Lemon and Mint Refresher

Phew! It’s hot!

Time for another refreshing cold drink.

Lemon and Mint Refresher

Lemon and Mint Refresher1

Half-fill a tumbler with ice. Add 3 mint leaves and 3 lemon verbena or lemon balm leaves. Add 1 tsp brown sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Mash together a little to release the flavour of the leaves, and then top up with sparkling mineral water.

Add a sprig of mint and a slice of lemon to garnish and stir till the sugar has dissolved.

Lemon and Mint Refresher

Aaah. That’s nice and cold!

How do you keep cool in a heatwave?

Lavender Lemon Syrup

The lavender has just started opening this week. I have already made my Lavender Ice Cream, as it tastes best when the flowers are still actually in bud, just showing a little colour. (I also experimented with adding chopped pieces of white chocolate to one batch! 😉 Not bad, but prefer the original.)


In the recent heatwave I fancied a cooling drink, so I made this delicious syrup to add to mineral water. With just a hint of lavender, and the lovely citrus tang, it really is very refreshing.


Very simple to make – simply bring 100ml (1/2 cup) water to the boil, add 100g (1/2 cup) sugar and the juice of one lemon and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and add about 20 sprigs of organic lavender. Leave to infuse for about 30 minutes, or longer if you’d like a stronger lavender note. When cool, remove the lavender, fill into a clean bottle and store in the fridge. Serve diluted (to taste) with sparkling or still water, ice cubes and a fancy straw! 😉

Or, if you happen to have some fresh strawberries, a spoonful drizzled over them works wonders too.



Do you use lavender in the kitchen?

Snowballs and Snowball Cupcakes

I was reminiscing with my neighbour, Ingrid, recently as she poured me a second glass of advocaat/egg liqueur/eggnog… 😉  Remember those girly cocktails served with the glacé cherry?

The Snowball!


Lemonade and advocaat (and a cherry)… I used to love these!

The snowball cocktail inspired the little cakes I made a few days later… cherry cakes with advocaat buttercream frosting, and a cherry on top of course!

Snowball Cupcakes



  • 255g (2 cups) flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 90g (2/5 cup) sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 25ml – 30ml (2 tbsps) lemon juice
  • 75ml (5 tbsps) advocaat (eggnog)
  • 150ml (2/3 cup) milk
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 90ml (2/5 cup) vegetable oil
  • 75g (about 3 oz) glacé cherries, quartered


  • 30g (2 tbsps) butter, softened
  • 125g (1 cup) icing sugar
  • 75ml (5 tbsps) advocaat
  • extra cherries for topping

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°C and prepare muffin pans…. I made 16 from this recipe as I didn’t fill the cases as much as usual.

Sieve flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl and mix well. Stir in the lemon zest and quartered cherries. Beat the egg with the milk and oil. Stir in the advocaat and lemon juice and add to the dry ingredients. Stir in thoroughly, but don’t overmix. Spoon into muffin cases/tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. Leave to cool completely before decorating.

For the frosting, sieve the icing sugar and beat with the butter until combined. Add a drop of advocaat and beat again. Add more liqueur to get a nice soft consistency. I find it easier to chill the frosting and pipe it on the cakes later. Top each cake with a cherry.


You can really taste the alcohol!


Let’s have a party! Grab a cocktail and a cake…


Elderberry Liqueur

I found myself in the woods again the other day…

… my basket and secateurs in hand, stinging nettle burns on my arms, shiny black berries overhead – most too high to reach!

So this year there will be only one bottle of elderberry liqueur…but that is all we need after having already made apple, lemon verbena, herb, and elderflower liqueurs this year.

Elderberries are full of vitamin C, but must be cooked as they are slightly poisonous if eaten raw. They have a lovely flavour, but can be rather sour and seedy. This liqueur, however, is delicious. I’m not sure if any of the vitamins survive being drowned in all that sugar and alcohol, but we can pretend!

Here’s the recipe: double the quatities if you can get a kilo of berries!

