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!
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 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
- 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!
These light and perfumed tarts are easily put together and are brought to life with candied alexander stems . The candied stems can be made up to 6 months in advance.
You can find out more about this wild edible plant in my Alexanders blog.
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These are scrummy, gooey, sweet, sticky and crunchy clusters of sloes and nuts! What's more, they're made using the leftover fruits from making sloe syrup.
Here cooked sloes are incorporated seamlessly into these rustic, vegan fruit and nut clusters. They're definitely a favourite !
How to make Sticky Sloe and Nut Clusters
- 140 g Demerara or soft brown sugar
- 40 ml (3 dessertspoons) rapeseed oil
- 1 tsp water
- 200 g sticky sloes (stones already removed)*
- 70 g plain flour
- 1 heaped tsp corn flour
- 150 g nuts (roughly chopped)
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C. Line one large baking tray (30 x 40 cm) or 2 smaller ones with baking paper or silicon sheets. In a medium bowl, combine the oil and sugar, add in the water and sticky sloes, stir, then the flours and the nuts. Stir well to create an even mixture. Make the clusters by distributing heaped teaspoons of the mixture evenly across the baking trays, with enough space between them before placing in the oven.
Bake for approximately 12 minutes each, or until the clusters are bubbling and dark brown at the edges. Remove from the oven immediately and leave for 5 minutes before gently removing from the tray and onto a cooling rack. Repeat with all the baking trays. Store in an airtight container and enjoy within the week.
*Use the sloes from making sloe syrup and take your time to remove and discard the stones. I take up 20-30 minutes to get 200 g of sticky sloes.
This thick syrup is reminiscent of tart plums, with a background of dry sloes and the strong flavour of dark sugar. It's gorgeous drizzled over porridge. Though I love it the most in my Sloe Treacle Tart recipe - where that dryness disappears completely!
Don’t forget to keep the leftover sloes aside though for Sloe Fruit and Nut Clusters - a delicious way to use these fruits (see below).
Sloe Syrup Recipe
Makes about 600 ml
- 750 g sloes (picked after the first frost or frozen then defrosted)
- 325 ml water
- 600 g dark sugar
Put all the ingredients in a medium pan,. Bring to the boil, and lower the heat a little, until still bubbling but not a rolling boil. Leave the lid off and allow to cook for a further 45 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool slowly in the pan. Once cool, you’ll have a thick, sticky syrup. Strain through a colander or sieve, pressing the fruits slightly to extract the last of the syrup. Store in a sterilised bottle.
The remaining fruits can be de-stoned and kept for Sloe Fruit and Nut Clusters (creates about 200 g of sticky sloes or 300 g if you’re really thorough and have lots of time).
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.
When I first used Hogweed seeds, this light, spongy textured biscuit was the carrier I chose for their unique flavour.
Perfectly balanced with flours and spice, it’s a simple, reassuring lightly spiced treat and a good place to start if your unfamiliar with hogweed’s flavour.
Hogweed is a member of the umbellifer, apiaceae, also known as carrot family. There are wonderful edibles and poisonous plants in this family and correct identification is essential.
Hogweed Spiced Biscuit recipe
- 90 g salted butter (room temperature)
- 100 g soft brown sugar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 75 g wholemeal flour
- 100 g plain flour
- 1½ tsp of baking powder
- 3 tbsp water (if needed)
- 1 dessertspoon of hogweed seeds, ground, or chopped
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Cream the butter and sugar in a separate bowl, then beat in the egg and wild spices. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, stirring in well. If needed, add the water, little by little to the mix, the mix should be firm so you can roll it into a log shape of about 3 centimetres in diameter. Cover this with grease-proof paper and put in the fridge for an hour, or several if you have the time.
Preheat the oven at 190°C. Slice up the log into 1 cm pieces and shape into flat circular patties and place on a greased baking tray. Cook for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with tea or juice.
Common hogweed (aka cow parsnip) is common across Europe and the US and also found in New Zealand and Australia. I regularly teach about this plant from spring through to winter on my foraging courses, including how to correctly identify it.
As part of my Sweet Wilds collection (desserts and sweet treats made from foraged and home-grown ingredients), here I introduce three ways you can turn Ground Elder into something sugar-coated. It has a tangy, refreshing flavour which is quite delightful!
Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria ) also goes by the names; herb gerard, bishop's weed, goutweed, gout wort, snow in the mountain, English or wild master wort.
