Saffron, the royalist of spices

This pungent, vibrant, intriguing spice has captured the hearts and imagination of thousands before me, leaving it’s stain on a fascinating and turbulent history. The tiny thread-like stigma from a variety of crocus known as crocus sativus is the world’s most expensive spice. It is used to colour and flavour food, dye clothes and as well as having some health benefits.

The name derives from the Arabic word zafran, meaning yellow, a reference to the golden colour that saffron turns both our food and clothes. With bright purple flowers each plant only produces just 4 and each flower only 3 stigmas. It takes over 75,000 flowers to produce 500g of spice (450 for just 10g). Add to this the fact that even today saffron strands are picked and removed by hand, it’s easy to understand why saffron is, ounce for ounce, more expensive than gold.

From ancient times, it’s colour, aroma and flavour seduced royalty. Cleopatra bathed in it, believing it made her more alluring. The Romans alleged it would cure many ills. Indians used it to dye clothes whilst Buddhist priests decreed that all their robes would be dyed orange with golden saffron. Trade brought wealth and power to merchants and growers but along with that came conflict culminating in a 14 day saffron war in 1374.

Originating in the Arab world, saffron spread from India in the east and to Europe and as far as America to the west. By the 16th century it was being farmed in large quantities in England. Former geophysicist turned saffron farmer David Smale tells us “these days saffron is more associated with exotic locations such as Iran, Morocco and Spain, but in the past English saffron has been, by reputation, the best in the world”. David, among other British saffron farmers, is looking to put the UK back on the saffron map.

Above all else saffron is celebrated and loved for it’s culinary delights. The flavour is  hard to define, but I liken it to a pungent, aromatic, but slightly metallic honey with powerful overtones of hay or dry grass made warm by the sun; it is both exotic and familiar. Often associated with rice dishes such as Indian biryani, Arabic pilaf and Spanish paella this golden spice is also the star of many classic seafood soups, bouillabaisse from Marseille, being the most famous. It is just as good in sweet dishes such as cakes, breads and even ice cream. I love to add a teaspoon of strands to vodka or gin adding an aromatic flavour and glorious colour.

Dried and fresh saffron

Saffron facts you should know

Rich in Vitamins A, C and a good source of beta carotene, saffron has long been regarded as having medicinal benefits. It has antibacterial qualities and can aid digestion, help treat stomach aches and bronchitis. There are on going studies to see if it can be beneficial in helping prevent cancer.

Today over 90% of the saffron we buy is grown in Iran, often then being packaged in Spain.

Price does not necessarily indicate quality. Buy, try and find the brand you like best, from a reputable supplier.

Buy strands rather than the powder, which should be more red than yellow or orange. The redder the stigmas, the better the quality.

Add saffron cautiously, a little can go a long way and remember you can add but you can’t take away.

As a rule saffron is steeped in water or another liquid before being added to a dish as it isn’t water-soluble. However certain dishes, such as Indian biryani, Arab Pilaf and Spanish paella have the strands scattered over the top of the rice as it cooks, staining it that wonderful golden hue where it sits.

If you are lucky enough to have a saffron farm nearby, buy direct from them for freshness.

Recipes

Strawberry and saffron jam

Make: 4 x 300 ml jars

This recipe is adapted from one that is made at a local saffron fam in The Charente Maritime Safran de l’Estaire. The addition of saffron is subtle but intriguing. You will need a sugar thermometer for this recipe and because strawberries have a low pectin level the resulting jam is not as set as some, but nonetheless delicious.

2 teaspoons saffron strands

1.5kg strawberries, hulled

juice 1 large lemon

1.25 kg granulated sugar

Grind the saffron strands to form a powder using a pestle and mortar. Set aside.

Put the strawberries and lemon juice into a large saucepan and place over a low heat until the strawberries soften. Then simmer gently, uncovered for about 20 minutes until really pulpy. Carefully remove about 1/3 of the strawberries using a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the sugar and the powdered saffron and stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer without stirring for about 40 minutes or until the jam reaches 105c/221f on a sugar thermometer. Remove any scum from the surface of the jam.

Meanwhile, sterilise the jars. Wash and dry the jars thoroughly and sit, facing upwards, in a roasting tin lined with baking paper. Place in a preheated oven 100c/220f until required.

Ladle the jam straight into the hot sterilised jars and seal immediately. Label and date the jars once the jam is cold. Store for 2up to 12 months in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate once opened.

Home semi-salted cod with saffron aioli

Serves: 4

Salt cod with aioli is a classic combination popular throughout Spain and southern France.

4 x 150 g cod fillets

2 tbsp sea salt

750g sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

350g French beans, trimmed

a handful flat leaf parsley leaves

saffron aioli

1/4 tsp saffron strands

1 tbsp boiling water

2 egg yolks

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp white wine vinegar

200 ml mild extra virgin olive oil

Place the cod fillets in a plastic container. Scatter over the salt, turning the fish so that it is salted all over. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 2 hours. Turn the fish over half way through.

Place the saffron strands in a small bowl and soak in boiling water for 5 minutes. Place the egg yolks, garlic, mustard, vinegar and salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk with electric beaters until pale and frothy. Very gradually whisk in the oil a little at a time until the mixture thickens and becomes glossy. Add the saffron and the liquid and whisk again. Cover the surface with cling film and set aside until required.

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas mark 6 and line a roasting tin with baking paper. Place the potatoes in the prepared tin, season well and drizzle over 1 tablespoon of the oil, stir well to coat. Roast for 40-45 minutes, stirring halfway through until the potatoes are browned and tender.

Wash and dry the salted fish. Place the fish in a steamer, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes until cooked through. Rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, cook the beans in a pan of lightly salted, boiling water for 2-3 minutes until al dente. Drain well.

Divide the potatoes and beans between warmed serving plates and top with the fish and a spoonful of the saffron aioli. Drizzle with a little extra oil. Garnish with some parsley and serve at once.

