The complex, heady perfume of muscatel grapes combined with a hint of fresh lemon zest make elderflower a taste of an English summer unlike any other. Harvesting your own is fun and easy. Pick the flowers away from busy roads when the tiny pale green flowers have turned to creamy white — their gorgeous heady perfume is a sign they are at their peak. Place your sprigs in a tightly-closed container or zipper-lock plastic bag.
If hedge-picking is not for you, buy some organic elderflower cordial. Mix it with a dash of white wine and sparkling water for an unusual spritzer.
Serves 6. Keeps 3 days under refrigeration. Freeze 6 months. If using fresh elderflowers, check again for bugs — washing the flowers destroys their scent — then trim each cluster down to within 5cm of the green stalk. If using elderflower cordial, substitute 1 tbsp of cordial for 1 tbsp of the water.
675g fresh gooseberries
175g granulated sugar
1 or 2 heads elderflower
● Top and tail the gooseberries, put in a bowl and pour on a kettle of boiling water. Turn into a colander, drench with cold water then drain well.
● Dissolve the sugar in the water then bring to the boil for 2 minutes.
● Add the gooseberries, cover and cook at the lowest possible heat until tender but still whole. Remove with a slotted spoon.
● Add the elderflowers to the syrup and simmer for a few minutes until as thick as canned fruit syrup.
● Pour through a sieve on to the fruit. Chill overnight.
● The compote is gorgeous served with fromage frais or creamed smetana.
SUSSEX ELDERFLOWER SORBET
Serves 6-8. Freezes 2 months. A deliciously cool and refreshing finale for a summer meal. If using cordial, add 1-2 tbsp before freezing the mixture.
225g granulated sugar
8 elderflower clusters
Thinly pared rind and juice (about 90ml) of 2 large lemons
● Dissolve the sugar in 600ml water over moderate heat, stirring.
● Bring to the boil and bubble fiercely for 7 minutes.
● Remove from the heat, add the elderflowers and lemon rind, cover and leave to steep for 3 hours.
●Strain the syrup into a jug and stir in the lemon juice. Freeze in an ice cream maker.
● Without an ice cream maker, freeze until semi-frozen, about 3 hours, then blitz in a food processor for 45 seconds until light and creamy.
● Freeze again until firm.
● Leave in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.