This melt-in-the-mouth ice cream really captures the coconut-scent that fills the air around wild gorse bushes on a warm, sunny day. That's why this recipe is so good! Oooh, I can almost taste it as I write this.
I've experimented a lot with gorse (Ulex galli and Ulex europeaus) over the years and here I share with you my best recipe yet. Here I also share my top tips on how to bring out that gorse-scent in foods and drinks - which is not as easy as it sounds!
Plus, a few ideas for using any left-over flowers, including how to make gorse sugar and what to use it with.
Gorse is one of my favourite flowers to use as it is so abundant and in many areas is considered an invasive. And that bright yellow colour is great too!
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Five years ago I wrote a blog about my Nettle and Honey Cake - it went down a treat. Named as; 'probably the best cake I've ever had' by one enthusiastic forager, I was super pleased the result.
Every so often I like to repeat recipes so I can enjoy the flavours again and see if they need tweaking. Over the last few years I've also found that nettles combines well with ginger and with lemon and, although this cake contains neither, its texture is reminiscent of a lovely moist ginger cake.
Last week, however, I made a new discovery; nettle cake (urtica dioica) and gorse (ulex gallii, ulex europaeus) flower syrup! It's a wild and divine combination which I just had to share with you.
A Spring Dessert: Nettle and Honey Cake with Gorse Flower Syrup
An almost toffee flavoured, moist, not too sweet cake, with a sweet hit of moorland gorse flavours drizzled over it. Somehow, this whole combination reminds me of green tea, perhaps it is the lovingly received health benefits of these local, wild ingredients, or just the natural flavours of green nettles and infused gorse.
- 50-75 g nettle tops
- 250 g clear honey
- 100 g dark muscovado sugar
- 225 g butter
- 3 large eggs beaten
- 300 g white flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
For the syrup
- 50 g fresh gorse flowers
- 225 g unrefined sugar
- 300 ml water
Place the gorse flowers in a medium saucepan with the water and sugar and bring to the boil. Immediately take off the heat, cover with a lid and leave overnight (or for as many hours as you can). The next day bring the liquid to the boil again and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve or muslin cloth and store in sterilised bottles in the fridge or freeze in ice cube containers and defrost as needed. Will last a month or so if not frozen.
Line a 20 cm square or round cake tin and pre-heat the oven to 150°C. Steam the nettles for 5 minutes and put aside to cool. Place the honey, sugar and butter in a small saucepan over a low heat and stir until melted and combined. Once the nettles are cooled, blend with the eggs to make a smooth, green pulp. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and gradually beat in the melted sugar and butter mix. It will resemble a lovely toffee colour.
Pour in the pureed nettles and blended eggs and beat together.
It makes a wonderful green, raw cake mixture colour! Pour into the cake tin and bake for an hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, or the cake springs back when touched. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin onto a cooling rack, and cool completely before slicing. Serve with gorse flower syrup.
Gorse Flower Fudge
Oh my god, I had such hopes with this recipe, I really thought I’d clinched it first time (which happens occasionally, though is definitely not a given). Heating it slowly, the smell of the gorse flowers was divine and the flavour of properly made fudge, just blissful.
I went out early in the morning to pick those coconut smelling gorse flowers and couldn’t stop thinking of the smell of condensed milk and how the flavours would match. When I searched for condensed milk though, I couldn’t find one that wasn’t Nestle brand (I’m still not happy about their ethics around supplying milk formula in developing countries, as well as other things), so I decided to settle for a more traditional recipe instead. Double cream, butter and sugar it was.
Of course, I’m still learning, and I forgot that as the temperature of the sugar rose higher, the sugar flavours got stronger, and the scented gorse flowers sunk below the brown sugar, cream and butter, never to be smelt again. I even tried a second time using half unrefined caster sugar instead (you may know that I don’t use refined sugars, at all, in cooking), though still the gorse was lost.
However, if you like fudge (and I discovered that many of my friends do), this is an awesome sweet treat. So I decided to share it anyway, plus some tips of how not to cook with gorse (all discovered through experience and in hindsight).
Tips for Making Homemade Fudge
Fudge is both easy and measured in terms of time, temperature and effort – go easy on yourself, especially if it doesn’t work first time. Mine didn’t work first time, it’s usually to do with temperature or not stirring it long enough, though sometimes it just isn’t clear why. Mine didn’t set properly so instead I put the batch in the fridge, and when it was cold, cut it into squares and re-rolled them in my fingers into oblong(ish) shapes. They were a kind of delicious toffee fudge.
The second batch didn’t set either, so I flattened the cooled mixture and sealed it in a bag and froze (there’s only so much fudge you can eat at once!) The mixture can be semi-defrosted and cut into squares.
Tips for Cooking with Gorse
- Don’t use any strong flavours that might mask the subtle gorse scent (or just go with this ever so subtle flavouring)
- It’s all about infusing and leaving for as long as you can for the flavour to come out
- Infuse into milk, cream or water by bringing to an almost boil, turning off the heat and covering overnight
- Lemon and orange go nicely with gorse, as does coconut (though not all together), it depends what flavour you want
Gorse Flower Fudge
More accurately, a wonderful creamy, buttery tasty fudge recipe which you don’t need to add gorse flowers to (keep them for another recipe), though you can if you want!
