How about adding some fragrant foraged flavour to your champagne cocktail this Valentine’s Day? Thanks to my lovely foodie friend and plant-based pop-up chef, Karoline, for sharing these eye-catching beauties with us today…
Explore any green and leafy residential area in Cape Town and chances are you will come across some beautiful hibiscus flowers, ranging in colour from white with just a hint of pink, to magenta, yellow, peach, orange and red. You’ll need about 8-10 of the red flowers to make a vibrantly coloured cordial with floral notes and hints of raspberry and rhubarb, perfect for a gorgeous champagne cocktail.
1 cup lightly packed fresh flower petals
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
Once you’ve removed the stamen and stem, cover the hibiscus petals with boiling water in a saucepan and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. The water will stain a dark purple-brown colour, far from the bright, sexy red we’re after, but watch the stunning transformation when you add the lemon juice to the strained liquid. Add the sugar and slowly bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid thickens. The cordial can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Want to take your urban foraging a step further and turn the wow factor for your romantic cocktail up another notch? Look out for the indigenous, deep red ‘num nums’ (Carissa macrocarpa) adorning the thorny bushes that are often used as natural security hedges. Don’t be put off by the milky sap the fruit releases when you slice it – it’s harmless, and the delicious sweet-tart cordial with subtle hints of cranberry, strawberry and apple, makes for a very special local-is-lekker cocktail.
Num Num Cordial
1 cup num nums, roughly chopped
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
1 tsp lime or lemon juice
Roughly chop the num nums, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, until the fruit is soft and starts falling apart. Strain the num num liquid through a fine mesh strainer (making sure not to press down on the fruit – this will leave you with a cloudy liquid). Return the strained liquid to the saucepan, add the sugar and lemon, and bring back to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid thickens. The cordial can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
To make the cocktail:
Fill the champagne flute with two tablespoons of syrup (hibiscus / hibiscus + num num / num num) and top up with bubbly!
* You can also make a refreshing non-alcoholic drink, just top with sparkling mineral water and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
All photography: Lana Kenney ©