Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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Summer foraging course picking elderflowers with Rachel Lambert

Wohoo!! Elderflowers are one of the wonderful and wild flavours of summer. Over the years of foraging them I've created a lot of new recipes with them. Here I share ten of my elderflower recipes with you, just follow the links for step-by-step instructions.

1. Elderflower cordial

The basis of soooo many elderflower delights. There is a reason why elderflower cordial is popular; it's divine, light, summery and full of anti-viral, health-giving properties too!

2. Pink elderflower and rose cordial

This pink elderflower cordial is fun with the scent of elderflowers and rose. It's made using pink elderflowers - did you know you could use these as well?!

3. Elderflower fritters

Elderflower recipes don't have to be sweet. These elderflower fritters can be sprinkled with icing sugar or served with soy sauce and lemon for a savoury twist.

4. Elderflower and strawberry jam

Made with sun-ripened strawberries, this homemade elderflower and strawberry jam is luxurious!

5. Elderflower and pear jam

Pear is the perfect level of sweetness and flavour to help show off elderflower cordial in this pear and elderflower jam. I love it in the centre of my elderflower doughnuts too!

6. Elderflower doughnuts

These elderflower doughnuts are such a treat! Freshly made, filled with elderflower and pear jam (above) and dipped in an elderflower glaze - definitely worth celebrating.

Afternoon tea with foraged Elderflower doughnuts in Cornwall

7. Elderflower and glazed orange cake

A moist and dense cake glazed with orange slices simmered in elderflower cordial. This elderflower and glazed orange cake is a wonderful addition to summer desserts.

8. Elderflower jam tarts (Scandi-style)

I'm really proud of these Swedish style elderflower jam tarts. Filled with my favourite pear and elderflower jam. They're better than any jam tart I had as a child!

9. Creamy elderflower layered sponge (quick)

Made using sponge fingers, this a quick, creamy, elderflower fruity, layered sponge. Perfect for impromptu gatherings.

10. Elderflower and sea salt ice cream

Another creamy dessert, this elderflower and sea salt ice cream was inspired by sea swims followed by supping elderflower cordial.

Elderflowers from a foraging course used in a homemade ice cream recipe

11. Sweet elderflower and apricot bread

A little sweet, a little wholesome, this elderflower and apricot bread is sweetened with elderflower cordial and sticky, black dates.

Homemade bread made with foraging elderflowers and shared on a foraging course

12. Elderflower tea!

Let's never forget tea! Elderflower tea is good for colds and flu as it's anti-viral. Just use a teaspoon of dried flowers per person, leave to brew for 10 minutes then strain. You can use fresh flowers, just fork them off the stems first and discard the stems.

Foraged elderflowers from a wild food course, in a homemade cake!

This glazed orange and elderflower cake uses a particularly orangey version on my elderflower cordial (use 1 lemon and 2 oranges instead of following the usual 3 lemons recipe).

Actually, that orangey elderflower cordial was the inspiration for this moist and luscious cake. The basic cake is based on an Italian recipe and is beautifully filling and simultaneously light. How does it do that?!

Homemade, foraged cake with elderflowers and orange

If you're looking for something different to do with your elderflower cordial and love cake, why not try this!

Glazed Orange and Elderflower Cake recipe

A wonderful zesty cake with a moist filling and sticky top. The elderflower flavour is subtle but present and gives a summery feel to this substantial sponge.

Serves 12 (slices)

Ingredients

  • 335 g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100 g golden granulated sugar
  • 170 g butter
  • 185 ml elderflower cordial
  • 2 free-range eggs

For the glaze

  • 200 ml elderflower cordial (ideally with 1 lemon and 2 oranges, not the other way around)
  • 100 g golden granulated sugar
  • 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/fan 160°C and grease or line a 20 cm diameter cake with a little butter. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Mix in the sugar until blended. Cut the butter into cubes and using your fingertips, or a food processor, combine the mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Whisk the eggs and pour into the breadcrumb mixture. Gradually pour the cordial in as well and stir just enough times to bind the mixture. Don't over stir and you may not need to use all the liquid either. Spoon into the cake tin and bake for around 40 minutes. The cake is done when golden and a skewer in the centre comes out clean, and the sponge is coming away from the edges of the tin.

Foraged cake on a wild food foraging course

While the cake is baking you can make the glaze.

