• Elderflower

    Having spent a happy May afternoon picking elderflowers and turning them into a gorgeous cordial, I can now reap the benefits and start using it in all manner of ways. My children would be quite content to save the whole batch for drinking over the summer; one likes it with very cold still water and the other definitely with fizzy. Either way an ice cube and sprig of mint turns it into an incredibly refreshing cooler. But it would be a shame to limit its use to this when it is such a fantastic and versatile ingredient that can be enjoyed in so many different guises.

    Sticking to the drinks theme just for a moment, elderflower can be included in a myriad of cocktails and mocktails, from the safely staid to the downright dangerous (but in both cases always delicious). For a simple start, mix 75ml of elderflower cordial with 1l of good quality apple juice. Pour over ice to half fill highball glasses, add mint leaves and top up with sparkling water. One of our family favourites is to adapt slightly the usual fizzy elderflower by substituting half of the sparkling water for ginger ale. Any combination of mint, strawberries and cucumber is a great addition.

    For a little more excitement, add some elderflower cordial to your gin and tonic, including some mint and/or cucumber as well as a squeeze of lime and plenty of ice. It doesn’t freeze very solid, but I have had great success making elderflower ice cubes to add to my G&T instead of the pure water variety; they don’t last long but help provide chill as well as an extra flavour dimension. Finally for a proper party, mix the cordial with equal parts of gin (or vodka) and vermouth plus a squeeze of lime, agitate with ice and strain into suitably glamorous glasses for a seriously drinkable twist on the Martini theme. Either shaken or stirred, even after a long hot day this is guaranteed to revive you ready for the evening ahead.

    Moving sensibly on, hic….

    Elderflowers add such a fragrant but mellow flavour, the cordial really can be used in a myriad of recipes. Elderflower syllabub is a glorious end to an al fresco lunch or dinner and couldn’t be easier to make. Just combine the zest and juice of a lime with 60ml sherry, 30ml elderflower cordial and a heaped tablespoon of caster sugar. Mix it all together thoroughly and then pour into a bowl along with 300ml double cream. Whisk until it forms soft peaks and divide between 6 glasses. Top each with a grating of lime zest and some sprigs of elderflower if they are available then chill for at least an hour (more is fine) before serving.

    The cordial’s pervasive flavour also works very well in jellies. There are many combinations here to choose from but one of my favourites is to dissolve some softened leaf gelatine (only because I don’t understand the powdered sort!) with some warmed elderflower cordial, combine with prosecco and pour over fresh raspberries in ramekins or other moulds. These need around 4 hours to set but you can of course make them the day before you need them. For a child friendly version simply set a strong dilution of cordial and water and pour over raspberries, or blueberries are good too.

    Elderflower cheesecake is my go to pudding this summer. Having never made a cheesecake until last year (yes, really) I am now slightly obsessed and love coming up with new flavour combinations for this tried and tested (by everyone else) format. I use ginger biscuits for the base of this version rather than the more traditional digestives and having made that in the usual way simply combine full fat cream cheese with double cream and icing sugar along with lime zest and juice and, of course, some elderflower cordial. Again this will need about 4 hours to set but will happily sit in the fridge overnight.

    One of my favourite and most unforgettable elderflower moments was at a friend’s leaving party. Alice and her family were departing for the far-off land of Tazmania and she used this as an excellent excuse to have at least 3 parties. As my contribution to one of those I made some elderflower cupcakes which were, I must admit, so utterly gorgeous that they elicited from Alice some of the most extraordinary groans of ecstasy I have ever heard; they were so astonishing it caused a stampede of guests from the other room, all agog to find out what on earth was going on. The cupcake mix included ground almonds and elderflower cordial making it both fragrant and a lovely texture. They were topped with a billowy icing made from mascarpone and double cream, sweetened with elderflower cordial and icing sugar. The cakes were soft, fragrant and utterly delightful, as volubly demonstrated by Alice.

    I’m saving my best until last; elderflower panna cotta. This is one of my absolutely favourite recipes of all time, guaranteed to please and almost embarrassingly easy to make. For 4 people soften 1 leaf of gelatine in water for 5 minutes. While that’s happening, warm 170g double cream, 55g whole milk and 55g elderflower cordial in a saucepan. When it is just coming to the boil, take it off the heat. Squeeze out the gelatine and add to the pan, stirring until it has completely dissolved. Divide the mixture between 4 5cm chef rings which have been double lined with cling film over one end (use water to persuade the cling film to stick) and chill until firm, ideally overnight. This recipe creates just the perfect balance between set and wobble. When you ease the creams out of their rings (the very brief use of a blow torch helps here) they will stand proudly on their plates but yield easily to the slightest pressure from your spoon. Heaven with a strawberry compote and some black pepper meringue shards.

    If you don’t have the right sized chefs rings, use ramekins or timbales and adjust the amounts accordingly just making sure that you keep exactly the same proportion of the cream mixture to gelatine.

    If you would like more detailed recipes for any of the above, please do get in touch.

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