There aren’t many things as intoxicating as the scent of orange blossoms in the depths of winter, their heady aroma immediately transports me back to fine winter days in Provence. This isn’t merely an emotional response, it’s actually a physical one as the humble orange is revered for its uplifting mood enhancing properties. You don’t have to travel far to experience this, simply peel a beautiful organic orange and inhale its scent at any time of the year and you’ll see what I mean. Asian in origin, the orange was introduced to the Mediterranean region by the Saracens during the crusades and has been cultivated in southern France since the 14th century, specifically in Hyères, a beautiful town in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Although they are not cultivated for commercial purposes anymore, you can still find orange trees growing in and around the city and it is memories of these that inspired this recipe for a Provençal-inspired elderflower cordial. Not only does the addition of orange blossom impart the cordial with a deeper more exotic flavour, it delivers a floral note that makes me happy.
15 elderflower heads, carefully picked on a dry and sunny morning
500g of natural unrefined golden caster sugar
4 tbsp of orange blossom runny honey
2 unwaxed lemons, zested and juiced
Half a tsp orange blossom water
How I make it
Place the sugar and honey in a large saucepan with 1 litre of water. Gently bring to the boil, stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Finely grate the zest of both lemons and add to the pan along with the juice of one and slices of the remaining lemon. Gently place the elderflower blossoms in the syrup until they are completely submerged. Cover and set aside for 24 hours.
Then, using a slotted spoon remove all the debris from the pan before pouring the remaining liquid through a fine sieve lined with a muslin square positioned over a large bowl. Stir in half a tsp of orange blossom water.
Decant into two half litre sterilised bottles with clip lids and store in the fridge for up to six weeks.
The cordial can also be frozen in batches for the making of evocatively scented cocktails in the winter, just like the one above which is my twist on the classic French 77 – pour one part of the cordial, one part lemon juice and one part gin in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well combined then strain into a glass. Top with Prosecco and serve with a twist of lemon and elderflowers or mint leaves.