Elderberry Liqueur

  • 500g (1 lb) elderberries (weighed after removing stalks)
  • 500ml (2 cups) vodka
  • 175g (3/4 cup) white sugar
  • 2 tbsps vanilla sugar

Remove the berries from the heads using a fork… it doesn’t matter if some of the stalks are still attached. Wash the berries and put in a large saucepan. Add a very little water, just enough to cover the base of the pan, and then add the sugar and vanilla sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Put in a sterilized jar and cover with the alcohol. Seal and let stand in a warm place for 4 weeks.

Then sieve, and filter through a fine muslin cloth. It should really stand another 2 months to develop its flavour, but already tastes pretty good!

Keeps for about another 6 months after maturing, but really you should drink it up while the weather’s cold! It’s good for you!  😉

Sumptuous September

Some of the herbs from my garden, along with the apples my neighbour gave me,  are now being preserved for cooler days; liqueurs for sipping by the fire on a winter evening, and some sage honey, said to be good for coughs and sore throats…

The liqueurs are tried and tested recipes. The honey is a first for me, but since my pulmonaria honey was such a success I decided to try this out.

Sage Honey

Simply wash and dry about 12 sage leaves. Chop and put in a clean jar. Pour over 500g (1 lb) of clear, not too strong, honey. (I used Acacia honey). Seal and store for a week. Then do a taste test. If it gets too strong, strain out the leaves and reseal. 😀

Apple liqueur

Peel and thinly slice apples straight into a clean jar filled with schnapps (40% alcohol). (Note: German schnapps contains no added sugar, so if in doubt use brandy or even vodka). I used 700ml apple schnapps and about 300g apples. Add one stick of cinnamon, seal the jar and leave on the windowsill, but not in direct sunlight, for four weeks. Strain out the apples, and add 250g sugar. Leave another 2 weeks. Strain again if you want a really clear liqueur. This keeps very well and is quite sweet and fruity.

Herb Liqueur

  • 3 sprigs sage
  • 3 sprigs basil
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig mint
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 750ml Southern Comfort
  • 225g crystalized sugar
  • Peel of half a lemon

Wash and dry all the herbs and put them in a sterilized jar with the sugar and lemon peel. Cover with the alcohol and leave for 2 weeks in a warm, but not sunny place. Shake occasionally. After the two weeks are up, strain and sieve. It is ready to drink, but it will keep for ages. We still have a drop left from last year!


Coming up tomorrow: my recipe for elderberry liqueur!

Lemon Verbena Liqueur

A few weeks ago I gathered half a cup of my wonderfully aromatic lemon verbena leaves and put them in a large jar, to which I then added one litre of vodka.

In the June sunshine it shimmered like liquid gold…

I sealed the jar, and let it sit on my windowsill to infuse for exactly two weeks. The scent of lemony bonbons was heavenly when I opened the jar to add the sugar – 500g of it.

After another 2 or 3 weeks, in which I occasionally  gave it a little shake to help the sugar dissolve, I strained the liqueur and filtered it into some bottles. But there was a drop left that didn’t fit into the second bottle, so I just had to test it…

Mmmmmmmmm. So delicious, yet so simple to make.

Best enjoyed in a tiny glass in very small quantities, to make it last as long as possible…


Summery Flavours: Orange Mint

Mentha citrata

(Otherwise known as Orange Mint or Bergamot Mint)

There are a lot of different types of spearmint in my garden (which are spreading a little too much), occasionally used when cooking potatoes, or added to a salad. But the orange mint has remained in a pot next to my lemon verbena and citrus thymes. Not being a great lover of herbal teas, I was a little worried about finding a use for it.

Well, I took the plunge and picked a few leaves, popped them in the teapot and poured almost-boiling water over them. A few minutes later I poured some into a teacup and… it was delicious! Nothing like the dried tea I’ve had before. This tasted smooth and almost sweet. Not at all bitter. And not what I associate with the tea prescribed for tummy aches or indigestion!

It tastes very refreshing cold too.

Other uses:

  • Mint goes very well with beetroot
  • One or two leaves added to a salad gives a nice element of surprise
  • Use the flowers as decoration (or eat them!)
  • Simply chewing a leaf now and freshens the breath
  • Add a couple of leaves to some other finely chopped herbs, to mix into cream cheese

Perhaps I’ll be a little more adventurous with mint later in the year…

What do you do with mint?