Autumn and winter are like my children. I am absolutely incapable of picking favourites. I just love them both. The seasons, I mean. Sydney is a good place to be in winter, especially. Because it never gets too cold. When the sun is out, which it usually is, it is glorious. It fans everything that is a bit nippy with its warm, misty breath. The puffs of wintery smoke curling from your lips early in the morning, disappear for the rest of the day as you peel your onion layers and revel in the delicious warmth.
And because of the warmth and cheer, I associate winter in Sydney with bright, warm colours. With its sea of preppy Sydneysiders walking around in mostly neutral coloured attire, you will find an abundance of accessories in loud, cheery colours. With Inca print mustard and green scarves, neon pink shoes, flourescent orange stockings, cornflower blue parkas with stripey fur trim to red and yellow beanies; everything is about celebrating the season of the cool and injecting a bit of good natured warmth in it.
And that is why I am calling this little concoction I cooked up in my kitchen, A Winter Cordial. Because it was made from seasonal fruits and vegetables, because it is bright and cheerful and loud, because it brings warmth, because it was made in winter. It cannot get any simpler than that. It would be great for any season really, depending on what you did with it. I left out the ginger when I first made it. When I made this again, I grated a tiny tiny bit of ginger in it and it was beautiful and warming. Perfect for those sniffles and red noses. You could reduce the amount of sugar the recipe calls for, but I find that a good amount to give a lovely syrupy liquid.
NATURAL RED WINTER CORDIAL
A healthy homemade cordial made with rhubarb, strawberries and lemon to perk up your lemonade or cup of hot peppermint tea.
Preparation Time - 30 Minutes
Cooking Time - 20 Minutes
Makes - 2 cups
1 bunch rhubarb, stalks trimmed, washed and cut into 1cm pieces
1/2 cup strawberries, trimmed, washed and halved
2 cups water
2 cups raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
juice of half a lemon
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger (optional)
Combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Toss to coat fruit and vegetables with sugar. Set aside for 20 minutes.
Add water and ginger (if using) to the rhubarb and strawberry mixture. Simmer on the cooktop at low-medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring ocassionally until the fruit has broken down and is mushy. Remove from heat.
Using a fine sieve or cheese cloth, strain the mixture. Discard the solids. Stir the lemon juice through the strained liquid. Fill in a clean and dry glass bottle. Store in refrigerator and use up within a week.
Because it is so cold in the evenings and I often crave something sweet after dinner, I stir a tablespoon or two through a cup of brewed chamomile or peppermint tea.
Pictured above is a glass of lemonade spiked with the cordial and a glass of hot green tea with a dash of the cordial.
You can also drizzle it over your yogurt and muesli, make ice pops, make flavoured green tea or a fruit punch. You can add more red fruit and experiment with fruity herbs.