Risotto Milanese with a twist

Serves: 4

A classic risotto Milanese is made with saffron and frequently served with osso bucco. Here the marrow bones are used on their own to add a lovely depth of flavour to the rice dish.

4 small veal bones (ask your local butcher to source these for you)

4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus a few leaves to garnish

1-1.2 litres good quality chicken stock, heated until just boiling

½ tsp saffron strands

50g butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

300g Arborio rice

100ml Italian dry white wine

50 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 225c/425f/gas mark 7 and line a roasting tin with baking paper. Place the veal bones in the prepared tin, sprinkle the marrow with salt and pepper and top with a thyme sprig. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the marrow is hot all the way through (check with a metal skewer) and sitting in a pool of melted marrow. Keep warm.

Place the stock and saffron strands in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and in a saucepan and gently fry the shallots and garlic with a little salt and pepper over a low heat for 10 minutes until really soft, but not browned. Add the rice and stir for about 1 minute until all the grains appear glossy.

Increase the heat to medium. Add the wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes until it is almost all evaporated. Gradually start adding the gently simmering stock about 200 ml at a time, stirring the rice constantly with a wooden spoon, allowing the rice to absorb most of the stock before adding more. Continue this for about 20 minutes until the rice is al dente and the stock all but absorbed.

Stir in the Parmesan and the juices released from the bone marrow and as soon as the cheese is melted spoon into serving bowls. Place a roasted bone marrow in each bowl and serve scattered with extra cheese and some thyme leaves.

Simple lamb brochettes with saffron pilaf

Serves: 4

With its origins firmly imbedded in the Middle East saffron is integral to many of the countries classic dishes and pilaf is just one of these. Here the rice is cooked separately and served with brochettes of spiced lamb.  

250g basmati rice

500g boneless lamb neck

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp ground sumac

75g butter

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 tsp cumin seeds

4 cardamom pods, crushed

1 cinnamon stick, bruised

75g raisins

75g pistachio nuts, chopped

1 tsp saffron strands

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

juice 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper

Greek yogurt and lemon wedges, to serve

Place the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water, leave to soak for a couple of hours. Drain and shake dry.

Cut the lamb into small bite size pieces. Combine 2 teaspoons of the sumac with the oil, salt and pepper and toss with the lamb. Thread onto skewers and set aside until ready to cook. Combine the remaining sumac with 1 teaspoon salt.

Melt 25 g of the butter in a frying pan and fry half the onions with a little salt for 15 minutes until crisp and golden. Set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan and fry the remaining onion and spices with a little salt and pepper for 5 minutes. Add the rice, stir well to coat the grains and add 500ml water. Bring to the boil and scatter over the raisins, pistachio nuts and saffron, cover and simmer over a very gentle heat for 12 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave to sit for a further 10 minutes, then stir in the coriander.

Meanwhile, char-grill the lamb either under a hot grill or on a ridged grill pan for 2-3 minutes each side until cooked on the outside but still pink inside. Transfer to a plate and squeeze over the lemon juice.

Serve the rice scattered with the crispy onions and the brochettes with some yogurt and the sumac salt.

Orange, cashew and saffron syrup cake

Serves: 10

The saffron and orange syrup is poured over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven, so it absorbs both flavour and moisture as it cools, resulting in a lovely aromatic and moist cake. It keeps well for 3 days wrapped in foil and stored in an airtight tin.

175g unsalted butter, softened

175g soft light brown sugar

grated zest 1 orange (juice reserved)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tbsp orange flour water

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

75g cashew nuts, finely ground

orange and saffron syrup

pared zest and juice 2 oranges

125g caster sugar

1/2 tsp saffron strands

crème fraiche or Greek yogurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 170c/150f/gas mark 3 and grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. Using electric beaters, beat the butter, sugar and orange zest together until pale and creamy and then gradually whisk in the eggs and orange flower water a little at a time until combined, adding a little flour each time to prevent the mixture curdling. Fold in the remaining flour, baking powder and ground cashews until evenly combined.

Spoon into to the prepared tin and smooth the surface making a slight indent in the centre. Bake for 11/4 hours, covering the surface of the cake with foil after 45 minutes if it begins to brown. Pierce the cake with a skewer, if it comes out clean, the cake is ready.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Place the juice of all 3 oranges and the sugar in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boiling, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange zest and simmer for 5 minutes or until the mixture is thickened and syrupy. Remove from the heat and stir in the saffron. Set aside to infuse, keeping it warm.

As soon as the cake is cooked, pierce holes all over the surface using a metal skewer. Spoon over 2/3 of the syrup and leave the cake to cool in the tin.

Turn the cooled cake out onto a platter and cut into slices. Serve drizzled with the remaining syrup and some crème fraiche or Greek yogurt.

First published by Food and Travel Magazine 2015

© recipes Louise Pickford

© photographs Ian Wallace


‘Smashing’ Pumpkins – the best of the autumn harvest

Selection of pumpkins

Here in France, as the vibrancy of summer shifts away from the greens and reds of summer squashes, tomatoes and peppers to a more mellow, golden autumn of mushrooms, walnuts and beetroot we start to focus our attention on heartier, more robust dishes. And what better way to kick off the new season than with pumpkins and winter squashes and celebrate the oncoming cooler days.

Warm salad of roasted pumpkin wedges with pistachio and pomegranate

Serves: 6

1 kg round pumpkin, such as kabocha

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

30g pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

75g pomegranate seeds

50g rocket leaves

a handful coriander leaves

salt and pepper

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 220c/200c fan-forced. De-seed the pumpkin and cut into 2cm thick wedges. Place the wedges in a roasting tin lined with baking paper. Combine 2 tablespoons of the the oil, pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and 4 tablespoons of cold water and drizzle over the wedges. Roast for 35-40 minutes, turning several times, until the pumpkin is golden and tender.

