Chablis and Pelargoniums for Mrs Dalloway



Studying the novels of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre at university, I invested in a packet of Gitanes and listened to Juliette Greco on vinyl; moving on to James Joyce, I took up Guinness and spoke in impossibly dense sentences. D. H. Lawrence was out of fashion then, or who knows where that could have led. And then came Virginia Woolf. Obviously, I clumped about in sturdy brogues for a while; I also developed a new-found interest in flowers. I can still remember reading Mrs Dalloway on a sunny park bench in London’s Regent’s Park and being deeply impressed by Sally Seton’s iconoclastic approach to flower-arranging. (When will I ever get the chance to combine iconoclasm and floristry in a single sentence again?)

  • Sally’s power was amazing, her gift, her personality. There was her way with flowers, for instance. At Bourton they always had stiff little vases all the way down the table. Sally went out, picked hollyhocks, dahlias – all sorts of flowers that had never been seen together – cut their heads off, and made them swim on the top of water in bowls. The effect was extraordinary – coming in to dinner in the sunset.

I thought of Sally Seton and her cavalier scissors, snipping wildly at never-before seen combinations of flowers, when I walked round my very clever friend‘s newly-emergent wildflower meadow today. If some gardens are in training to be municipal roundabouts, my friend’s garden is limbering up to be a Garden of Eden tribute act. As I trailed from one billowing mound of flowers to another, it was raining that very British kind of rain that stealthily adorns everything in a glossy mist, while everyone says brightly that “it’s hardly wet at all.”


Sally Seton would have had a field day with her scissors in that meadow. And both she and Virginia Woolf would have loved the rose-scented cake, filled with whipped cream and Chablis and lemon jelly that I made afterwards. The extravagance and luxuriousness of Chablis is included for Virginia Woolf, whose poor rations inspired her to write A Room of One’s Own. The cake, infused with leaves from the Attar of Roses pelargonium or geranium, is for Sally Seton.

Leaves from the Attar of Roses pelargonium smell as good as any rose, perhaps even better, because their fragrance is more substantial, less ephemeral. George Eliot understood the rose pelargonium’s worth and made it a metaphor for unselfishness in Scenes of Clerical Life:

  •  But the sweet spring came to Milby notwithstanding: the elm-tops were red with buds; the churchyard was starred with daisies; the lark showered his love-music on the flat fields; the rainbows hung over the dingy town, clothing the very roofs and chimneys in a strange transfiguring beauty. And so it was with the human life there, which at first seemed a dismal mixture of griping worldliness, vanity, ostrich feathers, and the fumes of brandy: looking closer, you found some purity, gentleness, and unselfishness, as you may have observed a scented geranium giving forth its wholesome odours amidst blasphemy and gin in a noisy pot-house.

Tucking a few rose pelargonium leaves into the tins, when making a sponge, infuses the cake with a floral flavour so subtle that it’s hard to know where it’s come from or if it’s really there at all. Adding the round, rich, buttery flavour of Chablis to the lemon jelly makes it the ideal match for the cream.



  • 2 lemons – peel and juice
  • 95g caster sugar
  • 10g sheet gelatine
  •  275ml Chablis
  • 450ml water

Pare the rind thinly from the lemons – in one piece if you’re competitive, but it really doesn’t matter – and place in a pan with the water, wine and the sugar. Heat gently until the liquid starts to simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and add the juice from both lemons. Allow to infuse. Soak the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water for five minutes. When the time is up, squeeze the sheets out as though ringing-out a dishcloth and whisk them into the water, wine, sugar and lemon until dissolved. Strain the liquid into a bowl. Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge. It will take around four hours to set. The consistency you’re looking for is that freestyle, slightly unhinged wobble that looks as though it won’t be enough to keep the contents of the bowl under control, until, at the last minute, its natural sense of decorum reins it back in again – just. There will be more than enough for the cake, so save the rest to eat later with some fresh berries.


