As the saying goes; 'when gorse is not in flower then kissing has gone out of fashion.' Luckily there are two types of gorse (Ulex gallii and Ulex europeaus) here in the UK (and in many places across the world) and they hybridise too. Between them, all seasons are covered with gorse flowers, because kissing never goes out of fashion!
As I write this in late summer, the gorse and heather flowers are starting to flash their colours across the moors and on cliffs near the coast. Hmm, those wonderful yellow and purple hues together make me smile.
I used to call these Gorse Martyr Cookies because these cookies wanted to look less than they are; homemade biscuits fit for a martyr not a foodie. I also wanted to keep this fab recipe to myself!
Although these are wholemeal oat cookies, they are also deceptively sweet with their rustic-looking icing. They are a favourite of mine, so I’m quite happy that they are disguised as overly humble biscuits. Made using dried gorse flowers they can be crafted any time of year.
Gorse and Oat Cookie Recipe
- 15–20 g dried gorse flowers
- 75 g butter
- 25 g soft brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Gorse Flower Syrup (page ..)
- 75 g rolled oats
- 75 g wholemeal flour
For the icing
- 25 g unrefined caster or icing sugar
- 2 tbsp dried gorse flowers
- 1 tbsp water or Gorse Flower Syrup
Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a large baking tin. Place the gorse flowers in a small saucepan along with the butter, brown sugar and gorse syrup. Heat, stirring occasionally, over a low heat and once the butter has melted, take off the heat and leave to infuse.
In a large bowl, mix the oats and wholemeal flour. Stir in the butter and gorse mixture and combine well. Roll into 12 small balls and flatten into cookies on the baking tray. Bake for around 12 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly crispy at the edges. Allow to cool before removing from the tray.
For the icing, finely blend the flowers and sugar in a seed grinder or equivalent; the result should be a powder with tiny flecks of yellow. Mix in the water, or syrup if you have it. The consistency will be quite watery but leave to set for a few minutes before pouring it over the cooled cookies. The moisture will soak into the biscuit. Leave to dry, then enjoy as wholesome sweet snacks.
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!
The Best Gorse Flower Ice Cream Recipe
A pale-yellow, creamy gorse flower ice cream that will have you dreaming of yellow-dotted landscapes...
- To best capture the scent of gorse pick the flowers on a sunny, dry day. Then use the flowers immediately.
- Over the years I've discovered that fat and alcohol are the best carriers for gorse, otherwise you'll be left with a subtle, moorland scent. Don't get me wrong - I love subtle moorland aromas, but here we're aiming to capture that divine coconuty elixir. Infusing gorse flowers in cream and full-fat milk is perfect for this!
150 ml full-fat milk
200 ml double cream
2 medium egg yolks
120 g unrefined caster sugar
100 g fresh gorse flowers
Place the flowers, milk and cream in a medium saucepan over a low to medium heat and bring just to the boil. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to steep for at least 10 minutes. You can also leave the flowers in over-night, and just re-heat a little to liquefy the cream enough to be able to strain.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl, then using a jelly bag or fine sieve, strain in the steeped cream mixture, making sure you extract as much of the infused cream as possible. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Leave to cool before placing in an ice cream maker or in a lidded container in the freezer. If you have an ice cream maker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If not, check every 2 hours and mash until the texture is creamy and frozen.
What to Do with Left-Over Gorse Flowers
I often pick a few too many gorse flowers (better too many than too few). Of course the leftover fresh petals can simply be sprinkled over salads, savoury dishes such as coconut curries or desserts, like this ice cream.
But you could also dry them.
How to Dry Gorse Flowers
I normally just scatter the flowers over a clean, dry surface top or tea towel and allow them to dry naturally in a warm room. Make sure there is enough space around the flowers for them to dry fully. You could also use a dehydrator or airing-cupboard or the very lowest heat in the oven.
What to Do with Dried Flowers
I normally have a small bag of dried gorse flowers at home. They hold onto the flavour well and can be used to make a powdered gorse sugar or gorse syrup. Somehow dried flowers make a better gorse syrup - as the flavour of dried flowers is more intense. I have a gorse syrup recipe in my little foraging book which I use to drizzle over gorse flower rice pudding (also in my book).
Powdered Gorse Flower Sugar
Powdered gorse sugar is easy to make and can be used as a flavoured icing sugar to dust over cakes, or blended with a little water to make a rustic icing. Use about 25 g of unrefined sugar to 2 tablespoons of dried gorse flowers and powder in a spice/nut/coffee grinder. The sugar will keep well for 6 months.
Like this? What's next...
I run monthly foraging courses in Cornwall, where I teach people about abundant edible plants and how to use them. I can also offer tailor-made foraging experiences - there really is nothing like hands-on learning! Feel free to also browse my blog or the members page for more information.
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!
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I've always considered myself an artist rather than a scientist, and heaven help me if I had to make cakes for a living; I'm far too much of a slow, pondering and inventive cook to make any money from it.
I do have some successes though, and some happy accidents along the way. I also love to share what I learn, how to do it (and how not to). On that note... I set out to create a gorse infused cream and this happened.
And it was rather good, so I thought I'd share the process (and I'll share the final recipe another time too). If you've ever whisked cream too much, butter is what happens - it's science, though what you do with it decides whether it is art or not.
How to Make Gorse Flower Butter
Perfect for lathering on fish dishes, on hot toast, or mix with icing sugar and use as a filling or topping on cakes.
75g fresh gorse flowers
200ml double cream
Place the gorse flowers in a small saucepan and pour over the cream. Stir and bring to a slow simmer over a low heat, take off the heat, cover and leaving to cool completely before straining through a fine sieve or muslin cloth.
When the cream is cooled, using an electric whisk, beat the cream until it starts to clot and continue until the cream starts to separate (into buttermilk and butter). You can strain off the buttermilk and use in cakes or bread (that's another one for me to try).
And that's it. You have made gorse flavoured butter. If you want to make it into butter icing, weigh the butter and mix the same amount in weight of sieved icing sugar, blend well and smother the tops or middle of cakes.