Heat a small frying pan over a low heat, add the pumpkin seeds and stir-fry for 2-3  minutes until golden and toasted. Set aside. Take 25g of the pomegranate seeds and place in a sieve. Using a metal spoon, press down to extract the juice. Discard the pulped seeds. Reserve the juice.

Whisk the remaining oil, lemon juice,honey and some salt and pepper together.

Transfer the cooked pumpkin to a large platter. Scatter over the nuts, remaining pomegranate seeds, rocket and coriander. Drizzle over the dressing and serve.

Griddled pumpkin and goat cheese pizza

Makes: 2 x 30cm pizza

500g peeled pumpkin, such as butternut squash (about 800g un-peeled weight)

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 red onions

1 garlic clove

2 teaspoons savoury or thyme leaves

50g thinly sliced salami

150g soft ash-covered goat cheese, or similar

3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan

2 teaspoons pine nuts

pizza dough

250g bread flour

1 tsp dried yeast

1/2 tsp salt

Pinch sugar

125-50 ml warm water

1 tbs olive oil

METHOD

Make the pizza dough. Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the yeast, salt and sugar. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water and oil and work together until just combined. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes until smooth. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. 

Preheat the oven to 230c/210c fan-forced. Cut the pumpkin or squash into 2 mm thick slices. Place in a large bowl, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Stir well until coated. 

Heat a ridged grill pan until hot. Cook the pumpkin, in batches, over a medium-high for 5 minutes each side or until golden and tender.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and fry the onions, garlic, savoury or thyme leaves and salt and pepper for 15-20 minutes until  the onions are soft and golden. Pop a pizza stone or heaving baking sheet on the middle shelf to heat up.

Divide the pizza dough in half and working one at a time, roll out each piece to make a 30 cm round. Place on a sheet of baking paper on a board. Spread the onion mixture over the dough and arrange the pumpkin and salami over the top. Crumble over the goat cheese and sprinkle with Parmesan and pine nuts. 

Carefully slide the pizza, still on the on the baking paper onto the preheated pizza stone or baking tray. Bake for 6-8 minutes until crisp and golden. Repeat to make 2.

Cheats butternut squash tortellonni with burnt sage butter

Serves: 4

Perfect use of ready made wonton wrappers makes this classic Italian dish easy. Make a few days ahead and freeze until ready to cook.

175g peeled and diced butternut squash (about 400g skin on)

1 small garlic clove

1 tablespoon olive oil

175g firm ricotta cheese 

25g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

40 wonton wrappers (thawed if frozen)

100g butter

32 small sage leaves

sea salt and pepper

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan-forced. Combine the peeled squash, garlic, oil and a little salt and pepper in a small roasting tray and roast for about 40 minutes, stirring halfway through until soft and browned. Let cool completely, discard any burnt garlic bits.

Combine the cooled squash mixture with the ricotta, Parmesan and some salt and pepper in a food processor and blend briefly until smooth. Place in piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle about 1 cm wide.

Take 8 wonton wrappers and arrange on a board. Working with the wrapper on a diagonal, pipe a teaspoon of the pumpkin mixture on one half of each wrapper. Using a wet pastry brush, dampen around the mounds of filling. Fold the other half over the filling and press down really well all around the filling to seal the wrapper. Dampen the tips and pull around and press together to form the tortellonni. Place on a lightly floured tray. Repeat to make 40 and freeze until ready to cook.

Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Plunge the tortellonni directly from the freezer into the boiling water. Return to the boil and cook for 3-4 minutes until al dente (just cooked). They will rise to the surface when ready – but always check one by removing it and cutting open.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the sage leaves and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the sage leaves are crisp and the butter a nutty brown colour. 

Drain the pasta, reserving 100 ml of the cooking water and return both to the saucepan. Add the butter sauce and stir over a medium heat for 1 minute until the pasta is coated with the butter sauce. Serve in bowls topped with a little extra freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti squash with butter and Parmesan

Serves: 4
This is such a delicious yet simple side dish – or served with a crisp green salad, a lovely vegetarian lunch dish.

2 x 1kg spaghetti squash

8 un-peeled garlic cloves

12 large sage leaves

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

a little freshly grated nutmeg

50g unsalted butter, diced

a little smoked paprika

25g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper


Crisp green salad, to serve (optional)

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan-forced. Cut the squash in half lengthways and arrange in a roasting tin. Divide the garlic, sage and oil between each one and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Cover with the pan with foil and roast for 1 hour. Remove the foil and roast for a further 20-30 minutes until golden and the squash feels tender all the way through when pierced with a knife.

Top with the butter, a little paprika and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Serve with a crisp green salad, if wished.

Smoky pumpkin and lentil soup with crispy chorizo

Serves: 6

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme

1.5kg muscade de Provence or other large pumpkin (peeled weight 750g)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1.25 litres chicken stock

400g can chopped tomatoes

100g red lentils

150g spicy chorizo

salt and pepper

METHOD

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, thyme and salt and pepper and fry gently over a low heat for 10 minutes until softened. Add the pumpkin and smoked paprika and fry for a further 5 minutes.

Pour in the stock and tomatoes and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until the pumpkin is soft. Add the lentils, cover and simmer gently for a further 20-25 minutes until the lentils are cooked. Puree with a stick blender until really smooth.

Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and stir-fry the chorizo over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until golden and crisp. Divide the soup between bowls and top each one with the chorizo and rich oil.

Green curry of prawn and pumpkin

Serves: 4

3 tablespoons coconut oil

2-3 tbs green curry paste (bought)

500g red kura or other pumpkin, peeled and diced pumpkin (about 300g peeled weight)

4 kaffir lime leaves

50ml fish sauce

50g palm sugar

150ml chicken stock

400ml coconut milk

8 baby sweetcorn, halved 

8 raw king prawns, shelled but heads left on

1 tablespoon lime juice

a good handful of basil leaves, preferable Thai

a good handful coriander leaves

Jasmine rice, to serve

METHOD

Heat the coconut oil in a wok. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the green curry paste and fry over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add the diced pumpkin and fry for 3-4 minutes, then stir in the lime leaves, fish sauce, sugar, stock and coconut milk, bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender.

