Delicately lacing summer dishes with elderflower makes for delicious seasonal alternatives.
I’ve been anxiously checking my elderflowers so I can get the timing right. When the flowers are just opening, they have the best flavour–too open, and the can be acrid. Elderflower season is so fleeting, it’s always good to make some cordial to see you through the summer months, but be sure not to strip your tree completely, or else you won’t have any elderberries later in the year.
Seafood tart scented with elderflowers (serves 4)
90g butter, cold
150g plain flour
Half tspn sea salt
1 egg yolk
1tbspn ice-cold water
300ml double cream
A bunch of elderflowers or 2tbspn elderflower cordial
2 spring onions, chopped
300g mixed seafood, including raw prawns, salmon and cod Spinach-leaf salad
Add a few tablespoons of water to a glass and put it into your freezer to chill. Cut the cold butter into cubes and rub it into the flour and salt until you have something that resembles breadcrumbs. Alternatively, place the butter and flour into a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the egg yolk to bring the dough together and add a tablespoon or so of the ice water from the freezer. Bring the dough together into a ball and then cover it tightly with clingfilm, before keeping it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it (for at least 30 minutes, at most a day).
In a saucepan, bring the cream and elderflowers to a near boil and then leave to cool for an hour, so the flavours can infuse. Strain the cream through a sieve and keep until ready to use.
Preheat your oven to 180 ̊C/350 ̊F/gas mark 4. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it on a lightly floured surface into a disc that will fit a 22cm (about 8½in) loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin. Place the dough in the tin and push it carefully into the corners. Line it with baking parchment and baking beans and bake it blind for 15 minutes.
While the tart case is baking, whisk the cream and eggs together and season. Gently sauté the spring onions in a little butter.
Take the tart tin out of the oven and arrange the fish and spring onions in the bottom. Pour the cream and eggs over them, then put it back in the oven for a further 40 minutes. Serve warm with mixed salad leaves.
More ways with elderflowers
Elderflower pannacotta with raspberries (left)
Heat 500ml double cream, 250ml milk and six elderflower heads until almost boiling. Remove from the heat, leave it to steep for an hour, then strain it through a sieve. Soak enough gelatine leaves in cold water to set 750ml liquid until soft. Using a heavy-based saucepan, heat the elderflower cream with 40g of sugar, then remove from the heat. Squeeze the water from the gelatine leaves and add them to the pan, stirring until they’re dissolved. Pour the mixture into six ramekins and put them in the fridge to set, for at least an hour. Serve with fresh raspberries.
Bring a litre of water and 1kg sugar to a boil. Pour this over the flowers from 20 heads in a glass bowl. Cover and leave to infuse for a couple of days. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Add a few tablespoons of the cordial to glasses and top up with Champagne to serve.
As a prelude to summer, try making sparkling elderflower wine.