This could be a tale of a faraway and exotic land. The story of how once I travelled across the seas from my little flat in South London to the Syrian desert - which I did. A tale of how we strolled through the ruins of Palmyra; of how the soles of our feet pounded the ancient flagstones of Apamea; and we perched on the walls of Crac de Chevalier; of how we bought saffron and gold in the market at Aleppo. To think that only shadows of these places - places so steeped in spellbinding history - now survive, adds to the pathos of that could-be-tale.
In Damascus I bought a pound of dried rosebuds. I'll admit it now - it was an impulse buy. The rosebuds came wrapped in crinkly white paper. They travelled in my handbag, through security at Heathrow customs, on the train all the way back to my little kitchen in London. There I stored them in a glass jar on the shelf. Untouched. For months. Then years. Eventually in a fit of zealous spring cleaning, I binned the lot. Somehow, there never did come a moment when I said 'let's have a cup of Syrian rose tea'. I waited for it - two years and counting. But it never came. As time passed, the rosebuds faded into nothing more than a dusty reminder of a holiday.
You see, had I steeped those pretty pink rosebuds in water and sugar to make a syrup, a delicate ambrosia to sweeten freshly pressed lemonade on hot summers' days, I could have told you a tale of Syrian roses and romance. But I didn't. C'est la vie. Coulda Woulda Shoulda.
The fact is that holiday souvenirs don't travel well. It's as if the magic is rubbed off them in transit. Sangria tastes best on holiday in Spain, drunk late at night in a crowded bar. Fact. Straw baskets look chic in the souks of Marrakech - they do. But bring them back to the city and they suddenly seem tacky. Very tacky.
So instead, all I have to give you is the story of an English rose. Although that's a good story too. No adventure. No Laurence of Arabia romance. But lots of chocolate box and thatched cottage charm. The English rose does that oh-so-very well. This year, Summer has come early to London. Glorious, precious sunshine drenching the streets. It won't last long. But while it does last, there is nothing quite like it: flowers bloom across the city, and front gardens are filled with bushes that literally groan under the weight of overblown gothic roses.
So this isn't a Syrian Rose lemonade. It's an English summer drink. Made with fresh raspberries from the counties, lightly crushed so that they run ruby red juices. And a dash of scented rosewater. Garden rose petals frozen into ice cubes. And freshly pressed sharp lemon juice. It's a drink of now. Of today. And of the comforting beauty of home.
Yields: approximately 150ml of rose and raspberry sugar syrup and a large jug of fresh lemonade. Combine the two to taste - you can make the lemonade as sweet or as sharp as you like.
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 5 mins
FOR THE SYRUP
100g caster sugar
1/3 tsp rosewater
FOR THE LEMONADE
800ml cold water
To make the syrup, pour the sugar, water and raspberries into a small saucepan and set over a medium heat. Leave to simmer gently for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and the colour of the raspberries has begun to seep into the syrup. Add the rosewater and stir again. Use a sieve to strain the syrup and throw out the fruit pulp. Set to one side - the syrup will keep for days in the fridge.
Halve the lemons and squeeze the juice into a jug, then top with cold water, stir vigorously and add rose sugar syrup to taste. Serve over ice.
To make the rose petal ice cubes, place edible rose petals in an ice cube tray, top with water and freeze.