Bring on the botanicals!
Sultry summer days are perfect for exploring wild ingredients. Take your al fresco decadence to new levels because it’s that time of the year when the irresistible waft of charcoal smoke and sounds of ice clinking in a filled glass are positively joyful! By Nikki Bawn, Boggle Lane Foods.
From barbecues to cocktails and even desserts, you’ll find foraged herbs, berries, plants and flowers can add a whole new dimension of flavour to a myriad of drinks and dishes.
If you are a carnivore, soaking beef in nettle tea for a while before it hits the barbecue will add unparalleled, umami-like deliciousness. Take a good, rubber-glove-clad handful of nettles, add them to hot water and let cool. This will provide a flavourful bath in which to marinade your meat. It not only adds flavour but seems to tenderise too and I often use it as a base for slow cooked meat recipes for wonderful earthy depth. Using this ‘tea’ is also surprisingly good for you because despite being seen as a weed, nettles are bursting with nutrients including vitamins C, B and K, magnesium, potassium, iron and they even contain more calcium than milk!
If your usual drink and dessert line-up feels a little lacklustre and needs a summer makeover, why not practice a bit of botanical brilliance? You don’t need to own a distillery or be scientifically inclined to achieve real results. Creating your own infusions with a few ‘go to’ ingredients is not only fun; it can be quite addictive too – and not necessarily because of the alcohol content!
Sugar syrup is a great place to start and the perfect base to add a whole heap of herbs, fruit and wild magic. Its versatility means it can be drizzled on sweet treats like ice cream or cake, or used as a base for the most refreshing and delicious drinks.
There’s a huge array of flavoured syrups on supermarket shelves, but who wants prepacked, artificially flavoured fare when making your own natural collection is about as easy as falling out of a hammock!
Celebrate the season and embrace the sun-kissed stars of your garden or local hedgerow with a selection of aromatic and flavourful finds. Here are a few to inspire your inner infuser!
Rosemary: one of my favourite herbs – it brings beauty and fragrance to flower arrangements and
Blackberry: a rich and plump summer berry that brings dramatic colour and flavour to sweet and savoury alike. Known to be brimming with vitamins C and K as well as manganese and fibre, it is said to boost brain health and the immune system. The gorgeous crimson colour of these juicy berries will be perfect for syrup additions. If you’re feeling adventurous, try combining it with other herbs for a fabulously complex yet smooth flavour for sweet and savoury options.
I like creating a few different syrups and then mixing flavours; for instance, blackberry and rosemary go together surprisingly well and their versatility knows no bounds. It’s not unusual for
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