Slice the orange through the side to create 0.5-1 cm slices. You'll just need 4 slices, but you could use more and cut into smaller pieces. Place in a small pan and cover with the cordial. Bring to the boil then lower to a simmer for 40 minutes - 1 hour. I cut a piece of baking paper and place on top of the water to help keep the moisture and heat in while the orange slices simmer. You could also place a lid partially on.

The slices are ready when the peel is translucent and soft. If the pan is drying up and the slices are still not ready, you may need to add a little more cordial, or 2 parts water to sugar if you've run out of cordial! Ideally there's some syrupy liquid left when the slices are ready, which can be poured over the cake.

Foraged elderflowers from a wild food course, in a homemade cake!

The slices in the image are a little under-done, so yours should be more translucent than this. Mine ended up chewier than I wished, but still pleasant.

When the cake is ready, take out of the oven, leave for 10 minutes then remove from the tin on to a cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool completely before heating up the syrup. Prick the top of the cake and pour it evenly over the sponge, followed by placing the orange slices decoratively on the sponge.

Enjoy on its own or with cream or crème fraiche.

Foraged elderflower cake for a wild food course

Homemade fruit bread with foraged elderflowers from a wild food foraging course

Got too much elderflower cordial and don't know what to do with it all? Sick of drinking elderflower cordial and making it into cocktails? This recipe for Apricot and Elderflower sweet bread was created out of just one of those moments.

Not wanting to make it too sweet I used a wholemeal brown flour and the result is reminiscent of malt loaf, or some say walnut and date bread, but a little more wholesome and wild!

I've shared this bread (made it into sandwiches with my pear and elderflower jam) for wild food foraging course participants and bespoke foraging experiences and it has gone down a treat. So here's the recipe.

Homemade apricot and elderflower bread  by forager Rachel Lambert

Elderflower and Apricot Sweet Bread recipe

I love the tangy, depth of black, un-sulphured apricots and this recipe transforms them into dark, sticky treats in this fruit bread. Great served with butter and an unusual way to enjoy elderflower cordial.

Makes one loaf

Ingredients

  • 500 g wholemeal flour
  • 125 g un-sulphured apricots, chopped
  • 1 tsp quick yeast
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 300 ml warm water
  • 100 ml elderflower cordial

1 tbsp olive oil Pre-heat the oven to 400°F/200°C/fan 180°C. Add the flour, salt and quick yeast into a large mixing bowl and stir. Add in the apricots and raisins, and slowly add the warm water and elderflower cordial to the flour mix, adding the oil in too. Knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, cover with a clean cloth and leave for an hour, or until the dough has almost doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, grease a baking tray or loaf tin; punch the dough back so it flattens and place in an oiled bread tin or tray. Allow to rise again until almost twice the size, before baking in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until dark brown on top, and hollow sounding when tapped. Tip out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool.

Homemade and foraged elderflower and apricot bread on a wild food foraging course
Scoop of creamy homemade ice ceram with foraged elderflowers

It was salty lips and a refreshing, post swim sup of elderflower cordial that moved me to create this. Even as I write, in my mind’s eye I can still see the coastal horizon and taste the combination of sweet elderflower and salt. The ice cream is rather good too, and perfect if you crave the sea but live inland.

Summer foraging course picking elderflowers with Rachel Lambert

Since writing this, I also discovered a lovely gin and elderflower ice cream that I enjoyed courtesy of Bruichladdich distillery. It was divine! I may not have managed to recreate that one, but this recipe is equally enjoyable, even without the alcohol!

Elderflower gin ice cream - a forager's delight!

Elderflower and Sea Salt Ice Cream recipe

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 free-range egg yolks
  • 185 ml elderflower cordial
  • 35 g (2 tbsp) unrefined sugar
  • 500 ml lightly whipped cream (approx. 425 ml double cream, before whipped)
  • ½ - ¾ tsp rock salt, lightly crushed

In a medium to large bowl whisk the egg yolks until light and fluffy. In a small heavy bottomed saucepan add the cordial (less the 2 teaspoons) and the sugar and stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil and using a sugar thermometer allow to reach 110°C or until a metal spoon dipped in the syrup forms thin threads from the last drops. Slowly pour the syrup into the eggs and whisk constantly, add the rest of the cordial and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and resembles a mousse.

