The swallows are back. The dog is covered in stickyweed. And the elderflower is in bloom. It can only be late May in England.
It’s such a specific time of year and, for me, marked most notably by the heady, blousy aroma of elderflowers. I adore elderflower. One sniff of that sweet, perfumed, femininity and I come over all girly in the kitchen. It makes me want to serve things in tea cups and find the cake forks from the back of the cutlery draw. I avoid the usual cordial-making (it’s alarmingly bad for your teeth) but instead tend towards sorbets, jellies and other delicate and frothy sweet treats.
They say it’s best picked when the sun is out because the blooms are at their sweetest then. But I think that as long as the flower head is thick with yellow pollen then it’ll be delicious regardless of the weather in which it is picked. It is generally abundant in hedgerows; there’s plenty in the lanes around our village. But I noticed one little sapling taking hold in the ditch by our house a few years back and have been nurturing it (which involves little more than ensuring Mr G&G doesn’t take it out with the strimmer) so that now it’s huge and absolutely covered in flowers. Foraging without even leaving the garden – that’s my kind of wild food.
My tamed elderflower bush had just come into flower on the day of our supper club last week (which was lovely thanks, see Instagram for pics) and, never one to pass up free ingredients, I decided to put it on the menu for dessert. It would go perfectly with my thyme yogurt sorbet. I like the softness of ice-cream to be balanced with a bit of crunch so I deep-fried the flowers and used them to top the ice-cream. It was heavenly! I wish I could take credit for the deep-frying idea, but I can’t. It’s pinched and adapted from Gill Meller’s book, Gather. The thyme yogurt sorbet bit is all me though.
Thyme Yogurt Sorbet and Elderflower Fritters
A delicate dessert which is simple to make but a little bit different. The perfect celebration of an English Summer.
For the sorbet:
- 1 sheet leaf gelatine
- 75g sugar
- 60ml water
- 2tbsp thyme leaves
- 500ml whole plain yogurt
For the fritters:
- Sunflower oil for frying
- 50g cornflour
- 3 tbs water
- 6 heads of elderflower
- Caster sugar, for dusting
- Orange blossom honey, optional
- Start with the sorbet. Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water and leave for 5 minutes until it becomes soft.
- Meanwhile, put the sugar, water and thyme in a pan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Squeeze the excess water out of the gelatine sheet and add it to the sugar syrup. Stir until dissolved.
- In a large bowl or jug, mix the yogurt with the sugar syrup and refrigerate until cool. Churn in an ice-cream-maker as per the manufacturer's instructions then freeze until needed.
- Just before you are ready to eat, make the fritters. Pour the oil into a pan so it is roughly 5cm deep. Heat to 150ºC. Combine the cornflour and water to make a thin batter. Brush the elderflowers gently to evict anything living, then dip the flower in the batter. Shake it off and pop it in the hot oil for 1-2 minutes until it stops fizzing and is just lightly golden brown. Drain and dust with caster sugar whilst still hot.
- Serve a scoop of the sorbet with an elderflower fritter on top and a drizzle of orange blossom honey.