Last Sunday I picked up a couple stalks of lemongrass from the market. If you’re reading this from Wellington (or, I suspect, anywhere in the North Island based on all the weather-related tweets and Facebook statuses I’d been seeing) you’ll certainly know that this summer has been wetter and muggier than usual. And when the air hangs thick with moisture and I’m finding myself breaking into a sweat just from walking (so unusual in Wellington!) all I’m after is something clean and fresh-tasting, sharp enough to cut through the oppressive humidity.
Which is how I arrived home with a few stalks of lemongrass. I had this vague idea that I was going to make some sort of syrup with it, and when I got home remembered this ginger syrup I’d made a few months ago from one of my favourite Japanese cooking magazines. And you can’t get much more of a clean-fresh combination than lemongrass and ginger.
This syrup filled my house with the most incredible aroma while simmering away – almost like I’d been cleaning my house (with high-end, natural cleaning products) without any of the scrubbing or mopping.
LEMONGRASS & GINGER SYRUP:
Wash & cut up 2 stalks lemongrass and 1 knob ginger (it’s fine to leave it unpeeled, since you’ll be discarding it anyway). Place in a little saucepan with 250-300g sugar and 2 cups water and bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down and let it simmer for a while until the liquid is golden and syrupy (I think mine took about 45 minutes but I was haphazardly checking on it). Tell your flatmates/mum/visiting friends that you’ve been cleaning the house with this new luxury organic lemongrass all-purpose cleaning spray (this will only work if your house actually looks clean). Once the syrup’s done, strain into a bottle/jar/other airtight container and let cool. It will probably stay good in the fridge for a couple weeks, if you don’t use it all by then.
All that simmering wasn’t doing much to cool down my house (probably the only downside of making this syrup on a steamy day), and syrup by itself isn’t very refreshing. So I pulled some ice cubes out of the freezer, sliced up some cucumber, and made a couple of cold drinks. I guzzled mine down in one go (hello, brainfreeze!).
LEMONGRASS & GINGER SODA WITH CUCUMBER & MINT:
Put some ice cubes in a glass. The more, the better (though I do realise not all freezers have awesome ice-making capabilities and you may need to ration them, as I did). Pour a generous glug of lemongrass & ginger syrup (recipe above) over the ice; top up with sparkling or soda water. Garnish with a couple slices of cucumber and a sprig of fresh mint. Stir it up and get it down.
These would probably also be awesome with gin. Though I haven’t tried yet.
I’ve been drinking these all week, even though the humidity started to subside over the last few days (though it feels like it’s back somewhat today) and we’ve been having gorgeously crisp mornings and cooler nights. They’re the perfect drink to carry you through the summer heat into early autumn.