Making homemade ice cream with foraged elderflowers from a wild food course

Spoon into a one litre Tupperware or tin, cover and freeze for one hour. If you haven’t already, roughly crush the salt in a pestle and mortar – you want small pieces of rock salt, but not dust. After an hour take the semi-frozen ice cream out of the freezer, thoroughly stir in the salt and freeze until ready to use. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving, lovely with summer fruits.

Homemade jam tart recipe with foraged elderflower jam

This wild elderflower recipe was a joy to discover! If you haven't tried an elderflower jam, I highly recommend it! These jam tarts were inspired by Hallongrottor - Swedish jam tarts and I based this recipe on one by Vintagekitchennotes.

Traditionally these deep tarts are filled with raspberry jam - afterall, wild raspberries are abundant in Sweden! Though here in Britain I'm surrounded by flowering elder trees, so creating this recipe felt appropriate!

Crumbly, homemade elderflower jam tarts

A couple of years ago I started experimenting with flavouring jam with elderflowers. I've created a delicious local strawberry and elderflower jam, and this year a pear and elderflower jam. Pears aren't a dominant flavour like strawberries, so they match perfectly with elderflower.

Elderflower is full of health benefits and is a wonderful flavour of summer, this recipe uses elderflower cordial too.

Homemade elderflower jam tart from a foraging course in Cornwall

Elderflower Jam Tart (Scandi-style) recipe

Making jam tarts was a childhood treat when I was growing up. Often made on a rainy day, when we didn't know what to do and using whatever jam we could get our hands on! In comparison, these are special and thoughtful - filled with wild, homemade elderflower jam, a thick, crumbly pastry and topped with slices of almonds. I love them!

Makes 10 tarts

Ingredients

  • 125 g butter, room temperature
  • 35 g (3 heaped tbsp) golden granulated sugar
  • 100 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 40 g corn flour
  • 10 dessertspoons elderflower and pear jam
  • Small handful of whole almonds (or less of flaked almonds)

In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar together, either by hand or in a food processor. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and combine. Add in the corn flour to create a soft dough. Don't over mix, just enough to combine everything.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC/fan 160ºC. Grease ten holes in a muffin tin with a little butter. Break off walnut-sized pieces of dough and press into each greased hole.

Fill each hole with the jam. Slice the almonds and sprinkle on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden (mine took a little longer. Leave to cool and firm up in the tin before removing. Enjoy with a glass of elderflower cordial indoors on a rainy day, or outdoors in the sun!

Homemade jam tart recipe with foraged elderflower jam
Picking elderflowers on a wild food foraging course

The light flavour of pears matches the summer scent of elderflowers perfectly in this delicious elderflower and pear jam! I've made it in jam sandwiches for participants on my summer foraging courses and bespoke forays. I also love it in my double elderflower doughnuts.

So let me get straight to the point and share this recipe with you.

Oh, though don't forget I have a whole Elder section on my blog with lots of recipes for elderflowers and elderberries!

Spoon of foraged elderflower jam

Elderflower and Pear Jam recipe

If you already have elderflower cordial, you can make this jam anytime of year. It goes perfectly with cheese and crackers. Though to be honest, I solely made it as a filling for my elderflower doughnuts. There I feel it has found its perfect home, or hole.

Picking elderflowers on a wild food foraging course

HOT TIP: Remember to pick your elderflowers on a warm, dry day and remember elder is a tree and not a plant. Why not come on a wild food foraging course and learn more about how to identify and use wild foods

Makes one 350-430 g jar

Ingredients

  • 300 g peeled pears, stalk and pips removed
  • 90 ml (6 tbsp) elderflower cordial
  • 225 g golden granulated sugar

Chop and blend the pears with the elderflower cordial then place the blended, syrupy fruits in a small saucepan with the sugar. Simmer and stir to dissolve the sugar. Using a jam thermometer turn the heat up to medium/high until the jam reaches 105°C or thickens to jam consistency. Be careful not to burn the bottom. Pour into a large sterilised jar and allow to cool before sealing.

Delicious in Elderflower doughnuts or on toast.

Infusing pink elder and rose petals to make cordial

Nature isn't always subtle and for good reason. Colourful petals draw a bee towards a flower's nectar-filled centre, a bright white tail of a rabbit confuses its predator during a chase, a colourfully feathered bird attracts a mate.

