Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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A cluster of elderberries in a hand

I'm amazed how different raw and cooked elderberries taste. As a forager I should know that cooking can transform wild, unpleasant flavours into something exquisite, though still I'm amazed!

Raw, elderberries are 'meh' and eating too many can cause a stomach upset. I actually will only eat a couple, as I've had adverse effects from eating even a few more.

Luckily, cooked elderberries create a divine liquor that's to be cherished for all it's flavour and health-giving properties. They're deep enough in flavour to have previously been used to enhance wine and even port, and once cooked, you’ll know why. This also makes them far more tempting than raw ones too.

The goodness in elderberries...

Elderberry is a scientifically tested remedy for coughs and colds, and can help bronchitis and similar conditions. Abundant in vitamin A and C, they’re ideal for preventing winter colds, and were used long before oranges and lemons hit our shores. They also contain valuable anti-viral properties, helping the body keep viruses at bay.

Picking elderberries

When to pick elderberries

The season is short for elderberries, once they start to appear, wait for them to turn a deep purple, almost black colour before picking. Here in the UK they are ready in September, across the world, be ready in early autumn.

Spoonful of elderberry cordial drizzled over sponges

Elderberry Cordial Recipe

This warming cordial is full of rich body, mingled with warming spices fit for an autumn or winter's day. The spices are definitely worth adding and really enhance this drink. Sip a thimble-full just as it is. Drizzle over sponge cake, over hot porridge or dilute for hot or cold, soft or alcoholic drinks. Close your eyes and enjoy...

Makes 500 ml

Ingredients
  • 500 g elderberries (stalks removed)
  • 10-15 cloves
  • 2 cm piece of ginger root, chopped
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • 350 g dark sugar
Spoonful of elderberry cordial

Place the berries in a medium saucepan and add enough water to just cover them. Crush the berries with the back of a wooden spoon, add the spices and bring to the boil, simmering with a lid on for 20 minutes. Pour the elderberry water through a sieve, mashing to ensure you extract all the juice.

Clean the pan and return the sieved elderberry water to the pan, adding the sugar. Place on a medium heat and stir while the sugar dissolves, simmer for 10 minutes before allowing to cool and storing in a sterilised bottle.

Rachel Lambert picking elderberries

Want to find out more?

Elderberries is one of the fruits I teach on my autumn foraging courses. Elderberries come from the Elder tree, which produces flowers in late spring/early summer. I have a whole section of my blog dedicated to Elder - feel free to browse!

Sea buckthorn cheesecake with a slice on the side

This is actually a really simple cheesecake recipe, and contains no eggs or cream, just full-fat mascarpone cheese. Combining my beloved stem ginger with the tart richness of swirled sea buckthorn syrup, this dessert has been discussed over dinner many a time.

Is it a frozen cheesecake, an ice cream or a sorbet on a cheesecake base? Sensibly, my friends decided it didn’t matter as it tastes so good and is a glorious way to end a meal.

I'm a bit coy to say, but this is my favourite of all the sea buckthorn recipes I've created. I hope you enjoy it too!

Slice of sea buckthorn and ginger frozen cheesecake

Frozen Sea Buckthorn and Ginger Cheesecake

Tart sea buckthorn berry syrup, combined with sweet, fiery ginger in a smooth, creamy filling and a crunchy base. I dare you to leave the rest in the freezer and not eat it all too quickly!

Image of frozen sea buckthorn cheese cake

Serves 10-12

Ingredients

  • 550 g mascarpone cheese
  • 135 ml (9 tbsp) sea buckthorn juice
  • 220 g unrefined caster sugar
  • 50 g unrefined icing sugar
  • 50 g stem ginger, finely chopped
  • For the biscuit base
  • 125 g sweet wholemeal biscuits
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 50 g butter

In a small saucepan, measure out 60 millilitres (4 tablespoons) of sea buckthorn juice and 60g of unrefined caster sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring to help dissolve the sugar, and simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes until the liquid is thick and syrupy. Put aside to cool.

To make the biscuit base, crush the wholemeal biscuits to small fragments, though not to dust. In a second small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat, and use a little to grease the bottom of a 20cm springform cake tin before covering the base with greaseproof paper. Add the crushed biscuits and powdered ginger into the melted butter stirring until well combined. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the cake tin, and press down, from the centre outwards until firm and even, refrigerate while making the filling.

Half a froen sea buckthorn and ginger cheesecake

For the filling, mix the mascarpone cheese, the remaining sugar and sea buckthorn juice, the icing sugar and stemmed ginger until well combined, though not over-mixed. Spoon the filling on top of the biscuit base, finally pour over the cooled sea buckthorn syrup and swirl into the mix.

Carefully place in the freezer, for at least 6 hours. When ready to serve, run a hot cloth round the outside of the tin and ease out the cheesecake, slice and serve immediately. Return the rest of the cheesecake to the freezer straight away, even if you think people will want seconds, as the cake with start to melt and loose its shape.

2 slices of sea buckthorn and ginger cheesecake

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