Add the baby sweetcorn and prawns to the curry and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the prawns are cooked. Stir in lime juice and herbs and remove from the heat. Serve with steamed jasmine rice. 


New cookery workshops

Really excited to share two new cookery workshops dates for 2020!

Photography © Lesli Lundgren

After the terrific success of this year’s workshop in June Come Cook In France and Les Soeurs Anglaises are really excited to announce a further three cookery workshop dates next year in April, June (already fully booked) and September.

Our first will take place in APRIL as spring heralds in some fabulous new year’s produce, including asparagus, spring lamb and the first local strawberries.

Then, as summer makes way for autumn we again celebrate the season’s best produce including mushrooms, pumpkins and figs for our final course of 2002 in SEPTEMBER.

Dates

Spring workshop 23rd – 27th April 2020 BOOK NOW

Summer workshop June 18th – 22nd 2020 FULL

Autumn workshop 17th – 21st September 2020 BOOK NOW

Details

Four nights accommodation and continental breakfast 

● Welcome mezze dinner with wine. 

Three fun, informative, half-day cooking sessions with after-class tasting meals 

● An excursion to a local farmer’s market and/or visit to an artisan food maker (vinegar, cheese, nut oils, mushrooms, and/or a vineyard) 

● Recipes and a Come Cook In France folder 

3 light meals including all beverages (wine, waters, etc.) 

● Local transport from and to Angouleme train station and Bergerac airport 

● *Air and train fares to and from collection points in France are not included. 

Prices

A: Single occupancy of Superior double bedroom with en suite: 1350€ per person.

B: Shared occupancy of Superior double bedroom with en suite: 1150€ per person.

C: Single occupancy of Twin bedroom shared bathroom 1100€ per person

D: Shared Twin bedroom / shared bathroom: 950€ per person 

Minimum 8 participants (max 12 residents)

  • A non-refundable deposit of 300€ is required for confirmation of booking 

Itinerary

DAY 1 Travel day, you will be sent information regarding transportation to Les Soeurs Anglaises (pick-ups are generally late afternoon) from Angouleme train station and Bergerac Dordogne Périgord Airport (EGC). Welcome, meet and greet dinner at the house.

DAY 2 Morning at the local marché. After a light market lunch, there will be an cookery class in L’Espace kitchen where the evening meal will be discussed and prepared.

DAY 3 We will meet in L’Espace kitchen where we will prepare a three course lunch to enjoy al fresco (weather permitting). The afternoon and evening will be free time for you to relax and enjoy the accommodation. A light evening meal will be provided.


DAY 4 You will have another chance to relax and have spare time to yourselves. There will be a light lunch provided. The afternoon session will be preparing and cooking the four course evening meal, again to be enjoyed together al fresco (weather permitting).

DAY 5 Brunch followed by departures before lunch.

  • Please note that this is a proposed itinerary and is subject to modest modifications, depending on available fresh produce, new opportunities, and the wishes of the workshop leader.

Take a look at some of the previous workshops


Roasted Courgette Soup with Lemon and Mint

It’s hard to bemoan the summer harvest when you have lovingly cared for your soil, seedlings, shoots, plants and finally the fruits, but given that I only planted 1 courgette plant this year, I am still struggling to use all my courgettes! I have of course travelled the well trodden path of shredding, spiralling, grating, frying, pickling et all, but just when I had got to the end of my courgette recipe tether, I remembered a truly wonderful soup I enjoyed a year or so back in a small cafe in Beckles, Suffolk in the UK. It was of course the recipe of today’s blog.

Today’s freshly picked courgettes and mint, sadly the lemons were shop bought. If straight from the garden, wash well and then pat dry.

Firstly, trim courgettes and cut approximately into 2 cm chunks. Take 1 lemon, chop roughly into abut 12 pieces. Add to a paper lined roasting tin with some, salt, pepper and a good slug of olive oil. Stir well. Then into the oven.

Meanwhile, peel, trim and finely chop some garlic cloves and an onion or too, depending on the size.

You’ll also need to finely grate the zest of a second lemon. Remember if they are waxed, give them a good wash and dry before using.

While the courgettes are roasting you can start frying the remaining ingredients in a large saucepan. Use olive oil and add some salt and pepper to the pan. I like a small pinch of chilli flakes here, but this is optional.

Once the onion has softened you want to measure your chicken stock. I always make my own stock, but you can use stock cubes. I measure the amount I need, then make sure I have a little but more, just in case I need to thin the soup down.

At this stage the courgettes should be nicely browned. Have a peak in the oven and remove them or continue to cook for a while longer, if necessary. You can see in the pic, that both the courgettes and the lemons have charred edges.

Using tongs, pick out and discard the lemons, squeezing any juice back into the pan. Scrape all the courgettes and pan juices into the waiting saucepan, then add enough stock to just cover the courgettes. Bring the pan to a simmer and cook.

While the stock comes to the boil, roughly chop a good handful of the picked mint leaves and squeeze the lemon juice.

And now for my secret ingredient – well obviously not so secret now! I like to add a good slug (about 2 teaspoons) of runny honey. The sweetness is the perfect balance for the sourness of the lemons. Add, taste, then add more if needed.

Once the soup has simmered for a few minutes you can add the remaining ingredients. The soup is now ready to blend – I like to blend it as is, check I am happy with the texture and if necessary, I will add a little more stock and heat through.

