Sweet violets for a heady concoction

The lovely thing about mothers is that they love you ... whatever. This year, mine will get this:

I used to grow all my sweet violets in pots when I only had a balcony to play with, and one of the first things I ever did when I got to my new garden was to plant them all in the ground near my apple tree.  They have thanked me for freeing them and are flowering now as if the world were about to end (I hope it's not, because my new book is launching tomorrow)...

If you want to buy violets then go to a specialist nursery and pick your favourites. I'd suggest sticking with Viola odorata, (I love V. 'The Czar') because although Parma violets look oh so tempting, they don't like frost, so need special treatment.

Violets do this funny thing to your nose: After that sensational initial hit, the scent sort of overwhelms the olfactory senses, and you can't smell anything any more. It's quite a feat for such a tiny little thing...and knowing you've only got a limited time to experience the sublime smell is all part of the charm methinks.

Anyway, I have enough now to make violet syrup, which was one of the first floral concoctions I ever tried. I used to drink it with champagne (those were the days) - as a sort of violet kir royal. Now I just lick it off a spoon with my daughter....smiling.

You need:

15-20 sweet violet blooms, stalks removed

150ml water

Granulated sugar


Boil the water and add the flowers. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 24 hours or so. The next day, weigh your liquid and add twice that weight of sugar, heating slowly to dissolve it. Put a lid on the pan and leave it to infuse again for three days. Put it back on the heat and reduce it to a syrupy consistency. Strain and devour.

You can get a taster of my new book in You Magazine on Sunday. Very much hoping you like it...