Why use Ground Elder?
Ground Elder contains good amounts of vitamin C and various other medicinal benefits including being used to treat rheumatism and arthritis.
Its names goutweed, gout wort (wort means plant of worth) and bishop's weed come from using this plant to treat gout which is the result of eating too much rich foods. Rich foods was the food of bishops and monks as far back as the middle ages.
1. Fresh Ground Elder leaf icing
Blend the leaves to a fine, herby pulp, mix with icing sugar the lemon juice to a smooth paste and drizzle over cakes or biscuits. Mixture makes enough to ice one cake.
- 2 tbsp fresh ground elder leaves
- 50 g unrefined icing sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
2. Ground Elder stem sugar
This recipe is made from candying the Ground elder stems then blending them with sugar. Finely chop the stems and place in a dry frying pan over a medium to high heat. Allow to heat up then add the sugar and watch sizzle for a few minutes as the sugar and moisture is absorbed. Stir to check the process and take off the heat when the plant starts to become dry and the bottom of the pan white with the dried sugar.
Scrape off the sugar and allow to cool. Weigh the candied stem sugar and ad the same amount of sugar to a spice blender and blend to a powder with the candied stems. Use in Ground elder shortbreads.
- 50 g ground elder stems
- 25 g golden granulated sugar
- Extra sugar (to be measured)
3. Dried Ground Elder sugar
Dry the leaves. I just leave them out in a warm room, but you could use a dehydrator or place in a warm (but turned off) oven. Blend to a powder and mix well with the icing sugar. Use to dust over Ground Elder shortbreads.
- 1 tbsp dried ground elder leaves, powdered
- 1 tbsp unrefined icing sugar
Do you have Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria ), also called herb gerard, bishop's weed, goutweed or gout wort, growing in your garden? Have you tried everything to get rid of it? Why not eat it! At least then you could appreciate it for all its herby goodness.
The traditional and simple way is to use it instead of parsley as a salad garnish or in cooking. Though if, like me, you have a sweet tooth, you may want to try making these. It's a straight forward recipe, quick, cheap and they last well, once made.
Ground Elder Shortbread Recipe
An unusual recipe that uses the stems and leaves of ground elder to give an edge of green and a little pungent twist to these simple biscuits. They keep well once made too.
Makes about 40
- 250 g plain flour
- 25 g golden granulated sugar
- 35 g ground elder stem sugar
- 1/2 tbsp cornflour
- 160 ml light olive oil or sunflower oil
For the sugar dusting
- 1 dessertspoon unrefined icing sugar
- 1 dessertspoon dried ground elder leaves
In a large bowl stir together the flour, sugars and cornflour. Blend in the oil and massage to form a moist dough. Place in the bowl, cover tightly (I like to use a wax wrap over the bowl rather than clingfilm) and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. At this stage you can leave it for a couple of days until you're ready to bake.
Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas mark 4 and line a couple of large baking trays with baking paper. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the dough to out 3 mm thickness. Use a 6 cm biscuit cutter and, using a flat knife, move the cut biscuits onto the baking paper. Re-roll and cut the dough until you've used it all (or all you can).
Bake for around 15 minutes, or until golden. Leave for 5 minutes in the tray before moving to a cooling rack. Leave to cool before dusting with the icing sugar.
To make the icing sugar: Dry the leaves in a warm place, a switched off but still warm oven or a dehydrator. Use a spice, nut or coffee grinder to blitz them into a fine powder and stir well into the icing sugar.
It is Spring and the gorgeous white blossoms of Blackthorn have appeared. These early Spring flowers are a welcomed sight and appear before the leaves.
As the saying goes; you can eat anything once! Here I explore the edibility of blackthorn flowers (Prunus spinosa), their flavour and potential benefits, plus a step-by-step recipe.
I was once asked what this flower was by a woman who'd been eating them and enjoying their almond flavour. My reply: They are blackthorn flowers, and that flavour will be the cyanide.
Knowing the plant family, and recognising this as a relative to the plum tree is not enough to assert its edibility. Nor is the fact that the berries (sloes) can be used as food and to flavour drinks later in the year. In fact, the seeds, leaves and bark of sloes and black cherries also contain a compound that can be converted by the human body into cyanide when digested.