  • 8-10 fresh leaves from the Attar of Roses pelargonium
  • 230g plain flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 230g caster sugar
  • 230g softened unsalted butter
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 150ml double cream for the filling
  • 2x20cm cake tins, greased with butter and lined at the bottom with baking parchment

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Arrange four or five leaves on the base of each of the two greased and papered cake tins. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, butter and eggs, either by hand or in a mixer at a slow speed. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins, pouring it over the leaves. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. When cool, remove the sponges from the tins and peel the leaves off the base of each. Whip the cream. Spread the Chablis jelly on one half and top with the whipped cream. Place the second half of sponge on the top and dust with liberal amounts of icing sugar.


 The Chablis, lemon and rose pelargonium cake has the beguiling flavours of Turkish Delight, the charm of a wildflower meadow. Eat it outside on a British summer’s day and you won’t notice the rain. If there are wildflowers to look at while you eat, so much the better.

The Tripartite Tri-Pie-Tart

Gardeners, writers and artists have always understood the value of the number three: less boringly symmetrical than two, more complex than one. Where would Flaubert, Chekhov or Constance Spry be without it?  And scriptwriter Steven Moffat, whom I admire hugely, clearly loves it; he named one of his Doctor Who episodes ‘The Power of Three’ and one of his Sherlock Holmes episodes ‘The Sign of Three’.

I’ve been afflicted by insomnia again this week. Counting the hours until morning is, apart from being exhausting, extremely boring. At times like these, the BBC World Service and Radio 4 are vital companions. But when I eventually fall asleep and wake again, after what feels like only minutes, I find I’ve acquired very odd scraps of information from half-heard radio programmes. (I woke recently with the crazy idea that there was a dead cow outside, only to discover that it wasn’t the legacy of a weird middle-of-the-night radio drama, but was in fact true. But that’s a story I’ll tell another time.)

One morning this week I awoke with a completely unfamiliar word racketing around my brain. All I can remember is having the radio on for most of the night and hearing someone, somewhere saying ‘sizzi-jee’ and spelling it out very carefully – ‘s-y-z-y-g-y’ – just as I finally dozed off. A three-syllable word completely lacking in vowels is worth looking up in the dictionary, if only for its Scrabble potential.

  • Syzygy: a straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies, such as the Sun, Earth and Moon, in a gravitational system.

And, as so often, a fragmentary idea, in this case about three celestial bodies, led me towards something to cook. I’ve wanted to write about my tripartite tri-pie-tart for a while, mainly because the name makes me laugh. The tripartite tri-pie-tart is a pie that I thought-up during another bout of insomnia. But I had to wait until the English asparagus season before I could make it. And now, of course, I can.

The tri-pie-tart is a three-part pie that combines my son’s, my daughter’s and my favourite tart ingredients. My son prefers asparagus, my daughter likes leeks and I love spinach. So this is the tri-pie-tart that combines them all. And, as with syzygy, if you line up three celestial ingredients – in this case, asparagus, spinach and leeks – you’ll find there’s a gravitational pull towards the kitchen table.


For the pastry:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 125g butter
  • 2 eggs yolks
  • 25cm loose-bottomed pie tin

Wrestle with it by hand if you prefer, but I use a mixer. Cut the cold butter into cubes and combine with the flour and a pinch of salt. Mix until you have a dry, crumbly texture. Add three tablespoons of cold water to the egg yolks and whisk with a fork until combined. Pour half the egg mixture into the flour and continue to add until the pastry forms a ball. Try to do this as quickly as possible and don’t feel the need to use all of the eggs, if it doesn’t need it. Remove the ball, wrap in cling-film, flatten it down with the palm of your hand (it’s easier to roll later if it doesn’t emerge from the fridge as a massive, chilly globe) and place in the fridge for at least an hour. By the way, I’ve tried rolling pastry out straightaway, without resting it, just to see what happens. I ended up with a soft, string-vest of a thing that would no-more hold a pie filling than a sieve would. So now you know.

After at least an hour, roll the pastry out thinly. This is a nifty tip, if you dread man-handling your pastry into the tin. Roll it out onto the same piece of cling-film you used to wrap it in. That way, you won’t have to flour the surface on which you roll it which only adds a whole load of extra flour to the pastry which you don’t need or want. The added benefit of the cling-film method is that you can then pick up the cling-film, with its pastry disc attached and then just turn it upside down into the pie tin. None of that wrapping it round the rolling-pin and then unrolling it over the tin, which always sounds so much easier than it really is. Press the pastry into the edges of the tin and carefully peel away the cling-film.