RECIPE

Roasted Courgette Soup with Lemon and Mint

Now we are ready to eat. I thorough recommend drizzling another good slug of olive oil over each serve – don’t forget to the bread to mop the bowl clean. Enjoy

Serves: 4

4 large courgettes, roughly chopped

2 lemons

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1-11/4 litres chicken or vegetable stock

A large handful roughly chopped mint leaves

2 teaspoons honey

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220c. Cut the courgette into 2 cm chunks and place in a roasting tin lined with baking paper. Cut 1 lemon into similar size chunks and add to the pan with half the oil, salt and pepper. Stir well and roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring halfway through,  or until the courgettes are browned and softened. Discard the chunks of lemon.

Finely grate the zest of the remaining lemon and squeeze the juice into a separate bowl. 

Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and fry the onion, grated lemon zest, garlic and a little salt and pepper for 5 minutes until soft. Add the roasted courgettes and any pan juices and pour in the stock. 

Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, mint leaves and honey. Process with a stick blender or in a liquidiser until really smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve hot, or if preferred allow to cool, chill and serve cold. 


It’s picnic time…… yay!

It’s not just teddy bears that love eating outside, we all do. It is about fresh air, the smells, the sounds, the sights of the countryside that make us feel better, make us want to head for the hills (or back garden).

For me it also brings back childhood memories of harvesting, hay bales and after school picnics with mum and dad in the fields (funny how your memory tricks you into believing that every summer was hot and sunny…….. I suspect the truth is that many such afternoons were out on hold until the rain cleared!

It doesn’t matter if you only have access to a small piece of outside space, you can pretty much picnic anywhere, it is literally just about being outside where food seems to taste that much better. So if you get the chance, cook some of these great picnic dishes, pack up a few baskets or boxes and head out and make hay whilst the sun shines.

Marinated goat cheese with garden vegetables

Perfect for an alfresco summer spread, this marinated goat’s cheese goes well with lots of crusty bread and young veggies and crisp salad leaves. You need to make these up to 3-4 days ahead to allow the time for the flavours to penetrate the cheese. Keep in a cool dark place.

Serves: 6-8

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

400 ml extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, halved

2 small red chillies, bruised

2 sprigs fresh rosemary, bruised

2 bay leaves, bruised

400 g fresh goat cheese (without rind; fridge cold)

selection of fresh summer vegetables, lettuce and bread rolls, to serve

Put the fennel and coriander seeds in a heavy-based pan, then heat gently until fragrant and beginning to pop. Add the oil, garlic, chillies, rosemary and bay, then warm gently to infuse. Leave to cool. Remove the garlic and rosemary.

Use your hands to roll the cheese into 18 small balls and put in the jar or container. Pour the oil over the top and store in a cool place (see headnote). Serve the goat’s cheese balls with summer veg/salads and bread, all drizzled with a little of the infused oil.

Tear and share feta and herb bread

A gorgeous cheesy bread, flecked with feta and fresh herbs, is something great to share with friends for an alfresco feast in the garden. It goes really well with the goat’s cheese balls too.

Serves: 6

500g unbleached white bread flour

7 g sachet fast-acting dried yeast

2 tsp sea salt, plus extra for top

1 tsp sugar

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

large handful fresh parlsey, chopped

handful fresh chives, chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and stir in the dried yeast, salt and sugar. Make a well in the middle and gradually work in 3 tbsp of the oil and enough of the warm water to form a soft dough. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a draught-free place for an hour or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, mix the feta, parmesan and herbs in a bowl with the rest of the oil, then cover and chill.

Gently knead the dough once or twice (this is called knocking back) and roll out on a lightly floured surface to make a 25cm x 35cm rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese and herb mixture.

Roll the dough up from one long side to make a log shape. Cut into
7 thick slices, each around 5cm wide. Arrange 6 slices, cut-side up, in a circle on the prepared baking sheet, roughly 3cm apart, then put the last one in the middle and cover loosely with cling film. Leave to rise (prove), loosely covered with cling film, for 30-40 minutes.

Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ gas 4. Brush the top with the beaten egg. Bake for 40-50 minutes until risen, golden and cooked through. Cover the top with foil if it starts to brown too quickly. When ready, transfer the tin to a wire rack for 5 minutes to cool. Remove the loaf from the tin and wrap the bread in a clean tea towel as it cools.

Persian chicken with spiced yogurt

Chicken marinated in cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, cumin, honey and lemon, before roasting, is a gorgeous summery recipe that’s a doddle to make.

Serves: 6

6 chicken legs

1 tsp ground cinnamon

6 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp clear honey

grated zest and juice 1 lemon

150ml Greek yogurt

a handful fresh picked parsley leaves

Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Line a large roasting tin with non-stick baking paper. Divide the chicken legs into drumsticks and thighs by cutting through the joint with a sharp knife. Put in a large mixing bowl.

In a small mixing bowl, mix the spices with the olive oil, honey, lemon zest and juice and some salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken and toss well to coat all over.Put the chicken in the prepared roasting tin and roast for 45 minutes until golden and tender, turning Put the chicken in the prepared roasting tin and roast for 45 minutes until golden and tender, turning

Put the chicken in the prepared roasting tin and roast for 45 minutes until golden and tender, turning over halfway through and basting the chicken with pan juices.

Put the chicken on a board (or platter if serving straightaway) to cool. Put 2 tablespoons of the pan juices in a bowl with the yogurt, then mix well and season to taste. To serve, drizzle the yogurt over the chicken and scatter with parsley.

Pearl barley and aubergine salad with pomegranates

A make-ahead salad recipe, with pearl barley and aubergine, that’s great for a packed lunch or picnic on a summery day.

200 g pearl barley

2-3 tbs olive oil

1-2 aubergines (about 500g) thickly sliced

250 g cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

80 g pomegranate seeds

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp pomegranate molasses

2 tbsp each fresh mint, parsley and coriander, roughly chopped

handful of rocket leaves

Cook the pearl barley according to the packet instructions (about 40 minutes). Drain, refresh under cold water to cool and drain well. Put in a mixing bowl.

