Soap making can be just as satisfying and addictive as creating delicious recipes. Combine ingredients to suit your mood, whether you want something to uplift, energise or promote relaxation. This is a pretty and soothing concoction. Marigolds are a natural anti-inflammatory, honey nourishes and moisturises the skin and oatmeal is a gentle exfoliant. Cheering, soothing, citrus-based essential oils provide the perfect seasoning.
Makes 10 x 50g soaps.
Gifts from the Garden by Debora Robertson (Kyle Books, £16.99) Photography: Yuki Sugiura
Grate the soap with the coarse side of a box grater and place it in a heatproof bowl large enough to fit over one of your pans. Alternatively, you can use a bain-marie. Add the honey to the soap. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water – the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl – and melt the soap with the honey, stirring from time to time, until it’s liquid and well blended.
Remove the bowl from the heat. Stir in the marigold petals, oatmeal and essential oils and mix thoroughly. Lightly but thoroughly grease the moulds with a little of the sweet almond or groundnut oil. Pour the liquid soap into a jug and then pour it into the moulds. Rap the moulds gently on the work surface to eliminate air bubbles (this isn’t necessary if you are using silicone moulds) and leave to set for at least 4 hours.
If you’re using silicone moulds, simply press the soaps out. If using metal moulds, use a small, sharp knife to help ease them out. Leave in a cool, dry place for 3–4 weeks to ‘cure’ or harden.
Drying marigold Petals
Pick the marigolds (Calendula officinalis) when the flowers are fully open, on a sunny morning after the dew has evaporated. Place them on a drying screen in a dry, shady, well-ventilated place and turn them regularly until they are papery. Pull the petals from the buds and store them in a dark glass jar or other opaque container until ready to use. As well as using them to add colour to simple cheeses, you can infuse them in tea, scatter them over risottos or pilaffs, or use them in beauty preparations such as the Marigold Face Tonic.
New or vintage bun and tart tins in interesting shapes make great soap moulds. You can simply unmould the soaps and pack them in a pretty box or give them in the tins, as an extra little gift for the lucky recipient.