Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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Warm elderberry souffles in nom ramekins

‘Oh my god’ – is the standard response to the first mouthful of these. Everyone knows that chocolate tastes good, but the additional richness of elderberry in these light, fluffy and hot desserts makes these utterly irresistible.

They're also happen to be gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free and free from refined sugars, not too sweet and very, very yummy!

I'd love to hear from you if you make these... do get in touch or keep in touch via instagram, facebook or pinterest.

A cluster of elderberries in a hand

Elderberries make a rich, flavourful cordial which is used to create these mouth-watering dessserts.

Elderberry and Chocolate Soufflé Recipe

This is a simple and stunning recipe and tastes so good! Light, fluffy and hot desserts with the addition of rich, elderberry cordial make these utterly irresistible.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 50 g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
  • 2 tbsp corn flour
  • 150 ml elderberry cordial
  • 2 medium eggs, separated
  • 1 medium egg white
Mugs of chocolate and elderberry souffles

Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C. In a small saucepan add the chocolate (broken into small pieces), corn flour and elderberry cordial, and heat on a low heat until the chocolate has melted. Increase the heat a little and stir until the mixture thickens before putting aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then mix the egg yolks into the elderberry and chocolate sauce. Spoon one third of the egg whites into the sauce and combine, before softly folding in the rest. Pour into 4 ramekins or heatproof expresso mugs and bake for 12 minutes or until the souffles have risen sufficiently. Don't be tempted to open the oven while they're baking as this will cause them to sink.

Warm elderberry souffles in nom ramekins

Serve immediately, straight from the oven so you can enjoy their fluffy, risen texture and while every mouthful is still warm. Enjoy!

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!

jar of elderberry jelly with chocolate muffins

Elderberry Jelly is full of antiviral properties that can stave off some strains of flu and shorten the duration of others. It's particularly useful for the elderly and young children. Elderberries are the fruits of the elder tree, which are a member of the umbellifer family. Correct identification is essential. Elderberries should always be cooked.

Elderberry and Apple Jelly

A traditional, spreadable elderberry jelly, lightly spiced, and a great sandwich filling for chocolate cake or chocolate muffins. Do let me know if you try this recipe!

 

Makes 1 jar

 

Ingredients

300 g elderberries

150 g chopped apple

150 g unrefined sugar

90 ml water

2 tbsp mixed spice, whole or ground

 

Put all the ingredients, except the sugar, into a small saucepan over a low heat, allow to simmer for 20 minutes, mashing occasionally to help brake the fruits down. Mash through a sieve, extracting as much juice and pulp as possible. Return to a clean pan, add the sugar and stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and using a sugar thermometer, bring to about 95°C, or until long strands suspend from a spoon when dipped into the syrup. Take off the heat and pour into a small bowl and put aside to cool. Store in a sterilised jar.

If you try this recipe, do remember to let me know or tag me on facebook or instagram, where you can also follow what I'm up to more regularly. Elderberries are one of the plants I teach on the autumn foraging courses, read more about elderberries on my blog Taking care of the  Elders.

basket of elderberries

Sambucus nigra

Here I discuss my love of Elder and how we can take care of this richly providing plant.

As September arrives and passes, I love to see the decadent fruit of the Elder tree (Sambucus nigra); heavily laden fruits, dropping off her flexible branches. I considerate it a non-alcoholic equivalent to red wine, such is its depth and richness. As I imagine drinking in this liquor it feels as if I'm doming a thick, warm coat that will protect against all weathers and ills. Ah, such is the medicine of the Elder in autumn.

One wild plant in increasing trend seems to be the Elder, made famous by the cultivated and bottled, Elder flower cordial, it can become a must have by the avid forager. I have always said that foraging is a skill to be shared and enjoyed, not policed, though I do believe that with the increasing interest in foraging comes responsibilities. Shared responsibilities for the plants that we pick.

How to forage elderberries in a sustainable way

It reminds me of the company Forager, who have been supplying wild foods to chefs and restaurants for 15 years (depending when you read this), and stand by their premise that sustainable foraging is at the forefront of their business. Actually, if they weren't sustainable in their approach, their business would have folded years ago.

Here in Cornwall the presence of the Elder is rather sparse, I often get asked where to find it, and just tell people to keep looking - it isn't as abundant as other areas of the UK. For this reason we, foragers, need to take extra care. I have a few spots for elderberries, and never use all of them each year, nor do I take all the berries I can find. Actually, I gain a certain satisfaction from picking so little that my foraging goes un-noticed. Ah, the simple pleasures of life.

In my Environmental Policy for my business I outline only ever picking 10-30% of a plant, and only when it is abundant. Actually, when it comes to seeds and berries, I would suggest 10%, and I'm sure you can imagine why. If you pick too many Elder flowers earlier in the year, there will be little or no Elder berries, and if you pick too many Elder berries you are inhibiting the future life cycle of the Elder.

Wonderful black elderberries (sambucus nigra)

Recently, when attempting to gather a few, last Elder berries at the end of the season, I felt saddened by what I saw. Many of the bushes I have previously visited were not completely, but quite thoroughly stripped of berries. These first berries were near footpaths. As I ventured off piste, so to speak, I found more abundance - of course - on Elders that were harder for humans to reach.

We share our natural world with humans, animals, birds and minerals, it is a fine balance, a glorious balance, and one we can take some care and responsibility for. So, with that in mind, once I'd foraged my berries and plucked the majority of them off the stems for cordials and rich treats, I took the remaining berries (each containing a seed) back to the wood. I took them to areas where Elders like to grow, where Elders grow nearby and I dispersed the seeds.

Now, I'm no gardener, and maybe none of those seeds will take, though somehow I trust the ruthlessness of nature and the alchemy of the weather and the soil to make that decision. However, for those of your who are gardeners, please feel free to plant Elders, cultivate, propagate and tend them. Lets take care of the Elders.

Sustainable foraging of elderberries

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