It is the time of roses. The garden is blousy with them. I always think of roses and their scent being somehow quintessentially English, but here in my communal Sardinian garden they flourish. The weather these last few weeks has been mixed, with the Mistral battering the top-heavy blooms and scattering their petals like wedding confetti.
I decided it was time I did something with the windfalls. So I searched for a recipe and stumbled upon a rose syrup in one of my favourite recent books, La Grotta Ices, by Kitty Travers. Kitty makes wonderful use of flowers and herbs in her ice creams.
The flavour of rose, or perhaps more accurately the perfume of rose, for it is not so much a flavour as a scent, is one I love. As a child I remember reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and discovering the wonders of Turkish Delight through Edmund's temptation. Rose flavour was the only flavour I would entertain; the pale blush colour and exotic scent made it impossibly romantic. I ate boxes of the stuff as a child, and my love for rose-flavoured/scented things has endured undiminished into adulthood.
This syrup is a very simple way of preserving the flavour of roses. You can use it in panna cottas, cakes or ice creams, glaze tarts or pastries with it, or simply pour it over freshly cut peaches or apricots. It would also be delicious in drinks. It doesn't last longer than 10 days or so, so make sure to freeze it if you're not going to use it immediately.
160 ml water
160 g sugar
50 g fresh scented rose petals (use roses in full bloom, small ones with a strong perfume are best, and pick them in the morning so they are fresh)
1/4 tsp citric acid
Bring the water and sugar to a simmer, stirring once or twice to make sure the sugar dissolves. Allow to simmer for a few minutes then set aside to cool completely. Decant into a large bowl or glass jar.
Add the rose petals and make sure they are completely submerged. Cover the syrup at surface level with cling film and then put a lid over the whole thing. Leave to chill in the fridge for one week.
After a week is up, strain the syrup and discard the petals. Add the citric acid (this prevents oxidisation) and stir to dissolve. Bottle and store in the fridge, or place in plastic containers and freeze.