As I write the sun is beating down on one of those most rare occasions – a weekend of glorious weather. A perfect time to treat yourself to one of the true pleasures of summer – a spoonful or two of refreshing sorbet. Chocolate (of course), Strawberry? Perhaps. But in the fullest of the heat I want something that is both sharp and sweet – something to cool and excite. Passion fruit is ideal. Also, fresh raspberries have good acidity. But at this time of year, for me, it can only be rhubarb. I’ve had rhubarb every week since it was ready to harvest – poached with yoghurt for breakfast, in parfaits, rhubarb curd, crumbles and ganache. A more robust plant you would struggle to find – pop it in the garden and, once established, you’ll be amazed at how much it yields and how versatile an ingredient it is.
The harvesting for outdoor rhubarb is just coming to an end and this coincides with the beginning of my favourite summer herb – lemon verbena. Now in full leaf the beautifully shaped leaves and architectural structure are enough to grace any garden. But if you brush your finger along the thin branches and rub the leaves you get the most intense lemon sherbet scent. This gorgeous herb can be used to make ice cream, panna cotta, sorbet, syrup, fools and encapsulates the flavour of summer.
So here is my recipe for rhubarb and lemon verbena sorbet and an extremely easy summer cocktail. The sorbet is easy to make but it does need to steep for 12 hours so allow time for that. I have used rhubarb liqueur but if you cannot find it you can replace it with limoncello or lemon vodka. You could leave it out altogether but the alcohol helps with the texture of the sorbet
Rhubarb and Lemon Verbena Sorbet
1300g rhubarb, washed and finely diced
130g caster sugar
2 tbsp rhubarb liqueur
Large handful of lemon verbena leaves, chopped
T+B Sea Salt Cinder Toffee – to garnish
Mix everything in a large bowl and allow to steep in the fridge for at least 12 hours. Blend in batches and pass each batch through a sieve squeezing as much of the juice out as possible. Leave to stand for an hour or two and skim off the top before churning in an ice cream maker. Serve on bed of crushed cinder toffee.
Lemon Verbena Gin Gimlet
For the lemon verbena syrup:
50g caster sugar
Handful of lemon verbena leaves, chopped
Bring the sugar and water to a boil and boil for 2 mins, add the lemon verbena and allow to infuse for an hour before straining.
For the Gin Gimlet:
60ml Gin (we use Leeds Gin)
10ml lime juice
15ml lemon verbena syrup (above)
Pour the ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker, stir and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with lemon verbena leaves.