Category Archives: Drinks

Iced Lemonade & Hot Green Peas

Warm August days and there’s really no better place to be than Britain. I did wonder a few weeks ago, whether I would regret our decision not to go abroad this summer. Right now, having looked after a friend’s glorious garden just down the road in Clifton (with cabin – see the amazing pic’s below) for a couple of weeks, and with a little sortie to see my sis’ in Devon planned, I’m very happy.

Fresh lemonade is always a winner and a really simple thing for children to knock up. This picture of Imi and fabulous friend Alpha (who also appears in the Cool Kids Cook book) was taken by  John Holdship for the Borough Market Magazine (you can find the original honey and rosemary lemonade on the market site here). Today I’ll give you the simplest of recipes.

lemonade 3

Iced Lemonade                                       Serves 6-8

The most thirst quenching drink imaginable, as long as it’s not too sweet.

6 large, juicy lemons (ideally unwaxed)
5 tbsp sugar
250ml water
Plenty of ice and cold water to top up.

Peel the zest from 2 lemons (avoiding too much bitter white pith) and place in a small saucepan with the sugar and water. (If your lemons are waxy and shiny it’s worth dropping them into boiling water for a couple of minutes and then wiping away as much of the sticky wax as possible with some paper towel before zesting)

Heat up the pan to boiling point and then leave it to steep whilst you squeeze the lemons. People talk about microwaving lemons to make the juicing easier, I just roll the whole lemons around on the work surface , pressing and squashing as I go, to loosen up the flesh.

Pour the fresh juice into a jug and, once it is cool, add the steeped syrup from the pan,  along with a few pieces of the pared zest. Top up to taste with plenty of ice (don’t forget that this will dilute the lemonade as it melts) and some cool water.

Lemons vary in size and acidity so I’d have a couple of extras standing by, in case you need to sharpen this up a little.

& Hot Green Peas

The fact is, when it is really, really hot in the UK, we just aren’t prepared for it. Last month I went to Westminster for a parliamentary event to mark The U.N. International Year of Pulses. It just happened to be the hottest day of the year, sweltering in fact. The aim of this gathering of M.P’s, Peers, farmers, traders and campaigners was to raise British pulse awareness. You can take a look here if you don’t know why we’re all shouting about legumes this year; if you’ve been reading my blog over the last few months then you’ll have all this info’ down pat so feel free to move on. FAO-Infographic-IYP2016-FoodSecurity-en

The extraordinarily British element of this day was that, despite the excruciating heat of  Westminster’s Jubilee Room, two particularly dedicated members of The British Edible  Pulse Association still slipped into their lycra pea outfits (talk about boil in a bag).


And…………. on the subject of peas, if you feel like making a wonderfully simple and very, very good pea soup then try this Pea, Lime and Lemongrass Soup from the fabulous Diana Henry.





Learning to Love Water

It’s ridiculous but I never seem to drink enough water. I sometimes get that searing, top of the skull headache that signals dehydration and often wake up feeling desperately thirsty. Why? It’s extraordinary when we have water on tap, that so many of us fail to achieve the recommended daily fluid intake of 1.6 litres for women or 2 litres for men a day. OK it doesn’t all have to be water but most of it should be; it just seems so much easier to drink coffee, tea or sugary cordials not to mention all the wine, beer, cider and spirit options  (current favourite : Aperol Spritz).

Last weekend we made our annual pilgrimage  to WOMAD – a festival of world music and dance near Malmesbury. It’s our summer highlight and this year was a scorcher. We adore WOMAD, you can flit from Senegalese kora and drums to Welsh folk, from Jamaican reggae to Ukrainian “ethno chaos” (in the words of the WOMAD programme! ). The children go wild and have a sense of  freedom and adventure that’s difficult to find nowadays. One of the highlights, and I know it sounds bonkers, is refilling their water bottles. Once the kids have their bearings we allow them to disappear for a minute or two into the crowds (yes, it’s terrifying to begin with, but when do you give a child their first sense of responsibility and space?). They make their way to the  Frank Water refilling station (more about Frank in a moment) and return triumphantly with their bottles of chilled water. Their insatiable desire for these tiny bursts of freedom means that they drink water by the pint, which is great in the heat. 

So Frank Water has become synonymous with WOMAD for the children, but there’s so much more to shout about. You can read all about the Bristol based charity on their website but I’ll sum up as best as I can. Frank sell refillable water bottles at festivals, cutting down on all the plastic disposable bottle waste whilst raising money to fund sustainable clean water projects in the developing world. It’s genius – and this year in particular, in the intense heat, I really appreciated having their beautifully cool water, whereas I’m ashamed to say that I do often take water for granted. One in ten people worldwide have no access to clean water whilst, rather extraordinarily, many of us spend money on bottled water when we’ve got perfectly good water on tap. We’re spoilt.  Frank Water also sell Devon spring water by the bottle in all sorts of restaurants, cafes and shops with those proceeds going to the charity too. So look out for these guys and give them your support.

Frank Water

And now to my new resolution to drink more water. Here are a few of my tips, although I’m only a couple of weeks in.

