Our kitchen garden cook reveals her favourite recipes with elderflowers.
Steeped in medieval folklore and superstition, elderflowers were once believed to harbour fairies, keep evil spirits at bay and conjure the Devil if elderwood was burned on the fire. It was also thought that a man and woman would be married within a year if they drank the same elderflower-infused ale together. Although we no longer believe in many of these myths, the medicinal properties and health benefits of elderflowers are still widely lauded.
Elderflowers smell heavenly and the dainty flowerheads are most flavoursome if used immediately after they’re picked. I’m always amazed at how even just a few sprigs of these blooms can leave a kitchen entirely covered in delicate, creamy-coloured flowers, but the inevitable scattering is all worth it for the delicious early-summer recipes they help to enhance.
Gluten-free elderflower and honey teacake (serves 4)
50g caster sugar
80g runny honey
80ml elderflower cordial
100g buckwheat flour
100g ground almonds
1tspn baking powder
75ml soured cream
1 head fresh elderflowers
100g icing sugar
Extra elderflower cordial
Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4. Take a bundt cake tin and grease it carefully with butter, making sure it’s in all the corners. Cream the butter and sugar together before beating the eggs in a separate bowl and adding to your mixture a little at a time, beating throughout. Trickle in the honey followed by the elderflower cordial, only adding more once each ingredient is thoroughly mixed in.
Put the buckwheat flour, ground almonds and baking powder into another bowl and whisk them all together before adding to the cake batter. Finally, stir the soured cream in and mix well, then pour the result into the prepared tin and bake for 30–35 minutes—or until a skewer comes out clean—and allow to cool.
Mix the icing sugar with a tiny splash of elderflower cordial, adding a teaspoon at a time until it achieves a drizzling consistency, then use a spoon to trickle it over the inverted cake. If eating it that day, scatter with fresh elderflowers.
Serve with whipped cream and add a splash of colour by decorating the table with some macarons.
Asparagus with elderflower hollandaise (left)
To make the hollandaise, boil water in a saucepan that a metal bowl will sit on. Melt 250g of butter in a saucepan with 2 elderflower heads and allow the flowers to infuse the mixture before passing it through a sieve. In the metal bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and the juice from half a lemon, then place over the saucepan of boiling water (ensuring the base doesn’t touch the water) and pour in the infused butter, whisking continuously. Drizzle over steamed asparagus spears and serve immediately.
Elderflower Eton mess
Whip cream but, instead of adding sugar, add elderflower cordial. Pour in the cordial a little at a time and taste it until it reaches your desired level of sweetness. Stir broken meringue and raspberries through the cream before serving, and top with a scattering of fresh elderflowers for a perfect British summer pudding.