cooking with elderflowers

Foraging for elderflowers in Somerset, England.

As promised, here are my elderflower recipes. The season has started, so you better hurry if you want to cook with them too – these small white flowers only appear for a few weeks once a year. In the UK, the season runs from the end of May until mid June.

While we were in Somerset last weekend, the trees were in bloom everywhere we looked, so between trips to the dining table and splashing in the hot tub, a couple of us went foraging. We picked about 50 heads, rejecting anything that looked slightly brown, before hitting the kitchen. First up, we had a stab at the fritters – I’d learnt to make them last year and was desperate to give them another go.

elderflower fritters

This is another recipe that’s really impressive and simple. Too easy.

Elderflower fritters in Somerset, England

Ingredients

24 heads of freshly blooming elderflowers (no brown bits!)
200g plain flour
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, plus more for cooking.
2 tablespoons of golden caster sugar (optional)
350mls sparkling water (add more if needed)
2 egg whites.

Method

Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the oil, water and the sugar (if you want them extra sweet). Set aside you batter for at least 30 minutes.

Shake your elderflower heads do get rid of any insects – don’t dunk them in water as this can damage the petals and wash away some of the flavour.

Just before you’re ready to cook, beat the egg whites with a fork and stir it into the batter.

Fill a deep frying pan with two inches of vegetable oil and heat it up. To test that the oil is hot enough, break off a small stem of petals, dunk them in the batter, hold them by the stem above the bowl so most of it drips off, and put them the oil. If the batter puffs up and quickly turns golden, you’re ready to go with the big guys.

Begin by holding an elderflower head by its stem, dunk the flowers in the batter until they’re all covered, hold over the bowl by the stem until most of the batter drips off, and put the flowers in the oil. The stem acts as a very handy handle (as you can see below).

Frying elderflower fritters in Somerset, England.

Leave in the oil until the batter is golden. Once cooked, remove and place on kitchen towel to drain off the oil.

Repeat for the remaining elderflower heads.

Eat straightaway – they’re only good when they’re fresh and crispy.

Homemade elderflower fritters.

super quick elderflower cordial

My friend and co-chef  suggested that we have a stab at elderflower cordial too. Our aim: gin, tonic and elderflower cocktails. What a brilliant idea! The only problem – every recipe we found required overnight steeping and we only had three hours. We decided to give it a stab anyway by upping the number of elderflower heads and amount of lemon zest we used and reducing the water and sugar. And, while it didn’t yield a massive amount of liquid, it was flavoursome in the drinks and we each got to take about 250mls home. Not bad, eh?

Homemade elderflower cordial.

Ingredients

24 elderflower heads
Grated zest of two lemons
500g golden caster sugar

Method

Give the elderflowers a good shake to liberate any insects.

Place them in a large saucepan with the lemon zest.

Pour 750mls of boiling water over the flowers, cover with a lid and let it steep for as long as you can. We left it for 2.5 hours.

When you’ve waited long enough, strain the mix and add the sugar.

Pop the mixture on the hob and heat it slowly, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.

Let it cool and mix up a batch of gin and tonics and add cordial to taste.

What do you think? Sound good?

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© Kate McAuley

 

 

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8 thoughts on “cooking with elderflowers

    1. Kate Post author

      My friends were surprised by how much they tasted like elderflower – I kid you not. I’ve never tried the tea and I’ve been told that the champagne you can make is delicious. Two more recipes to try out next year. Thanks!

  1. Pat McNulty

    Right, so am totes down with the cordial sitch already, but need fritter assistance. Please explain these cooking mysteries to me: 1) what do you do with the egg yolks if only using whites? (hate waste) 2) what happens to the oil once you’ve finished deep frying (was brought up by uber healthy parents, never deep fried a thing) 3) How actually deep is the frying pan as I will probs need to get a new one. Can I use a saucepan at a pinch?? 4) How long do you rek it takes to fry them incase I get it wrong by sight? THANKS xoxo

    1. Kate Post author

      Great questions! In reply:
      1. I hate waste too. I made custard for mini custard tarts with my egg yolks.
      2. I have a large container of oil that I reuse for deep fat frying. Once I’ve finished cooking, I leave the oil to cool and then I funnel it back into the bottle. My funnel has a strainer, so it filters out anything majorly foreign. I reuse it between 4-6 times, depending on how the oil is looking (relatively clear with a minimum of floating black bits). When I need to chuck it, I filter what I’ve used back into the bottle and put it out for the garbage men.
      3. My frying pan is about 4″ deep. You can definitely use a saucepan – just make sure the oil is a good temperature by checking using the instructions above. It can get too hot between batches, so keep an eye on it.
      4. About three minutes – but you’ll be able to tell. You can pick up the flowers by the stem to check if you’re not sure, but honestly even if they’re over or under done, they’re still delicious.

      xxxxxxxxxxx

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