Heat a griddle or frying pan over a high heat. Put the olive oil in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper, then brush all over the aubergine slices. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until charred and tender. Set aside until cool, then roughly chop. Add to the pearl barley with the tomatoes, red onion and half the pomegranate seeds.

Put the remaining pomegranate seeds in a small sieve. Using a wooden spoon, press out all the juice from the seeds into a small bowl. Discard the seeds in the sieve, then whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil, pomegranate molasses and a little salt and pepper to taste.

Just before serving, stir in the herbs and dressing, then serve scattered with the rocket leaves.

Roasted peppers with basil

A simple vegetarian starter recipe; red peppers are slow-cooked – with tomatoes, thyme and capers – until soft and sweet then served with fresh basil. One for the glorious summer months.

Serves: 6

3 large red peppers

2 garlic cloves, crushed

6 large cherry tomatoes, halved

3 thyme sprigs, leaves only

2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch basil leaves

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

handful fresh basil leaves

salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 220°C/ 200°C fan/ gas 7 and line a roasting tin with non-stick baking paper. Cut each pepper in half lengthways through the stalk, then scoop out and discard the seeds and membrane. Put the peppers cut-side up in the prepared baking tray and divide the garlic, tomatoes, thyme leaves and capers between them. Drizzle with oil, then season with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes.

Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to each pepper and roast for a further 10-15 minutes until caramelised and tender. Cool and serve at room temperature, scattered with fresh basil.

Chocolate swirl meringues, berries and white chocolate sauce 

Try these decadent chocolate meringues for your summer picnic; they are easy to make ahead and assemble when you’re ready for them.

Serves: 4

40 g dark chocolate, chopped

4 medium free-range egg whites

225g caster sugar

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

300 g mixed summer berries

For the sauce

250 ml single cream

2 medium free-range egg yolks

2 tsp cornflour

75 g white chocolate, chopped

Heat the oven to 150°C/130°C fan/gas 2. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally (don’t let the bowl touch the water). Set aside.

Put the egg whites in a large, clean mixing bowl and, using an electric hand-held mixer, whisk to stiff peaks. Gradually whisk in the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is thick and glossy. Beat in the vinegar and vanilla extract.

Drizzle the melted chocolate over the egg mixture and carefully stir once to swirl the chocolate through without combining it completely. Spoon the meringue mixture onto the prepared baking trays to make 12 meringue mounds.

Transfer the trays to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 140°C/ 120°C fan/gas 1. Bake for 1 hour or until the meringues are set and pull away easily from the paper. Cool on a wire cooling rack.

Meanwhile make the sauce: heat the cream in a small pan until steaming (don’t boil). In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar until smooth, then stir in the hot milk. Return to the pan and stir gently over a low heat until the mixture comes to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring continuously, then remove from the heat. Stir in the white chocolate until melted, then pour into a bowl, cover the surface with cling film and leave to cool completely. Once cool, keep in the fridge. Decant into an airtight container to pack.

Serve the meringues with the berries and a drizzle of the white chocolate sauce.

Images © Ian Wallace photographer

Recipes and styling © Louise Pickford

First published by Delicious UK 2018


Summertime salads

With the wondrous fresh bounty in our veggie plots, markets and shops, it seems a no brainer that we make the very most of summer ‘s fresh ingredients with some simply delicious main course salads – add a few slices of sushi grade salmon or a local soft goat cheese and summer never tasted do good.

Salmon sashimi salad with quinoa and miso dressing

Serves: 4

150g red or white quinoa

60g baby Asian salad leaves

12 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

100g podded Edamame beans

1 small avocado, peeled, stoned and cut into wedges

400g sashimi-grade salmon fillet*

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

a handful of chives, snipped

chive flowers, optional

Dressing

80ml mirin

75ml sake

1 tablespoon caster sugar

2 tablespoons white miso paste

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Place the quinoa in a small saucepan with 300ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered for 10-15 minutes until the grains are al dente and water absorbed. Set aside to cool in the pan.

Make the dressing. Place the mirin, sake and caster sugar in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring until it reaches the boil. Simmer for 1 minute, then set aside to go cold. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until evenly combined.

Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and stir through the salad leaves, radish slices and edamame beans. Add half the dressing, stir well. 

Season the salmon fillets and sprinkle with the sesame seeds, pressing lightly into the flesh. Drizzle with a little oil. Heat a dry frying pan until hot. Add the salmon and cook for 30 seconds each side until just charred on the outside. Cool for 10 minutes and then thinly slice.

Arrange the quinoa salad on plates with the seared salmon and avocado wedges. Scatter over the chives and chive flowers (if using) Drizzle with the remaining dressing to serve.

  • Sashimi grade salmon is available from some good quality fishmongers. Ask your supplier and explain what you are using the fish for as it needs to be super fresh. Also if it is designed specifically to made into sushi it will come as a long thin fillet, ideal for slicing.

BBQ’d Korean chicken Noodle salad 

Serves: 4

500g skinless chicken thighs fillets

200g dried green tea soba noodles

2 carrots, trimmed

1 cucumber, seeded

1 nashi pear

100g bean sprouts

2 little gem lettuce, cut into wedges

a handful coriander leaves

Marinade

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Dressing

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 tablespoon clear honey

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoons gochujang*

a few micro herbs, to garnish, optional

Cut the chicken into 2cm pieces and place in bowl. Combine the marinade ingredients, pour over the chicken and stir well. Marinate for 2 hours.

Cook the noodles by plunging them into a pan of boiling water. Boil for 4 minutes until al dente. Drain, refresh under cold water and pat dry.

Cut the carrot and cucumber into long thin julienne. Peel, quarter and core the nashi pear and cut the flesh into thin batons. Combine the carrot, cucumber, nashi and bean sprouts. Set aside.

Make the dressing. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan. Transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Place in a bowl and stir in the remaining dressing ingredients. Set aside.