1. Pour some water into a large bottle or jug so that you can gauge how much you’re drinking

2 Remember to chill it – it makes such a difference (obviously if you have one of those swanky American style fridges you can bypass this stage)

3. Flavour your water, and I’m not talking squash here.
-Try putting a few sprigs of mint and slices of lemon into the water, it’s instantly more interesting.
-My all time favourite trick comes from The Lido where they sometimes have long ribbons of cucumber whisping around in a jug of chilled water, the taste is very subtle but wonderfully refreshing.
-Literally any fruit sliced or slightly squashed and added to your glass of water will add a little something.

4. Boiling water poured over a large slice of fresh ginger makes a great coffee/tea alternative (that’s once I’ve had my caffeine – which I couldn’t possibly give up)

……… And Yet More Rhubarb

spiced rhubarb and grilled mackerelAt last a chance to cook up one of my favourite combinations. Lovely Kate gave me a huge pile of rhubarb from her garden a couple of days ago and the slightly milder weather has lured back the mackerel, they virtually jumped off the slab at the fishmonger’s this morning. So dinner was decided in a moment.

Grilled Mackerel with Spiced Rhubarb

I medium mackerel per person, gutted and trimmed of fins
A splash of rapeseed oil
salt and pepper

For the sauce (for 4)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
3-4 shallots, finely diced
1 cm piece of ginger, finely diced
1-2 red chillis, finely diced (do check how hot they are)
1 star Anise
About 4 sticks of rhubarb
Juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp sugar
1-2 tbsp Tamari or Soy Sauce

Pre-heat the oven or grill to its highest setting. Line your tray with a bit of foil, to save on washing up later, & then splash on the oil. Turn the fish in the oil and then season. Set the fish aside whilst you get the sauce done.

This sauce is a cinch.  Just fry the shallot, ginger, chilli and star anise for about 10 minutes until slightly golden and very fragrant. Add the rhubarb, orange juice, sugar and a splash of Tamari. Simmer gently until the rhubarb is soft but still intact. If you do have a disaster and the rhubarb collapses into a stringy mess then it’s best to puree the sauce completely. Balance the sauce with more sugar or Tamari if necessary.

Cook the mackerel in the oven or under the grill until just cooked through and coming away from the bone. We had new potatoes and a fresh green salad with ours this evening. Very, very nice indeed.

The sauce is also stunning with pork belly and I’m up for trying it with roast duck next time around.

Rhubarb Cordial

I still had mounds of rhubarb and decided to make some cordial. I wasn’t expecting the fabulous girly-pink juice that I’ve seen in magazines since most of the sticks were rather green (and no Kate, I am NOT complaining). But, I have to admit to being pretty chuffed with the stunning peachy-pink of my cordial, which is good news since I think that boiling up the expensive, early forced rhubarb really would be too much of an extravagance.

I’ve tinkered with my recipe a little because the cordial could do with being a a bit more intense. It really only worked at a 50/50 dilution so I’ve cut down on the water in my recipe below. So yours could come out an even more amazing colour.

rhubarb cordialAbout 500g rhubarb, chopped into smallish logs
Juice of 2 orange
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
200 g raw castor sugar
200 ml water

Fling everything in the pan and simmer until the rhubarb has just collapsed and looks rather slimy and revolting.

Strain the rhubarb mixture through a sieve and resist from stirring, prodding and squashing (or you will end up with a cloudy syrup). The cordial will drip through slowly. You could leave it to strain in the fridge overnight if you have room. I never do, my fridge is a nightmare; an avalanche just waiting to happen.

Bottle the cordial, keep in the fridge and use within a week. If you really do have a massive rhubarb crop on your hands you could stir in about a tablespoon of citric acid (available from shops that sell home-brewing kit) to the rhubarb just before straining  and then you’ll be able to keep it for months. It’s delicious with some stem ginger syrup added too.

Try your cordial with:

Fizzy water and fresh mint. With Prosecco, an English spin on the Harry’s Bar Bellini. With a shot of vanilla vodka (recipe to come at a later date) Or make a jelly…see below

And the leftover rhubarb mush

The rather unattractive sludge left in your sieve is fantastic stirred into some Greek yoghurt for breakfast. You could even layer it in a glass with some cream/custard and crumbled ginger nuts for a simple supper dessert.

Rhubarb Jelly

Rhubarb Jelly is fabulous using your cordial. Check the size of your dariole moulds, rabbit, racing car, other jelly moulds or perhaps you’re just using glasses. Fill up the mould with water and tip into your measuring jug and multiply by however many you’re making. Take enough sheets of gelatine to set said amount of liquid and place them in a bowl of cold water to soak.

Remember not to dilute the cordial too much, your jelly needs to be much sweeter and stronger tasting than a drink would be. Heat up about 1/4 of your diluted cordial. Remove the floppy sheets of gelatine from their water, give them a squeeze and then add to the hot liquid. They’ll dissolve in an instant. Add the remaining liquid for your jelly and tip into the moulds. Leave for a few hours to set.

Dip the jelly moulds into some hot water, just for as few seconds, and turn out onto plates.

rhubarb jelly