Place a circle of tin-foil over the pastry in the tin, fill with baking beans, and bake in the oven at 200 degrees C for ten minutes. Remove the beans and foil and bake for a further seven minutes until the pastry case is golden in colour and dry in texture. If, when it emerges, there are any cracks, paint a little beaten egg over the cracks while the pastry is still hot and it will seal them. Lower the oven temperature to 140 degrees C.


  • 200g spinach
  • 2 leeks
  • 250g slim-ish asparagus
  • 2 eggs and an extra 3 yolks
  • 125g Mascarpone
  • 150ml double cream
  • 125g Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated. It doesn’t need to be that fine – you’re not aiming for cheese dust here

Cut the leeks finely, discarding the tougher dark green ends. Cook gently in a little butter for five minutes or so, until soft but not browned. Tip into a bowl, and, using the same pan, wilt the spinach briefly, adding a little more butter if necessary. Put the spinach in a second bowl. Finally, blanch the asparagus so that it is just, only just, cooked. Remove from the pan and run cold water over the asparagus to stop it cooking. All three of your celestial ingredients should still be a bright green hue, rather than sidling off into the khaki or olive-green end of the paintbox.

Mix together the mascarpone, cream and eggs, whisking in plenty of air. Spoon a quarter of the mixture over the tart base and spread it around. Layer on a quarter of the grated parmesan, followed by all the spinach, another layer of eggs and cream, a second layer of cheese, all the leeks, a third layer of eggs and cream, a third layer of cheese, the asparagus in a sun-burst effect and a final layer of eggs and cream. Bake in the oven, which should now be at 140 degrees C, for around twenty-five minutes, until the tri-pie-tart is a rich golden brown. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with extra Parmesan and a fine trickle of olive oil to give it some shine. Cast over some chive flowers if you like and eat the tri-pie-tart hot,cold or luke-warm. The syzygy is in the eating.


The Alumnae’s Lunch

Eating with a book is one of the great pleasures. Eating while talking about books is another, and second to that comes talking about books that have eating in them. I once gave a lecture at Newnham College, Cambridge about Virginia Woolf. Newnham was the venue for Woolf’s talks about women and fiction which formed the basis for A Room of One’s Own. In it, she contrasts the grim, gravy soup that students at women’s colleges survived on and the plump partridge and sole that fuelled the men.

The lunch at Newnham on the day of my lecture bore no relation to Woolf’s brown broth. I’d half-expected the kitchen staff to tip a knowing wink at A Room of One’s Own and give me a bowl of gravy. (I admit that I was in paranoid mood that day, having just been to the launch party for a new knitting book and been given blue-dyed spaghetti with bread-stick ‘needles’ poked in.) But the meal was as plentiful as it was delicious and I couldn’t help thinking how pleased Virginia Woolf would have been that the status of women, as measured by our lunches at least, had soared.

I thought of Woolf, Newnham and brown soup today as I sat down to lunch with three female friends with whom I share a particular bond. All four of us started PhDs at the same time. Between us, we produced doctoral theses on Conrad, Shakespeare, Victorian feminist poetry and contemporary fiction. (One of the entertainments when doing a PhD is to marvel at the apparent insanity of everyone else’s choice of subject; my favourite is still ‘the motif of decaying flesh in the works of J. M. Coetzee.’) If there’d been a medical emergency in the restaurant and someone had shouted out “Is there a doctor in the house?” we could have yelled back “Yes, four”.

Our lunch was a million miles from the parsimonious meals of Virginia Woolf’s experience; the food wasn’t particularly special but we had more laughs than I’ve had all year. Laughter is a vital component of the PhD experience, given that so much of it is gruelling, solitary, hard-dentistry and that it goes on for so, so long. Perhaps it was a lack of laughs that added to Woolf’s misery about her soup. Much as I love Woolf, her work is as thin on comedy as her Cambridge meal was thin on partridge. If she’d had three good companions to share her gruesome gravy with, she might not have noticed the food at all.



