As the author of The Herb and Flower Cookbook, Pip McCormac is without a doubt one of Britain's leading experts when it comes to edible flowers, and pairing them with some fantastic recipes. Enjoying their moment in the sun this summer, we're not only seeing flowers as part of some wonderful and imaginative meals, but as part of floral cocktails.
Pip recently teamed up with flower experts Interflora, to create a series of unique DIY floral-infused drinks to down in the scorching summer heat, and we've got three of our favourites to share with you here today!
"Flowers can definitely be all style and no substance," says Pip. "Often they are used as decoration and then discarded, such as on lavish cakes. But I'm more interested by when they can be used to enhance the flavour of a dish or a drink - some of the brightest and most beautiful blooms, like marigolds, nasturtiums and even certain varieties of tulip can be used instead of seasoning."
So, what has Pip come up with? Let's take a look at his recipes...
Dirty Nasturtium Martini
Nasturtium seeds have been called “poor man’s capers” and, once pickled, they do have the same umami sharpness. Nasturtiums themselves are a savoury flower, peppery like radishes, nowhere near as sweet as their fiery petals might suggest. Here, they perform the same duty as olives, turning neat spirits into an eminently drinkable aperitif.
You will need:
- Pickled nasturtium seeds
- 100g fresh nasturtium pods
- ½ tbsp salt
- 1 tsp pink peppercorns
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp light brown sugar
- 100ml white vinegar
For the cocktail:
- 70ml vodka
- 1 tbsp dry vermouth
- 1 tbsp pickled nasturtium juice
- Nasturtium flowers to serve
- Wash the nasturtium seeds in cold running water, before putting them into a pickling jar with the salt, peppercorns, mustard seeds, sugar and vinegar. Screw the lid of the jar firmly shut and leave for at least three days, or for up to six months.
- When ready to serve, put the vodka, vermouth and pickling juice into a cocktail shaker with some ice. Shake together and then strain into a glass. Add four or five pickled nasturtium pods and garnish with a head or two of nasturtiums.
Cucumber, lemon and fennel flower gin
This is the best kind of cocktail – low effort, but with huge results. The coolness of the cucumber, the twist of lemon and the aniseed pep of the fennel flower come together to make one wholly refreshing drink, a depth of flavour running through the three additions. You don’t have to use expensive gin – in fact the cheaper the better. It will take on the taste of the infusion, leaving you with something so much greater than the sum of its parts. It will keep, sealed, for up to a month.
You will need:
- 1 litre gin
- 1 cucumber (sliced into ribbons)
- Zest of two lemons, plus more for decorating
- Cloudy lemonade
- Fennel flowers
- Put all the ingredients except the cloudy lemonade together into one jug, carafe or bottle. Cover and leave to infuse for at least two hours, but ideally overnight.
- Place some ice into your chosen glass, pour over a measure of gin and top up with lemonade. Garnish with a swirl of lemon zest and a scattering of fennel flowers.
Raspberry and rose mocktail
The colour of this drink is such a shade of beauty, vivid red offset with the prettiness of the petals. Raspberry is the dominant flavour here as rose just adds a subtle, floral, adult note, any more and it would overpower completely. Serve with sparkling water, tonic, tap or even lemonade. You can make a bottle of this and keep it in the fridge for a week or so.
You will need:
- 500g raspberries
- 2 tbsp honey
- 500ml water
- 3/4 tsp rose water
- Thin, round lemon slices, to serve
- Fresh, unsprayed rose petals, to serve
- Put the raspberries, honey and water into a saucepan over a low heat, stirring so that the honey dissolves. Bring almost to the boil then drain through a fine sieve, discarding the pulp. Add the rosewater, cover and leave to cool completely.
- When you’re ready to serve, put some ice into a glass and pour around 25ml of the cordial over it. Top up with the water or mixer of your choice and serve with thin rounds of lemon and rose petals to garnish.
A word of warning: make sure any flowers you use in food or drinks are pesticide-free. Your best bet is to find a food-focused retailer, ensuring you can eat what you buy. Another option if to go foraging – but make sure you know what you’re picking, and don’t forage where pesticides or chemicals might have been used.
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