Citrus Salad with Vanilla and Basil Syrup

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Around the start of the year, lots of people rush around trying to start the year off on the ‘right foot’. Whether this involves joining a gym, cutting out junk food, signing up for knitting classes, or booking a holiday, it makes everyone feel like they’re really doing something to better themselves.

I mean, who isn’t guilty of making grand resolutions in January that fizzle out by February? I do it all the time, throughout the year. But now, in March, as the year slips by, my new resolution is to accomplish little victories – small achievements that can be built into bigger ones.

This year, I’d really like to have my friends over more often, and really spend time together, talking and eating. I’ve been guilty in the past of getting overambitious with dinner parties and cooking complex dishes, trapping me in the kitchen. Now, all I want to do is have a glass of wine with good friends, and enjoy good food.

This recipe is perfect for a relaxed dinner party, because it can be prepared ahead, and easily. Effortless and elegant (and actually pretty healthy) – that’s got to appeal to everyone. Here’s to little pieces of happiness, like this one, all year long.

Citrus Salad with Vanilla and Basil Syrup

Makes enough for 4-6 people

2 grapefruits

2 oranges

1 lime

For the syrup:

1 Vanilla Pod

A bunch of basil leaves (around 7-8 leaves)

200ml water

400ml sugar

In a pan, bring the sugar and water up to a boil together. In the meantime, split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape the seeds out using a knife or teaspoon. Once the syrup is boiling, stir in the vanilla seeds and throw the leftover pod in. Let it cool and infuse for at least an hour. Shred the basil leaves by rolling them up tightly and slicing finely with a sharp knife. When the syrup has cooled completely, stir in the basil leaves.

Cut out the citrus segments. Slice off the top and bottoms of the fruits, and rest on a flat bottom. Slice around the outside, tracing the shape and taking off the skin and pith. Slice closely along the membranes to remove a beautiful, pure segment of citrus. The lime can be a little difficult to trim, so be careful with it – or leave it out.

Evenly distribute the different fruits, and pour 3-4 tablespoons of the syrup over each serving.

(The Vanilla and Basil Syrup also makes an amazing cocktail – for every serving, stir one shot of vodka, one tablespoon of syrup and the juice of one lime together. Pour over ice and top up with soda water or ginger ale. Garnish with a lime slice and basil leaves.)