When Anne came back from the kitchen Diana was drinking her second glassful of cordial; and, being entreated thereto by Anne, she offered no particular objection to the drinking of a third. The tumblerfuls were generous ones and the raspberry cordial was certainly very nice.
Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
It's been a strange old month, hasn't it? Britain seems to be falling apart at the seams. The continuous and near inescapable news cycle we're all embroiled in has meant I've barely stopped thinking about Brexit, Theresa May, being an immigrant - albeit one with a British passport - or the mess that is the Labour party. I have friends who are uncertain of their futures here in the UK, have had despairing conversations with family members on the other side of the world (where, just to add to everything else, Pauline Hanson has been elected to the Senate) and am feeling impotent in the face of all of this. In short, I'm exhausted. So many people I know are. We're facing bleak, uncertain times; as I write this, Boris Johnson has just been named Foreign Secretary. Whatever next?
For all of you who are feeling as I am, please be assured that this week's recipe is simplicity itself. I have spent the past few days reading comforting, familiar books, and making food I know and love for the kids - ice-cream, Turkish Delight, macaroni cheese, toad-in-the-hole. I've been finalising everything for the shoot for my book (which starts on Saturday), writing and rewriting recipes, ordering kilograms of butter and litres of milk, trying to ignore the little bleeps on my phone that hail yet more snippets of unfathomable news. This afternoon, I had a little bit of time on my own to make something new, but next to no mental capacity to take on anything complex. Thankfully, this cordial requires nothing more demanding than some gentle stirring and straining. It also delivers, in a bottle, the summer we have so sorely been missing.
It's my first (though I am certain not last) recipe from Anne of Green Gables. I have been planning on featuring Anne, one of my old favourites, since the very beginning, but couldn't settle on the right recipe; there are so many lovely things described in the book. Having spent some time with it in the bath over the weekend, I was reminded once again how frequently raspberries come up, and how much I love this scene, especially the cordial that is 'ever so much nicer than Mrs Lynde's' (because it is actually currant wine). Diana, drunk on the three glasses of 'cordial' she gulps down, stumbles home, and Anne is left bewildered as to how the mix-up occurred. If you haven't read Anne of Green Gables, it's a bit of a theme. Our protagonist often finds herself in scrapes, especially when she takes to the kitchen, but she is honest and well-intentioned and eventually gets everyone on side. She's definitely what I needed this week - the perfect tonic.
Raspberry Cordial (not currant wine)
Makes around 500ml
150g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
Sterilised glass bottle
1. Put the raspberries, sugar and split vanilla pod into the small saucepan. Place over a low heat and squidge around, then bring to a slow simmer. Cook for ten minutes, until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Push the raspberries through a fine sieve into the bowl, leaving the seeds and vanilla pod behind in the sieve. Boil the kettle and then pour the juice of the lemon and 200ml boiling water through the sieve, into the bowl below, squashing the seeds around again in the sieve to get rid of any final bits of pulp.
3. Pour the cordial from the bowl back into the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for three minutes, then, while still hot, pour very carefully into the bottle (a funnel is helpful here). Put a lid on the bottle, allow the cordial to cool and then serve.
Serving suggestions: a small splash is lovely with gin and ice, it's great over ice-cream and I've been enjoying it today with tonic water and a slice of lemon.
The cordial makes a lovely gift, as it will keep for a few months, so long as you have sterilised your bottle effectively.