Permutations, Swapping Chairs and Beetroot


 It can be useful to sit in someone else’s chair every now and again, if only to scuttle back with relief to your own.

I’ve been sitting in B. S. Johnson’s seat this week, imagining his frustration at having his experimental novels widely praised but rarely bought. Johnson’s finest work, The Unfortunates, published in 1969,  involves permutations – so many of them, in fact, that it took me a whole afternoon to work out the number.

The Unfortunates has only twenty-seven short chapters, one of them a mere paragraph long. And yet it’s impossible to read the full version in a lifetime, however precociously early you start. The reason is that, apart from the first and the last chapters, the other twenty-five can be read in any order. This loose-leaved experiment was Johnson’s attempt to escape the linear restrictions of the conventional novel. Instead of being trapped inside a glued-on cover, The Unfortunates comes heaped-up in a box, with the disingenuous instruction that ‘if readers prefer not to accept the random order in which they receive the novel, then they may re-arrange the sections into any other random order before reading’. I’ve calculated all the possible permutations of those twenty five interchangeable chapters and the number I’m left with is:


which is otherwise known as fifteen septillion, five hundred and eleven sextillion, two hundred and ten quintillion, forty three quadrillion, three hundred and thirty trillion, nine hundred and eighty five billion, nine hundred and eighty four million different possibilities. You can never hope to read them all and it’s possible that the version you do read will be unique.

Johnson’s attempt to look at things from a different angle stemmed from his belief that we should try to ‘understand without generalisation, to see each piece of received truth, or generalisation, as true only if is true for me’. To generalise, he argued, is ‘to tell lies’. So, newly enthusiastic about avoiding generalisations while embracing the extraordinary possibilities thrown up by permutations, I planned my lunch.

My Great Auntie Susie ate exactly the same thing for lunch every single day of the week: pickled beetroot in vinegar, crumbly Lancashire cheese, a slice of brown bread spread with butter so thick that she could take an impression of her teeth from the indentations they left, and a mug of tea the colour of an old penny. By calculating the permutations, I made a beetroot salad for lunch today that is both specifically Great Auntie Susie’s, but is also a variation on her theme.


  • Bunch of smallish raw beetroot (bigger than snooker, smaller than hockey), leaves still attached – around one per person
  • Goat’s curd or very young goat’s cheese
  • Small salad leaves
  • Chopped chives
  • Handful of walnuts
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Maple syrup

Cut the leaves and roots off the beetroot. Save the leaves for later. Wash the beetroot, but don’t peel them. Wrap them in a tight silver-foil parcel and bake in the oven at 170 F for around two hours. When they’re tender, take them out and peel them. Slice the beetroot and arrange on a plate with spoonfuls of goat’s curd. Wash and dry the raw beetroot leaves and scatter them on a plate, along with some other small salad leaves, the walnuts and a scattering of chives. Make a dressing from the olive oil, lemon juice and maple syrup – four parts oil, two parts lemon, one part syrup. Season to taste and trickle over the salad.

Eat the salad outside, sitting in someone’s else’s seat and staring at someone else’s view.

I imagine that B. S. Johnson would have been a good lunch companion. Sadly, he lost heart,  gave up on his ignored experiments and committed suicide at the age of forty. I would like to have told him that not only did I buy his book, but that I treasure it too.



The Unjustified Quince

My praise for the soothing, regular, oblong qualities of justified text in my last post, The Justified Greengage, provoked some people to question my sanity and judgement. Apparently, only justified left, raggedy right, will do. In my defence, I’m teaching myself the art of letterpress on my dad’s Victorian printing press, so it’s only in blog posts that I like slabs of type to look like Swedish crispbread.

If you were horrified by my taste for uniform lines, this post is for you. Its raggedy, ramshackle right-hand edge will, I hope, soothe your raggedy nerves. If your nerves are still raggedy, justified text notwithstanding, the glorious, perfumed qualities of the quince will help no end. In my case, creating sorbets, cordials and jellies from my harvest of quince, came at the end of a week in which I saw Ibsen’s Ghosts, Marlowe’s Edward II and Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. For three nights in a row, I wallowed in hypocrisy, torment, murder, tyranny and pints and pints of blood. (I’d always thought that Titus Andronicus was un-performable, but Michael Fentiman’s production at the RSC proved me wrong. It was startlingly, shockingly funny and very, very messy.)