Blackthorn flowers have been used as an edible, sugar-coated cake decoration and I've been known to nibble one on a walk. My wild foodie colleague Mark Williams uses them to flavour his Sloe Gin, creating a a double-layered sloe gin cocktail.
Degrees of toxicity
There are many plants and foods we eat regularly that potentially contain toxins. For example; rice (arsenic), potatoes (solanine) and sorrel (oxalic acid).
What matters here is the amount. You'd need to eat more that 25 apple cores (with the seeds) in one sitting to be of risk of cyanide poisoning, apparently. And some say as many as 5000 seeds to be fatal. You know the saying; an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Keeping things in moderation is good.
Why eat blackthorn flowers?
Because of the cyanide content, blackthorn flowers have a lovely almondy scent which intensifies when infused. This can be used in small amounts as a flavouring. Below is a recipe for blackthorn flower syrup that I would only consider using as a wild alternative to shop-bought almond essence. Yes, literally no more than a teaspoon as flavouring (see recipe below). The flowers have been used as a laxative and the fruits are nutrient-rich food, including vitamin C and magnesium
It is not advised to eat blackthorn fruits (sloes) or flowers if pregnant or if living with a specific health condition. Always consult a medical herbalist or healthcare adviser first.
Blackthorn Flower Syrup Recipe
This recipe creates an intense almond-scented syrup, with a bitter after-taste. I quite like the combination of sweet and bitter. It is to be used as a concentrate, you could make a diluted version instead, if you prefer.
- 30 g blackthorn flowers
- 120 ml (8 tbsp) boiling water
- 100 g unrefined caster sugar
Place the flowers in a mug or heat-proof bowl. Pour the boiling water over and leave to steep for at least 2-4 hours. Strain through a tea strainer and place the liquid in a small saucepan with the sugar. Stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved (do not boil) and store in a sterilised bottle or jar. Use sparingly to flavour desserts or drinks.
According to my Danish friend, this is what green tastes like!
The colour and flavour of this tart is heavenly! Fresh sorrel leaves add a wonderful lemony tang to desserts and savoury dishes. I used Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) for this recipe, but you could use cultivated sorrel or a different wild variety that grows abundantly in your area.
Here I share the recipe. Common sorrel is also one of the plants I cover in my book; Wild Food Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and on Spring Foraging Courses.
Wild Sorrel Tart recipe
I remember squatting in a field in West Cornwall and plucking fresh sorrel leaves from amongst the grass. Stuffing them in my pockets, I scurried away to trial another mouth-watering sweet sorrel tart. Here’s my winning version. Rich and tangy, it is perfect served on its own.
- 75 g salted butter
- 100 g plain flour
- 50 g wholemeal flour
- 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1–2 tbsp water
- A little egg white
For the filling
- 1 whole egg
- 4 egg yolks
- 105 g unrefined granulated sugar
- 200 g sorrel leaves and stems
- 150 ml double cream
To make the pastry, cube the butter, sieve in the flour and sugar and rub between your fingertips until the mixture is well combined and resembles breadcrumbs. Add one tablespoon water and bind the pastry together, adding a tiny bit more water if needed. Wrap the dough in cling film, or in reusable wax wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease a 23cm flan tin. Roll out the pastry and place in the flan tin, cutting off any overhanging pastry. Prick all over with a fork, place a piece of baking paper on top, fill with baking beans or equivalent and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, brush lightly with enough egg white to seal any holes and gaps and bake for another 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 170°C.
Meanwhile, wash the sorrel leaves and stems and either put them through a juicer, or blend until smooth, then gently squeeze through a jelly bag. There should be about 150ml of juice. If you have less, squeeze the pulp some more to see if you can make up the amount. Next, in a large bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks and sugar. Spoon in the cream, followed by the juice, until there is a uniform pale green colour.
Pour or ladle into the pastry base and, very carefully and slowly, place in the oven. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the filling is set in the middle. Allow to cool before slicing and serving.
Sweet, crunchy and good for you. This dandelion root caramel brittle recipe is laced with the detoxifying roots of dandelions and flavoured with homemade dandelion coffee. You'll also need to look at my recipe for making good roasted dandelion coffee. Alternatively, you can buy dried dandelion roots and dandelion coffee at health food stores or online.
This recipe is perfect if you've been doing some weeding and have a few, young-ish dandelion roots to hand. It's good to allow the roots to dry out for a day or two first - this reduces the water content and condenses the flavour. Dandelion roots are best to dig up in Autumn and Winter when nutrients are concentrated in the roots.