Pink elderflowers, black lace

Colour is one of the first things my eyes register when I'm given a drink or a plate of food, smell comes second. Scientific research confirms too, that we often eat with our eyes.

Glass of pink elder and rose cordial

Not surprisingly, it was the outrageous pink followed by the familiar scent of elderflowers that my senses delighted in when making this cordial. My memory bank of colours, tastes and smells noted a while ago that rose was a flavour for me, mixed with pink elderflowers I was super excited!

Japanese Rose petals

I have plenty of elderflower recipes to share, and several delicious rose recipes too.

This is an easy cordial to make, with a stunning colour and aromatic scent of rose and elderflowers. Dilute for drinks, turn into elderflower champagne or use is desserts.

Handful of rose and pink elder flowers

Pink Elderflower and Rose Cordial Recipe

I adapted this recipe to the amount of pink edlerflower (Gerda) heads I could reach and the number of rose petals that would come away easily in my hand. Double it, if you choose, freeze it, drink it, enjoy!

Makes 750 ml

Ingredients

  • 10 elder flower heads (flowers forked off stems)
  • Handful of rose petals (fragrant ones)
  • 200 g unrefined sugar
  • 500 ml boiling water
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 oz citric acid (if you’re going to store the cordial for a while)

Ideally pick the flowers in full sun. Fork the flowers off the stalks or snip off the main stalks, putting flowers aside and discarding the rest. Place the elderflowers and rose petals (check to remove bugs) in a heatproof bowl or container, along with the sugar. Pour over the boiling water. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon and leave for 24 hours.

Strain the mixture through a sieve, or preferably a fine muslin cloth, and funnel into clean bottles, or dilute and serve immediately!

Glass of pink elder and rose cordial

I run foraging courses throughout the year, helping you discover the colours and flavours of each season. You can view dates and content here on my foraging course calendar.

I also offer a monthly membership where I send you recipes each month as I go through my wild and seasonal year. Sign up is easy - view membership blogs here and see what you could access.

Flowering black beauty tree/shrub

Wow, they're pink! Pink elderflowers with beautiful dark purple, almost black foliage and the flowers smell like elderflowers - what a find! But are they edible?

Black beauty, Black lace, Sambucus nigra, f. porphyrophylla 'Gerda' are an ornamental subspecies of Elder. Their flowers smell lemony and they're a stunner to look at! They are often bought and planted for these exact features. I've only found these in planted gardens and in urban areas.

Holding up a pink elderflower and black lace leaf

Why plant Black beauty?

As well as having flowers that can be used for elderflower cordial and other delicious recipes (see below). Sambucus 'Black Beauty' is known for attracting bees, beneficial insects, birds, butterflies​/​moths and other pollinators. It is a caterpillar food plant, has nectar/pollen rich flowers, provides shelter and habitat, has seeds for birds and makes a good wildlife hedge.

Basket of pink elderflowers (black lace)

Can you eat all types and colours of elderflower?

In general, it is not advised to eat elderflowers or elderberries raw. Some people get a stomach upset and there is a mild toxicity. That is why traditionally, elderflowers are infused not eaten and elderberries are cooked (to make syrup, wine or pontack sauce).

Elderflowers are native to North America and most of Europe, they can also be found in some areas of Australia and New Zealand. The main species is known as Elder, Black elder, European black elder, elderberry.

There is other species such as Mexican elder (Sambucus mexicana) also known as blue elder. The flowers of the blue elder can be used in the same way as all the elderflower species, but the berries should be cooked for at 30 minutes to make edible.

Pink elderflowers (black lace) growing in urban areas

How can I use pink elder flowers?

Pink elderflowers can be used instead of white elderflowers for cordial, syrup, wine and champagne. The cordial can also be used in a variety of desserts and sweet treats such as elderflower jam, elderflower doughnuts, elderflower quick, creamy, sponge.

But... the colour is so good it is worth thinking about pink foods! I'll be posting a recipe for this very soon.

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Afternoon tea with foraged Elderflower doughnuts in Cornwall

For me, Summer is about outdoor adventures, picnics, barbecues, fayres, festivals and the beach. Elderflowers are the perfect accompaniment, unless it's a festival or fayre - then it's doughnuts!

Here I share my ultimate elderflower doughnut recipe - they're gorgeous!