I’ve written before about the truculence of the quince, but over time I’ve come to think of it as having Pollyanna-like qualities, despite its unyielding, concrete-like flesh. Once cajoled out of its raw state, the quince’s  perky eagerness-to-please puts it in a category all of its own. The fruit looks beautiful on the tree, perfumes the house when it’s brought inside, yields generous amounts of cordial while it cooks and, having done that, it’s still there, at the ready, to be turned into something else. This year, having grown over one hundred fruit, I’ve made jelly, membrillo, quince brandy, cordial and, perhaps my favourite of all, sorbet. Like Mrs Beeton’s instruction, when making pie, to ‘first catch your rabbit’, to make sorbet, first make your cordial. Like this:


  • 12 quince, whole and unpeeled
  • 850 ml water
  • 350g caster sugar

I’ve written the recipe for this before, but to make life easier, here it is again. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Wash the fruit, rubbing off its fluff with your fingers. Pack the quince snugly into a baking dish that is approximately the same height as the fruit. Tip in the sugar and water and place a piece of silver foil over the top, tucking it in around the fruit. Bake in the oven for three hours and then remove and allow to cool before pouring the liquid into a jug. (Reserve the fruit and I will tell you how to use it for membrillo.) The amount of cordial you will get varies from between 500 to 700 ml, depending on the size of the fruit. I freeze mine in small bottles, to pluck out, slightly showily, during the year. Serve it topped up with sparkling water or prosecco. Or, move onto phase 2….. sorbet.


  • Home-made quince cordial
  • Finely grated parmesan

The point of combining the sorbet with parmesan is to drag it in the direction of the savoury. But if you wish to nudge it back into the safe confines of a familiar harbour, match it with mango and blackcurrant sorbet instead.

Pour the cooled, undiluted cordial straight into an ice-cream maker and churn until frozen. It will turn a rather soppy Germoline pink, but has its charms. To make the parmesan cups, heap mounds of grated cheese on baking parchment – about two tablespoons for each cup – and bake in the oven for two to three minutes. When melted into golden discs, remove and shape them over the bottom of an espresso cup immediately. Allow to cool and then assemble.


Next, the compliant quince is ready for phase three – membrillo.

  • Cooked quince left over from the cordial experiment
  • Caster sugar

Like the cordial and the sorbet, this recipe is ridiculously easy. Squish the cooked fruit through a sieve. It’s easier to do this one at a time, discarding the pips and skin from the sieve and then moving on to the next fruit. Weigh the pulp and add it, with an identical quantity of caster sugar, to a pan. Bring the mixture to the boil and then allow to simmer very gently for around one and a half hours. It will become a dark, rich red and is ready when you can draw a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan, leaving the two sides to stand huffily apart from each other, before reluctantly creeping back over the pan to reunite.

Serve with a hard, salty cheese and crispbread. For those of us who’ve abandoned beautifully uniform justified text for the sake of other people, use nice, soothingly oblong, regular, plank-shaped crispbread, to calm those raggedy nerves. My favourite sourdough crispbread from Peter’s Yard is circular, not oblong. So I’ll cut my cheese into oblongs instead.

The Justified Greengage

Like a summer dahlia frozen in ice, this post is possibly slightly perverse (the flower-freezing thing isn’t always daft – sometimes it’s edible.) I have a slightly sinking feeling that what I’m about to embark on may repel before it entices. But, as with my posts on Fermat’s Last Theorem and the French writer Raymond Queneau, it may be worth sticking with until the end, when at least there’ll be cake.

This is a homily about the homonym, one of a group of words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation, but have different meanings. The word that started all this off is the homonym justified, which can be typographical or simply excusable. And the reason I’m going on about it is because of the layout of this page. I don’t much like text that’s

flush on the left but ragged on the right

or ragged on the left but flush on the right

And, even worse, text that hovers somewhere in the middle of the page, without any real clue what it’s doing there

What I try to use is justified text – it’s so soothingly square and symmetrical. But there’s something bossily sanctimonious about the other meaning of the word justified, that I really don’t like; boasting that it, and only it, is right (not as in left, but as in correct, which is of course another homonym). We tend to use the word justified when we want to bolster our slightly flagging defences. Think of the 19th Century novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, if you want to find an example of just such a usage. Memoirs they may be, confessions they could be, but justified they certainly are not.

