Cuisine – Spring in a syrup

Plants that wake when others sleep, hills soon splashed with wild flowers, grass a new and richer shade of green and the air scented with fresh and familiar smells. Papatūānuku is breathing and she makes me swoon.

So much food adventure to reconnect with, that the mind boggles as to what to pursue first. Talk about food envy!

This time of year, I’m a sucker for the perfume of jasmine, its heavy fragrance so, so intoxicating that it’s no surprise that, according to American author Jandy Nelson, the smell of jasmine makes people tell their secrets.

Both an emblem of delicacy and elegance, it’s a little ironic it’s such a seductive and invasive weed. Jasmine easily outcompetes and smothers competitor plants to deliver its delicious scent to every breeze that roams about. It’s a prolific plant in the wrong place that yearns to be picked and plucked at. And why wouldn’t you?

Some readers may have seen myself, my son Cooper and daughter Cleo picking jasmine blossom around Whangaparāoa – a seasonal family tradition we all look forward to. We pick threads of jasmine with blossom and unopened buds. Once cut, the buds will open over the following days. I like to hang the jasmine in the house from my kids art clothesline, holding the blossoms up to my nose and inhaling deeply.

However, the real prize is capturing that heavenly smell and taste in a syrup, to be savoured once the flowering ceases. We use this in bubbles and booze mostly. It’s so easy!

Jasmine syrup
Big handful jasmine flowers
1litre boiled water,
100gm white sugar

Method: Mix water and sugar until dissolved, pour over jasmine flowers and let steep until cool. I usually do this in the evening, so it can steep overnight. Strain off liquid through a sieve and store in a clean container in the fridge. Try not to drink it all at once!

Note: My son adores jasmine sorbet, which I have had made with the help of chef friends and their expertise and expensive gadgetry. Would be cool to see more seasonal and local botanical flavours on offer at local ice-cream joints.