“EVEN A TIME OF RESTRAINT FROM GOURMET INDULGENCES NEEDN’T BE A TIME FOR RESTRAINT WHEN IT COMES TO FLAVOUR”
Words: Gurdeep Loyal / Image: Rachel Phipps
As the celebrated aphorism goes: “Everything in moderation, including moderation”. After the indulgent marathon that is December, late winter is as good a time as any to sincerely commit to a little temperance. My own intentions at the start of every year are always to dial up on healthful food and drink, while taking a period of abstinence from alcohol (for as long as my willpower allows). But even a time of restraint from gourmet indulgences needn’t be a time for restraint when it comes to flavour. With zesty citrus fruits, winter berries and earthy beets all in peak season at Borough Market, a new year re-set also has the potential to offer up tastebud acrobatics, particularly when transformed into non-alcoholic shrubs, kefir shakes and other delicious elixirs.
Botanical non-alcoholic shrubs
A shrub is an intensely flavoured non-alcoholic cordial made by extracting flavour from fruits, herbs and spices with vinegar and sugar. I like to base mine on a raw, live organic cider vinegar, like Willy’s Cider Vinegar with Honey from Northfield Farm. Shrubs are highly versatile drinks, open to whatever combination of ingredients are in season. At this time of year, I’ll mix juicy citrussy fruits with a floral botanical and a warming spice. The tart, earthy flavour of dried hibiscus from Tea2You and the woodiness of cinnamon from Spice Mountain work wonderfully together, the cider vinegar drawing out their complementary aromatics. Blood orange or tangerine juice works well alongside these flavours, but for something a little unusual, look out for huge ombre-red pomelos, which have a berried citrussy flavour that’s a little like pink grapefruit, only zestier and sweeter.
Zingy honey sodas
It’s easy to transform an ordinary fruit soda into something more exciting by making a zingy booster as an add-in. A punchy vinegar booster, sweetened with From Field & Flower’s manuka honey, can be added to any soda, but is especially delicious with rhubarb and tropical fruit drinks. Ginger is a good addition, but to mix things up, try galangal from Raya – another rhizome that has a sweeter, sharper, more citrussy flavour, which is wonderful combined with the zesty floral notes of lemongrass.
Kefir shakes & lassis
Hook & Son’s sharp, tangy, grass-fed kefir is great for turning into healthful shakes or Indian-style lassis, combined with tropical fruits, spices and a little something to sweeten the mix. Thai mangos from Raya are perfect to contrast with the bite of the kefir – with a little saffron and cardamon from Spice Mountain to amplify the bright sunshine flavours. A holy basil ripple – also known as ‘tulsi’ – is great to swirl through. This herb has been a staple in Southeast Asia for centuries, bringing a sweet, herbal, anise-like flavour to the tropical lassi. Bee pollen, sold in jars at From Field and Flower, has a pleasant resiny taste and also provides some crunch!
Tart, fruity redcurrants, sold in carboard punnets at Borough Market, are a delicious addition to juices and healthy shots at this time of year. They have a strong berry flavour that complements the earthier notes of fresh turmeric root. A little black pepper adds a kick of heat to give your juice shot some extra fire!