Like many good recipes, this one came from experimenting and using the leftover syrup from another dandelion recipe I was creating. Ooh, there's so much to share with you! Remember to use the #sweetwilds and @rachellambertwildfoodforaging if you try this recipe, tweak it or have a foraged dessert or sweet treat to celebrate, I'd love to hear from you!
It's a myth that caramel needs to be made with white sugar. This recipe uses unrefined caster sugar which retains some of the natural nutrients of cane sugar. I was brought up on sugar - the white stuff - and my taste for sweet just hasn't gone away. Rather than deny myself this pleasure I use unrefined sugars in my recipes. You may want to read my blog Sweet Wilds: A forager's confession.
This recipe is full of sugar!! Great for an energy boost but best to use sparingly. You can also crush the brittle in a pestle and mortar or with a rolling pin and sprinkle over cakes or desserts.
Dandelion Root Caramel Brittle Recipe
Crunchy, ever-so tasty dandelion sweets. The dandelion flavour is mild and good for you.
- 100 g dandelion roots, washed and dried for a day or two* (see notes below)
- 160 g unrefined sugar
- 1 dessertspoon dandelion coffee liquid cooled
- 1 tsp used dandelion coffee grains
Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Chop the dandelion roots into approximately 2 cm lengths. Over a high heat, use a wide, non-stick pan and evenly sprinkle in the sugar and chopped dandelion roots. Stir together the dandelion coffee grains and dandelion coffee and splash into the pan. Do not stir, just allow the sugar to dissolve. This will also cook the dandelion roots a little too. Leave the mixture bubbling for 5-10 minutes, until large bubbles start to form and the mixture turns a chestnut brown. Pour over the baking paper and leave to set for about half and hour. Break into chunks, or crush for desserts, I like to eat it as a sweet treat when I could do with an energy boost. Store somewhere dry and use within a month.
*Dried dandelion roots can also be used. Use just 60 g if they are completely dried.
I have a confession: a sweet and wild one. I can’t help myself, there’s something about the combination of foraging and sweetness that is irresistible to me. Give me any wild food and I automatically look at how I can make it into a dessert or sweet treat. Call it a specialism, a strength, or obsession if you will. But this is an area of foraging that I love getting my teeth into.
The benefits of pleasure
I'm a great believer in the health benefits of pleasure; eating food that we enjoy can help relax the organs and get those beneficial digestive juices going. Foraging in itself can be satisfying and rewarding. Combined with creating a tasty meal or sweet treat can release positive neurochemicals around the body that boost the immune system, calm the nervous system and help counter stress.
We are built for a healthy amount of pleasure and our bodies respond positively to it.
A word on sugar
My childhood was punctuated with home cooking, sugar and wild adventures. Home-made cordials, cakes and treats were a daily affair, thus my ‘natural’ sweet tooth was shaped. Since then, white sugar has had a lot of bad press, yet unrefined, from light to dark brown, retain a lot more of their natural nutrients. These are the natural sweeteners I now choose to create with, often reducing the sugar content and upping the minerals along the way,
Each season I peruse the abundant weeds and forgotten plants growing locally and start experimenting. Infusing, simmering, drying, sieving, straining, blending. I get to know each of these wild foods and how to bring out the best of their flavour for desserts. I love the alchemy of the whole process and how I can create endless results from one plant. This is true, seasonal eating, albeit combined with a few kitchen ingredients and loving attention.
The perfect wild pudding
There are infinite possibilities of foraged ingredients in desserts. From jams and jellies, ice creams and sorbets, tarts and cheesecakes, cordials and syrups, cakes and biscuits, chocolates, sweets and fruit leathers, to cocktails and boozy desserts. I love creating around easily-foraged plants for both city and country dwellers and many of the plants i favour are available across Europe, North America and Australasia.
Sharing the sweet wilds
Some desserts are worth keeping to oneself, yet most of us know the pleasure of sharing good food with others. That's why I've started the #sweetwilds and now have a blog section dedicated to Sweet Wilds too. I won't be sharing everything at once - that would be too indulgent, wouldn't it! However I will be sharing over the coming months and years, including my lessons from disasters and sublime successes. Remember that I share tasters on all my foraging courses too.
All photos are by Rachel Lambert and are of real, wild desserts and sweet treats she has created, cooked, eaten and shared (mostly).