeze mine in small containers – but if you’re going to bottle it to keep, use the hot water bath method and definitely use 10g of citric acid per litre of water.
The syrup has a flavour that most reminds me of honeyed pears, and it’s lovely as a drink, made into a sorbet or poured over icecream.
I also make a version which includes a sprig or two of lavender at the boiling stage, which was inspired by the ‘tranquility’ chocolate by the Belgian chocolatiers Newhouse.

London gets totally transformed in summer, at least on the side streets and in the parks, when it seems like the whole world has burst into bloom with cascades of sweetly scented roses, jasmine, lavender and honeysuckle.
On some roads, even the litter on the streets gets partially hidden by fallen petals, their colours sundried and scattered like the confetti of a thousand fairy weddings. I LOVE my city 🙂

Brockwell Park Salad

There’s a great park in South London called Brockwell Park, and it has amazing community gardens based around the old greenhouses (it dates back to 1811, so there used to be gardeners on site raising bedding plants for displays). Anyway, some years ago, when the community space was first set up, I was invited to go and help cook the produce at their open day (it was part of my job at the time, working on local food projects – I’m not trying to make out I’m famous). Such a beautiful idyll in the middle of the city.
Anyway, this below is what we made, it was all there was to harvest that day, but happily it was a pretty perfect combination. I always think of it as Brockwell Park Salad – I make it as soon as there’s an excess of nasturtium leaves in the garden…sadly, I haven’t been on the ball enough to grow everything for myself this year, but there were enough new potatoes in the left over dinner I was given, and I have some broad beans in the freezer. The leaves and the onions came from our community garden here in Limehouse.

Ingredients
For every 500 g of potatoes (new or salad potatoes – I like Anya or Pink Fir Apple, ‘cos they’re so dense and nutty)
2-3 generous handfuls of broad beans, fresh young ones or frozen, slipped out of their little white jackets
2-3 spring onions
½ red onion
Rocket leaves – wild or cultivated
Baby nasturtium leaves – if you haven’t got any, you could use watercress, as they come from the same family and taste similar.
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt, preferably flakes or coarsely ground
Coarsely ground black pepper – optional, as the leaves are peppery.

Method
Boil the potatoes in their skins. Placing the broadbeans in a sieve, immerse them in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes, then remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, finely slice the red onion, and chop the spring onions at an angle, into 1cm lengths. Gently heat the oil, and sweat the spring onions for a couple of minutes so they just lose their oniony bite.
Drain the potatoes, and gently squash them to crack their skins – you may need to cut up some of the larger ones. Add the oil, spring onions and the salt, mix through and set aside to cool down a little – it’s fine if you serve it warm, but the leaves will wilt too much if the spuds are too hot.
When cooled a bit, add everything else and fold in. If you’ve got some nasturtium flowers (mine aren’t in bloom yet) you could use a few on the top, but I quite like it yellowy cream and bright green with a hint of crimson from the red onion.

perfect petal confetti

perfectpetalconfetti4blogThis post should properly be tagged ‘a bit girly’, and ‘not a recipe at all’ – however, I like to think of it as ‘waste not, want not’ 🙂
I’ve got lots of flowers growing in the communal part of the garden at the front of our little row of terraced houses – I don’t normally pick them unless I want to give a bunch to a friend– they’re mainly there for the insects and to disguise the fact I’m growing fruit and veg as well. At least one of my neighbours would probably complain if it started to look like an allotment 😦

The full on gale that we had last week in London blew quite a lot of flowers over and broke their stems, so I picked this small bunch of ranunculus for indoors. They last for a week or so in a vase, but the petals also dry really well – the colours mellow a little, but end up looking very sophisticated, and the best thing is, they are gossamer thin and still supple – they make brilliant confetti, lightly fluttering down just like the paper kind (only much posher and biodegradable.) 🙂
S, if you have some in your garden or you get given a bunch, you can extend their season of glory. Remove gently from the flower head, a few at a time, separate and leave to dry.
You don’t even have to wait to be invited to a wedding, they also look lovely scattered on a white tablecloth for a ‘make your guests feel a bit pampered and special’ meal.