Preheat the griddle pan until hot. Thread the chicken pieces onto metal or bamboo skewers and griddle for 3-4 minutes each side until charred and tender. Rest for 5 minutes. 

Arrange the noodles in bowls and top with the salad, scatter over the micro herbs, if using. Drizzle over the dressing and serve with the skewers of chicken on the side. 

  • Gochujang is a red chilli spice paste with a sweet, spicy flavour. It is widely used in Korean cooking and is available from specialist food stores or online. 

Marinated buffalo mozzarella with orange and fennel with basil oil

Serves: 4

4 x 150g balls buffalo mozzarella

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2-4 oranges, depending on size

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 small head fennel, trimmed

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

75g Niçoise olives, pitted

60g picked watercress leaves

Basil oil

60g basil leaves

150ml extra virgin olive oil

salt

a few edible flowers, such as primulas or nasturtiums, to garnish, optional 

Place the mozzarella balls in a bowl. Finely grate the zest and squeeze the juice of 1 orange into a bowl. Stir in the olive oil and season to taste. Lightly toast the fennel seeds and bash with a pestle and mortar. Add to the marinade and pour over the mozzarella. Set aside until required.

Make the basil oil. Wash the basil leaves in cold water. Then blanch the leaves in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and immediately refresh in iced water. Drain again and dry really well with paper towel. Place in a liquidizer with the oil and a little  salt and puree until really fine. Strain the oil through a fine sieve (reserve both the basil pulp and oil, separately).

Peel and cut the remaining oranges into then slices. Shave the fennel into fine slices using a mandolin (or sharp knife) reserving any fronds. Remove the mozzarella balls from the marinade and strain the juices into a bowl. Stir the lemon juice and honey into the marinade to use as the dressing.

Arrange the mozzarella on plates with the shaved fennel, orange slices, olives and watercress leaves. Drizzle over the marinade dressing, basil oil and some pepper. Serve scattered with fennel fronds and edible flowers, if using.

  • Tip: what to do with the basil pulp. There is still a good flavour in the basil pulp so add a little salt and pepper and toss through pasta. 

Carpaccio of courgette, melted goat cheese and lemon with warm honey 

Serves: 4

2 large courgettes

60g baby spinach leaves

a handful fresh basil leaves

1 lemon

21/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 sprigs fresh lemon thyme or savory, chopped

200g goat cheese

4 tablespoons clear honey 

4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

25g Parmesan, shaved

Using a mandolin, very thinly shave the courgettes lengthways. Arrange the slices on 4 serving plates, overlapping them to fit, if necessary. Take the courgette trimmings (there will be side

pieces left) and grate then on a box grater. Arrange the grated courgette in the centre of each plate. Top with the spinach and basil leaves.

Grate the lemon zest and set aside. Squeeze the juice into a bowl and whisk in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon about half of the dressing over the courgette carpaccio, set the rest of the dressing aside.

Preheat the grill to medium. Slice the goat cheese into rounds (if not bought as individual rounds) and arrange on a piece of oiled tin foil, on baking tray. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and scatter over the reserved grated lemon zest, chopped thyme or savory and some black pepper. Warm under the grill for 30 seconds or so until just starting to soften.

Meanwhile, warm the honey in a small saucepan until it just starts to bubble. Remove from the heat.

Carefully slide the warm cheese onto the courgettes and scatter over the spinach and basil leaves, pine nuts and shavings of Parmesan. Pour the remaining lemon dressing over the top and finally drizzle the salad with the heated honey. Serve.

Seared tuna salad with crisp flatbreads and aubergine salsa

Serves: 4

2 flat breads or flour tortilla

1/2 teaspoon baharat spice*

4 x 125g tuna steaks

100g Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons tahini paste

2 Lebanese cucumbers, sliced into wedges

50g rocket leaves

Aubergine salsa

1 medium aubergine, trimmed

1/4 red onion, finely diced

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/2 small garlic clove, crushed

125g cherry tomatoes, quartered

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

grated zest and juice 1/2 lemon

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons honey 

1 teaspoon pomegranate molasse

sea salt and pepper

sunflower for deep frying

Roll the flatbreads up and cut into thin slices to form strips about 5mm thick. Heat about 5cm of sunflower oil in a deep frying pan until hot (check by frying ne strip of bread, it should sizzle as soon as it enters the oil). Fry the bread strips, in batches over a high heat for 1-2 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towel, transfer to a bowl and add the spice mix and sea salt. Toss and set aside.

Heat a ridged griddle pan until hot. Cut the aubergine lengthways into thin slices about 5mm thick. Brush the slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Griddle for 4-5 minutes each side until charred and soft. Let cool and then dice the flesh.

Meanwhile, place the diced onion in a bowl, add the vinegar and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain.

Combine the diced aubergine, infused onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes, mint and lemon zest. Season and stir well. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, pomegranate molasses and season to taste. Stir about half through the salsa.

Preheat a griddle pan until hot. Season the tuna fillets and sear over a high heat for 30-60 seconds until cooked to your liking. Rest for 5 minutes. 

Beat the Greek yogurt and tahini together until smooth and season to taste.

Spread a little tahini on plates and top with the aubergine salsa, tuna fillets, rocket leaves and crisp flatbreads. Drizzle over the remaining dressing and serve..

  • Baharat spice is a Middle Eastern/North African spice mix traditional used to flavour meats. You can buy it online or from specialist food stores.

© Recipes Louise Pickford

© Photographs Ian Wallace

First published by Food & Travel magazine August 2018


Perfect popsicles – everyone’s favourite ice lolly

Sweltering temperatures in Europe and beyond have us all craving a little respite and what better way to cool down than with a thirst quenching ice lolly – oh the sheer joy of a popsicle! Today’s fruitier, healthier, innovative and wide ranging versions of frozen ice on sticks are a far cry from the fluorescent, mass-produced, overly sweet versions from our childhood. From artisanal producers to innovative chefs the 21st century popsicle has arrived. Here are a few of my favourites from my latest book The Popsicle Party, published by Ryland, Peters & Small and Cico Books.