So this is a post about justified in a typographical sense, but not in a sanctimonious sense. The greengage of my title is justified in that it stops the cake from being ragged left, ragged right or simply all over the place. It’s an addition that makes the cake right (as in perfect, not as in left.)


  • 180 grams unsalted butter
  • 180 grams caster sugar plus extra tablespoon
  • 180 grams self-raising flour
  • 100 grams ground almonds
  • 3 medium eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Handful ripe greengages, halved and stoned
  • Handful ripe blueberries
  • Handful flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 175 C. Butter a 25 cm cake tin and line the bottom with parchment. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy looking. Whisk the eggs with a fork and mix them in, a little at a time. Sieve the flour to add a little air and fold it in, along with the ground almonds, the vanilla essence and a pinch of salt.

Tip the mixture into the cake tin and push the greengage halves into the mixture, cut side up, until semi-submerged, but still visible. Do the same with the blueberries and then sprinkle the extra tablespoon of sugar over the lot. Place in the middle of the oven. After half an hour, pull the tin out briefly so that you can sprinkle the top of the cake with the flaked, blanched almonds (add them any earlier than this and the nuts will burn). Place the tin back in the oven for another half and hour.

Take the cake out of the oven and, after half an hour, remove from the tin. This is one of those cakes that, without question, tastes better the next day. So you can be an entirely Justified Sinner by eating the entire thing, single-handed, in two days.

p.s. To leaven this mixture a little, I will leave you with an example of what happens if you muddle up your homonyms:

The thief tripped as he tried to make his getaway and landed in a cement mixer. He became a hardened criminal.

The Minutiae of Broad Beans

There’s a painting by the sixteenth-century artist Titian in Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery that seems to tell its entire story at a glance. Supper at Emmaus depicts the moment Jesus reveals his identity to his followers, after the Crucifixion and Resurrection. The disciple on the left of the painting looks suitably startled to discover who his dining companion is, while the follower on the right seems to be making up his mind whether to offer apologies or congratulations. But look at the tablecloth, in front of the loaf of bread. There, oddly and even a little prosaically, is a little heap of broad beans.  What can they be doing there? And where are the mounds of grapes, flagons of wine and platters of roast meats that we’ve come to expect from such religious paintings?

Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus, painted in 1601, goes for a much grander menu to mark the solemnity of the occasion: a slightly comic roast chicken, grapes, pomegranates and figs. In his 1620 version, Bartolomeo Cavarozzi plumps for a decanter of wine and enough grapes to fill a grocer’s shelves. So why Titian’s broad beans? The possible answer is that broad beans were once thought to embody the soul of the dead (the Greek mathematician Pythagoras issued an injunction forbidding anyone to eat beans, ever). Perhaps to counterbalance the note of melancholy introduced by the beans, Titian scattered a few borage flowers over the tablecloth, since these were thought to chase away sadness.

Flying in the face of Pythagoras’ instructions, I bring you a broad bean confection that is resolutely cheerful and sunny, with or without the perky borage flowers. August is the height of the broad bean season, so cast melancholy aside and celebrate.


  • Handful of beans per person
  • Sour dough bread
  • Clove garlic
  • Ricotta
  • Handful of pea shoots
  • Grated zest of lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Seasoning
  • Handful herb flowers – I used oregano this time, but thyme, rosemary or chive would be good too
  • Handful mint leaves

Pod the beans and boil in salted water for no more than two minutes. Allow to cool and then peel off the leathery jackets. Lightly toast the bread and rub with the cut side of a garlic clove. Spread each slice with ricotta cheese, sprinkled with a little salt and black pepper. Tip the beans on top, followed by the pea shoots, torn mint leaves and a few herb flowers. Mix the lemon zest with the olive oil and drip a little on top of each toast.