350ml double cream
30g gorse petals (outer sepals and stems removed already)
600g light brown sugar
150g golden syrup
pinch of sea salt
Line a 20cm x 20cm tin with greaseproof paper. Place the cream and gorse flowers in a medium to large heavy bottomed saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer, add the butter and stir. The mixture should be turning a lovely pale yellow colour. Once the butter has melted, stir in the sugar, syrup and pinch of salt. Place a sugar thermometer in the pan and leave to reach 116°C, watching carefully though do not touch. Take off the heat, leave to cool to 100°C before stirring energetically for 10 minutes or until the glossy mixture dulls and stiffens. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and leave to cool for a couple of hours. Cut into squares, keep in an air-tight container, or in the fridge.
It's raining and cold and I've just put the heating back on. Time for comfort food, something that will warm me from the inside out. Rice pudding has childhood memories for me, to be honest not brilliant ones. A blob of jam on top of sweet ambrosia rice wasn't hugely exciting to me.
But wild rice pudding, I've had a lot of fun making wild rice puddings over the years. This gorse flower rice pudding is easy to make, and utilises both fresh flowers (in the baked pudding) and dried or semi-dried flowers for the syrup. You can read the full recipe in my Wild Food Foraging book. It doesn't use much sugar either. Hurray!
I teach gorse flowers on many of my spring, summer and winter foraging courses here in Cornwall. Why not sign up to the newsletter to get regular updates on courses and pop-up events and wild food recipes, or check out the membership options for exclusive, monthly and seasonal recipes.
I warn you, this might be a blog with questions.
I did wonder what to make the title, it could have been; what's yellow, subtle with a crisp outer and soft centre? Though it sounded too much like a chocolate advert. Here's the answer, a recipe, and a few other questions.
Gorse Flower and Coconut Macaroons
I first made these macaroons a few years ago for a journalist's break in Lamorna Cove, I'd trialled them a few times and loved the play on coconut with the association of gorse flowers - you know, that lovely coconut aroma when you pass a gorse bush on a sunny spring day. Revisiting them more recently I decided to tweak the recipe and replace the golden syrup in favour of using my own, wild, homemade gorse syrup. The result was even better and blending fresh flowers into the mix added wonderfully to the colour too.
These Gorse Flower and Coconut Macaroons are light and moist with a slightly crispy outer, coloured and scented with gorse flowers. Well to be honest, the colour is bright and the scent subtle with just a sniff of moorland gorse flowers, though friends decided the recipe was too good to exclude.
Which asks the question; what's important? Using wild food for the nutrition, the flavour or the fun and the experiment of it all? I'll let you answer that for yourself, though for me, we enjoyed the macaroons, a lot. And maybe, just maybe knowing they were handmade, and incorporated something wild and fresh increased that pleasure and their goodness. After all, my understanding is that relaxing pleasures can also increase the body's ability to absorb nutrients well - making it a win-win situation.
Back to the recipe.
Coconut macaroons are so much easier to make than the French macarons, which I've never tried to make as I'd heard too many stories and rumours about the failure to success ratio. You can't go wrong with these, just gather some gorse flowers at any time of year, a few extra ingredients and set to. Oh, and they're gluten-free too.
Gorse Flower and Coconut Macaroons
250 ml gorse flower syrup
50 g unrefined sugar
A little coconut oil (for greasing)
4 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp baking powder
25 g fresh gorse flowers
30 g ground almonds
250 g desiccated coconut
Place the syrup in a small pan with the sugar, bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to 180ml and thickened a little, it will thicken more as it cools. Pour into a jug or food processor and blend in the fresh flowers and leave to cool. Grease a baking tray and pre-heat the oven at 150°C. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they begin to stiffen then add the baking powder.
In a second bowl combine the ground almonds and coconut, and then pour in the flower syrup. Fold in the egg whites until the mixture is even and using one tablespoon per macaroon, spoon onto a greased baking tray. The macaroons should be in slightly loose rounds. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and crispy around the edges and remove from the tray while still warm. Keeps well in an air-tight container.
I'm often asked what my favourite time to forage is, well spring is fantastic, though honestly, winter is becoming an increasingly wonderful time to forage. The quiet, the abundance of plants and the unexpected joys of finding food (not in the supermarket) this time of year.
On January 2nd myself and a small group of friends went foraging, our task; to simply enjoy the outdoors and gather a few ingredients for supper, which we'd then share together, and that's exactly what we did. A big thank you to Sara Pozzoli for joining us and filming us. Here's the menu;
Winter Foraging Menu
Spelt Bread with Alexander Seeds
Salsa Verde with Rock Samphire, Pepper Dulse and Three-Cornered Leek
Alexanders, Sea Spinach, Gorse Flower and Coconut Curry
Yoghurt Dressing with Three-Cornered Leek, Black Mustard and Wild Chervil
Chocolate and Haw Berry Jam Cheesecake
A 3 minute video about munching and tasting while walking and foraging in Cornwall, why children are good foragers and how it is not rocket science (plus some safety advice!). Interview and video by Cameron Hanson.