1 Sewing in the shade of an old apple tree
I love sewing outside. It is one of life's great pleasures. Although one has to be careful not to lose the needle in the grass!
The version I've been sewing this year is in a Provençal "Souleiado" fabric I picked up in France last year. I love the clear brightness of the fabric's colour and design. All "Souleiado" fabrics have that bright clarity about them, inherited direct from their roots in "les indiennes" imported into Provence back at the end of the 16th C. You can read about their colourful and dramatic history here. Happily, after a period in the doldrums in the late nineties, they are back in production again.
2 Making mocha frappuccinos. H adores these and they're dead easy to whip up, I've discovered. Which is useful, seeing that they're quite expensive if you buy the ready-prepared versions and H drinks the stuff in some quantity.
All you do is make a cafetière of very strong coffee. While it's still hot, add three tablespoonfuls of demerara sugar to it, stir and leave it to get cold.
Put into a blender the following:
2 cups (500 ml) of the cold, sweetened coffee
2 cups (500 ml) milk - any type; I use semi-skimmed.
4 tbsps (60 ml) chocolate syrup; to my delight I discover Waitrose stock the classic, American, Hershey's Chocolate syrup so this is what I use (to feed my illusions of being a Starbucks barista!), but any chocolate syrup will do
1 cup (about 10) ice cubes
Blitz and whizz to a nice frothy consistency and pour into a bottle / glasses and serve with a summery paper straw (for that essential 70's retro touch!)
3 Experimenting with some more flowery cooking. This is an elderflower sponge i.e. a normal sponge but with some elderflower cordial added. Tastes very good (fragrant without being too elderflowery) but it sank like the Titanic in the middle. The crater was perfect for filling with summer fruit however and although I feared the cake might not have cooked all the way through, it had. The slightly imperfect appearance was more than made up for by the flavour and texture of what turned out to be one of the most deliciously moist sponges I've ever made. May have to reduce the quantities of syrup added though for less of a caldera on the surface!
4 A pink peony. Everything I love about summer is in the poetry of this flower.
5 Back to the flowery cooking. Encouraged by my elderflower cordial-making this year, I thought I would do the same with some lime blossoms whose honeyed perfume takes me straight back to my schooldays. Summer afternoons spent in the shade of an avenue of ancient lime trees in the school grounds which had once been an 18th C landscaped garden.
The lime flower cordial is more delicate in scent and taste than the elderflower version. Although while it's in the process of steeping you might feel the reverse - it has quite a grassy, slightly overpowering smell at this stage. I've used it here to make lime blossom ice cream. The texture is not very good as the motor-arm on my ice cream-maker died suddenly and unexpectedly and I had to stand and churn this by hand for 45 minutes which wasn't as good. But do not let that put you off - it makes a delicate, very English ice cream that partners English summer fruit like a marriage made in heaven. And if, like me, you have a masculine household that's quite sniffy about flowery cooking, don't tell them what's in it and they will never know! If, of course, you want to restrict consumption, you may want to go ahead and tell them it's packed with girly blossom! With the ingredients unadvertised however, this disappeared dismayingly quickly, despite its imperfect texture!
If you want a fragrant summery read that leads to fragrant summery cooking, I recommend this. Frances Bissell was one of the first cooks whose writing inspired me when I was learning to cook properly rather than as a "Sunday driver, never took a test" kind of cook. She's been eclipsed in the limelight by more recent culinary stars but she is worth rediscovering - her cooking is inspirational and adventurous without being "gimmicky"*, her recipes work and she writes beautifully.
*I say she isn't "gimmicky" although possibly her recipe for Elderflower Stone Ice Cream, which involves beating elderflower syrup into vanilla ice cream on a stone slab with a couple of cleavers, is the exception to this! But see for yourself! Page 69, if you're interested!
6 Wearing my summery hooky apron, finished a while back, but waiting for summery days to be deployed in action.
The aran weight cotton - a mixture of Drops Paris, Rico Creative Cotton and Puppets Lyric - is surprisingly comfortable and practical to wear - perfect for drying your hands on as well as protecting your clothes. The pattern is a Dutch one from Claire and Saskia's book Haken En Kleur. You may remember me hooking up the blue and green squares here back in February.
Wishing you all a very happy and summery weekend - can't believe it's July already!