Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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Elderflower fritters

Elder Flower-Head Fritters are a classic wild food recipe for these edible wild flowers. The combination of batter and a hint of elderflower is utterly delicious.

What's more, you can turn them savoury or sweet and here's my winning versions with an extra light batter recipe, plus suggestions for turning them into a starter, main accompaniment or dessert.

Man holding an elderflower head

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Single elderflower on my kitchen table

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. 

Plate of freshly made homemade elderflower jam doughnuts

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

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Elder tree in flower

It's Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) season, and the time for celebrations and desserts! I share more on Elderflowers, including how and when to pick the best Elderflowers and a recipe for Elderflower cordial and sorbet in my blog. Elderflower cordial is a great way to capture the aroma of summer and in this recipe below, you can substitute half the lemons for oranges in your cordial recipe for an orange twist!

Making a cake flavoured with elderflowers  Making a cake flavoured with elderflowers

Orange and Elderflower Layered Sponge

I fall into nostalgic heaven with this sweet (though not overly), quick and easy mouthful of a dessert, complete with a beautiful hint of summery elderflower. I first made it for a friend’s birthday, and it was the perfect solution to an impromptu gathering and something sweet and celebratory between a sea swim and raucous meal out. Of course you could make your own healthier sponge, though this is the quick version.

Ingredients

  • 100ml double cream
  • 160ml orange and elderflower cordial
  • 250g mascarpone cheese
  • 25g unrefined icing sugar
  • 24 sponge fingers
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 tbsp unrefined icing sugar (optional)

Whip the cream into soft peaks and put aside. In a small pan, heat 100ml of cordial and quickly dip half the sponge fingers in the syrup then lay them on the bottom of a square serving dish, flat plate or clean chopping board.

In a medium bowl, blend the mascarpone, 2 tablespoons of cordial and the 25g of icing sugar, then fold in the whipped double cream. Spread a layer of the mascarpone and cream mixture across the soaked sponge fingers. Slice off the orange skins (this give them a better edge for the dessert) and finely slice the fruits, removing any pips and pith you come across. Tip half the slices into the remaining cordial, and lift out, one by one, placing a layer across the cream mixture. Remove any stray orange pieces from the cordial and quickly dip the rest of the sponge fingers and layer onto the orange slices, followed by the rest of the cream mixture. Lastly, dip the remaining orange slices and place on the top, drizzling any last drops of cordial over them and place in the fridge to chill for two hours. Remove from the fridge, dust with icing sugar, if using, cut into squares and serve immediately.

Elderflower dessert

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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