We’ve had a long wait for spring this year and now as the sun shines, the desire for rich warming casseroles and hearty pies diminishes and we lighten the food a little. The stinging nettles have provided us with a nettle pesto to stir into pasta made with duck eggs, a few Jack by the Hedge leaves are mixed into salads to eat with a spoonful of unctuous mayonnaise made with the freshest eggs with their bright yellow yolks (yeah, yeah I know about raw eggs but we’re not very old or very young so we’ll take the risk).
And we have violets. I adore the flowers and all things related like parma violet sweets or violet scented perfume; give me a box of violet and rose cream chocolates and I’ll keep creeping back to the box, lifting the lid when nobody’s looking to sneak another and another.
Last year I made Violet Liqueur, which was delicious in a cocktail but this year I decided to make Violet Syrup, which looks like meths but smells much better. Every year I try to bottle all the delicate scents and flavours of spring, so that I can eat or drink them through the winter, but that’s not actually what I want in the winter when instead, I crave spices like cinnamon and cloves on cold, dark days. Consequently,
I’ve vowed only to make small quantities that I can use within a few weeks
and have already finished the first batch of violet syrup.
Some of the Violet Syrup has been mixed with soda water and a squirt of lemon juice to make a cordial to drink outside while the sun’s shining (think parma violets mixed with sherbet and water) and I used the remainder in a violet jelly. I just followed my normal jelly recipe but replaced the liquid with a barely diluted batch of violet syrup.
When Bill’s family have their big get together on Boxing Day, it’s always been the tradition that the “girls” take along a pudding. As the years have gone by, everyone else has developed a speciality, so that we knew there’d be a fruit salad, apple pie, sticky toffee pudding, pavlova and something random from me because I didn’t have a speciality. As I quite often make a jelly (because they’re easy to make and quite frankly you can make a jelly of pretty much any flavour) I announced to my family that I was going to be the One Who Makes Jelly for family gatherings. Oh, how they laughed. They instantly dubbed me Mrs Wibbly Wobbly, the Jelly Maker and their father Mr William Wibbly Wobbly, the Jelly Maker’s Husband. Well, so be it. Already this spring I’ve made my Spring Jelly using elderflower cordial with primroses and violets layered through it and at the weekend, we had Violet Jelly with syllabub atop. Long live Mrs Wibbly Wobbly.
20g violet flowers (no stems)
75 ml water
squeeze of lemon juice
Put the flowers and sugar into a bowl and using a wooden spoon or pestle, mix them well, bruising the petals. Leave this for a couple of hours so the sugar starts to turn a violet colour.
Pour over 75 ml of boiling water, stir well to dissolve the sugar and leave to stand overnight.
You’ll now have a bowl of not very pretty dark violet with a hint of green liquid. Squirt in some lemon juice and it will magically turn a brilliant violet colour.