Yes, doughnuts are fayre food for me, when I’m tired and hungry from dancing it’s the smell of doughnuts that I sniff the air for. Created following a mini disaster – my Cornish town’s annual fayre and no doughnut van in sight – they are a delightful summery twist on the hot sugary ones I yearned for. Complete with a gorgeous soft, jam centre and sweet elderflower coating, these are melt-in-the-mouth with a double dose of elderflower to keep spirits high. 

For this recipe you'll need to first make elderflower cordial - here's my simple elderflower coridal recipe, plus lots of information about where to find elderflowers, when to pick them, what the benefits of elderflowers are. You can also find tips on when to avoid elderflowers.

Elderflower, lemon and orange cordial

Elderflower Doughnut Recipe

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp unrefined caster sugar
  • 135 ml milk                                                   
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  • 275 g plain flour (replacing 25 g with wholemeal flour if you wish)
  • 200-300 ml vegetable oil, for frying
  • 150 g strawberry and elderflower jam or elderflower and pear jam.

Iced coating

Warm the milk in a small pan, take 2 tablespoons of the warm milk and mix with the yeast and a pinch of sugar and leave until it gets frothy. Meanwhile, cube the butter and gently plop into the milk, mixing until the butter dissolves. In a large bowl, sieve the flour and add the rest of the sugar, make a well in the middle and add the frothy yeast, buttery milk and the egg. Mix then knead and stretch for 5 minutes, cover and leave in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.

Afternoon tea with foraged Elderflower doughnuts in Cornwall

Dust a large baking tray with flour and knead the dough for 5 minutes, break the dough into 12 pieces, rolling each piece into a ball and place on the baking tray. Cover and leave to rise for half an hour or until doubled in size. Prepare a couple of dinner plates with kitchen paper and heat the oil in a deep pan to 190°C or until a small piece of dough dropped in the oil sizzles and floats to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, drop 2-4 dough balls into the oil and fry until golden brown, turn over and brown on the other side. Remove and place on the kitchen paper, repeat with the remaining dough balls. Using a filling nozzle, flavour injector or a teaspoon, make a small slot in the side of each doughnut and fill with jam. To finish off, in a small bowl mix the icing sugar with the elderflower cordial and dunk the top of each doughnut in the icing. Eat warm or cold.

Not much time left and many are just out of reach! Remember to take a ladder foraging with you or a good friend with climbing skills...

Last Resort - I've had to resort to just picking one or two heads this time of year, and drying them for elderflower tea. You may have more luck! Though drying Elder flowers for tea is great medicine for the winter months, read below to find out more.

Elderflower syrups and dishes are potent medicine - they can help counter hayfever, fight colds, boost your immune and send you to a delightful floaty place with those sweet aromas...

Choose from fresh or dried elderflower tea (just add hot water), elderflower fritters, or cordial for sorbets and ice creams, mix with summer fruits or into cocktails. Here's a simple recipe for cordial and a tempting image of local fruits cooked with elderflowers - delicious!

(photo: Elder flowers and Yarrow)

 

Elderflower Cordial

This is classic recipe with a bit of a twist, I like to change things sometimes, so here I use a mixture of orange and lemons, and add a little honey too. If you want a more traditional recipe, here it is; Elder Flower Cordial and Elder Flower Sorbet Recipe.

This cordial is a wonderful refreshing summer drink, and elder flowers are also a great remedy for colds. You'll need some pre-planning - a 1 litre container, clean screw-top bottles, a funnel and a seive/muslin cloth is needed, or improvise with what you have. Adjust the amount according to the number of flowers you have picked.

Ingredients

  • 450g unrefined caster sugar
  • 1.5 litres boiling water
  • 20 elderflower heads (flowers left on stalks)
  • 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 2-3oz citric acid (if you’re going to store the cordial for a whole

Ideally pick the flowers in full sun. Place sugar in a pan and pour boiling water over, stirring until dissolved. Place the elderflowers (check to remove bugs) in a clean bucket and pour hot sugar mixture over it. Grate the lemon and orange zest, then cut the fruits into slices, squeeze, and plop into the container (it could be a saucepan, or a large heat-proof bowl). Stir, in the honey until dissolved, cover, and leave for 24-48 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain the mixture through a sieve, or preferably a fine muslin cloth, and funnel into clean bottles, or dilute and serve immediately!

(Photo: Elderflowers cooked in a summer fruits pudding)

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