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Summer recipes - refreshing beverages

Have you ever tasted real homemade lemonade? I happened on some in a little café near Paddington station a few weeks ago and it was delicious, so I decided to make some of my own when I had time. I found that making this non-fizzy variety is surprisingly quick and easy, and packed with real lemon juice it has a good dose of vitamins too. The basic recipe is:

250ml (1 cup) water
200g (1 cup) sugar
juice of 4-6 lemons
1l (4 cups) cold water to dilute (you can use sparkling water if you want to give it some fizz)

1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring frequently until all the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool.

2. Combine this sugar syrup with the lemon juice, stirring well. Add cold water to dilute and mix well. Garnish with lemon slices.

This makes enough for about six people. You can keep the undiluted mixture in the fridge and dilute it when you want to drink it. You can also experiment with adding other ingredients to make your own special variations: mint, orange juice and jest, ginger, strawberries… even flower ingredients, like rose or lavender (but make sure they're meant for consumption – don't use your bouquet roses!, see my earlier blog on edible flowers).

I also found an interesting sounding recipe for a Jamaican hibiscus drink. I’m not sure how easy it is to find the key ingredient locally but you can always order them over the internet, such as here.

8 cups water
2 cups dried hibiscus blossoms
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup sugar (or to taste)

In a saucepan, bring the water to the boil. Add the hibiscus and ginger and remove from the heat. Cover and leave to steep for four hours. Strain and sweeten with sugar to taste, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Chill before serving. You can also add some good quality Jamaican rum to make this into a refreshing summer cocktail. You might also be able to find the juice ready-prepared. I first came across this drink not long ago in my local international supermarket, where they sell Hib!, a ready-made version of this drink.

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