Refreshing apple and cucumber pops

Makes: 6-8 popsicles

The name says it all really and so pretty. It’s also great for kids who think they don’t like cucumber. Give them one of these and see just how easy it can be!

4 apples

3 Lebanese cucumbers

Juice 2 limes

100g sugar

Quarter and core ½ an  apple and cut into wafer thins slices. Take 1/2 a cucumber and again cut into wafer thin slices. Reserve the slices.

Pass the remaining apples and cucumber through a juicer. Add the lime juice and sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. 

Divide the apple and cucumber slices between the 6-8 moulds and top up with the apple and cucumber syrup. Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Return to the freezer for a further 4-6 hours until frozen. . 

To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds. 

Lime, pomegranate and rosewater popsicles

Makes: 8 small (80ml)

Pretty in pink may well have been the name of a 70’s pop song, but it works equally well to describe this delicious and refreshing fruit popsicle. The rosewater is lovely with the flavour of the pomegranate and gives it that Middle Eastern allure.

4-5 pomegranates

Juice 2 limes

30 g caster sugar

2 teaspoons rosewater or orange flower water

fresh rose petals, dried rose petals and lime wedges, to garnish (optional) 

Cut the pomegranates in half over a bowl lined with a large sieve to catch all the juice. Setting 1/2 a pomegranate to one side, squeeze out as much of the juice as you can from the seeds pressing the seeds down with a metal spoon. 

Measure the juice, you need 500 ml for this recipe (chill the rest to drink).

Stir the lime juice, sugar and rosewater into the pomegranate juice and stir until the sugar is dissolved. 

Divide the reserved pomegranate seeds between 8 small popsicle moulds  and pour in the juice. Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Return to the freezer for a further 4-6 hours until frozen. 

To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds. 

Banoffee salted caramel creams

Makes: 8

Not sure what there is to say about this other than make it, freeze it, eat it – oh so delicious.

4 tablespoons golden syrup 

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

2 bananas

300 ml double cream

25 g caster sugar

25 g blanched almonds

1 tablespoon cold water

a little sea salt

4 tablespoons butter caramel sauce

Place 3 tablespoons of the golden syrup and cocoa powder in a bowl and stir well the cocoa powder is dissolved and the syrup smooth. 

Place the bananas, cream and sugar into a blender and blend until completely smooth. Pour the banana cream into 8 popsicle moulds. Carefully drizzle in the chocolate syrup and using a skewer swirl through the cream to form a ripple effect.

Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Return to the freezer a further 4-6 hours until frozen. 

Meanwhile, line a small tray with foil. Place the almonds, water and the remaining golden syrup in a small frying pan. Heat gently until the syrup begins to boil. Increase the heat and cook for 3-4 minutes until the almonds are browned and glazed with the syrup. 

Transfer the nuts to the prepared tray and sprinkle with salt. Leave to cool. As soon as they are cold, chop roughly. 

When ready to serve, pop a small metal tray lined with baking paper into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill. To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds. 

Place the popsicles on the prepared tray and immediately drizzle over the caramel sauce and top with the nuts.  Return to the freezer for 10 minutes to set.  

Tutti Frutti 

Makes: 8

Remember  ‘rockets’ that multi-coloured ice pop from your childhood? This homemade version looks great and tastes even better than the original.

250 g caster sugar

500 ml cold water

2 oranges

1 lemon

2 limes

125g raspberries

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and cool completely. 

Squeeze the juice of the oranges, the lemon and limes into separate bowls.  Add enough of the sugar syrup to sweeten each fruit juice, ending up with approximately 150 ml of each juice (you will still have sugar syrup leftover).

Place the raspberries in a blender with 100 ml of the remaining sugar syrup. Blend until really smooth and then taste for sweetness, adjust accordingly.

Pour a layer of the orange juice into each of 8 popsicle moulds. Transfer to the freezer and allow the mixture to freeze completely (about 1 hour).

Pour in an equal layer of lime juice. Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Freeze again until firm and repeat this process withy the remaining 2 juices. Return to the freezer for a further 4-6 hours until frozen. 

To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds.

Buttermilk, raspberry and pistachio pops

Makes: 6 popsicles

Here yogurt and buttermilk are sweetened with agave syrup, a recent addition to the many different types of sweeteners and sugars, has a lower GI than many alternatives as it is largely a fructose based sugar. Now widely available from health food stores and supermarkets, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find – honey can be substituted. 

250 ml Greek yogurt

250 ml buttermilk

150 ml agave syrup

125 g fresh raspberries

25 g finely chopped, unsalted pistachio nuts 

Whisk the yogurt, buttermilk and agave syrup together until combined. 

Divide the raspberries between 6 moulds and top up with the buttermilk mixture. Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Return to the freezer for a further 4-6 hours until frozen.  

To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds and dip the ends into the chopped pistachio nuts.

Cool watermelon, strawberry and lemon pops

Makes: 8-10 popsicles

All you need is a slug of vodka and you’d have the perfect frozen daiquiri! But, hey who needs alcohol when you can enjoy this healthier fruit version in the form of an ice pop.

300g strawberries, hulled and halved

3 tablespoons icing sugar, sieved

500 g watermelon

Juice 1 lemon

Combine the strawberries with the sugar and leave for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Discard the watermelon rind and dice the flesh.

Place the strawberries and all the juices, the watermelon and lemon juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Divide the juice between 8-10 small popsicle moulds.

Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze or leave until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Return to the freezer for a further 4-6 hours until frozen. 

To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds.

First published in The Popsicle Party by Louise Pickford, with photography by Ian Wallace

Published by Ryland, Peters & Small and Cico Books