Elderflowers are early I think.


In culinary terms it strikes me that white is the colour of Spring. White strawberry flowers promising fruit, fragrant elderflowers already in bloom early this May and rocket flowering madly before going to seed. I’m also  noticing white blossoms in the parks that have culinary names, but are certainly not edible; horse chestnuts, cow parsley, mock orange. Curious.IMG_2741

The humble cauliflower comes into it’s own in Spring after a long winter growing season. It was always credited as filling the hungry gap, when winter ended and new summer vegetables were still anticipated. Well that was before supermarkets started selling us food from all over the world at at any time of the year. But if you want to eat in season, and can’t think of a positive reason to buy veg from Peru, you might learn to love the cauliflower too. I used to turn my nose up at them but now I love them. And that was even before I tasted this humble veg cooked in one London Restaurant‘s expensive Josper oven. This vegetable is so versatile. I discovered when it had bolted in the garden it resembled white sprouting broccoli and could be used in just the same way, lightly steamed. Also I made it into a very subtle and delicious soup with a little white part of leek and a small bit of new ( white) garlic and wild onion, finished off with a little (white) cream.  I hope you are now starting to agree with me about the colour of Spring.

When I was in FrancCanneles of cauliflowere recently a friend told me that one can make fritters with white acacia flowers. That was new to me, but reminiscent of how you can make fritters with elderflowers. I’d rather make elderflower cordial, more lasting than fritters and it can be enjoyed throughout the year aswell as adding glamour to dessert recipes. I served this last summer in France and got as many brownie points for this as for the Pimms.

If you a contrarian I’m sure now you are thinking what about all the lovely green veg we wait eagerly for and only have a month or so to indulge in such as asparagus. Well it’s mostly white on the continent, but I admit deliciously green here. In the meantime if you have some cauliflower try making these mini souffles.


Cauliflower timbales. Steam 300g cauliflower florets, then blend with 1 egg, 40g each of flour and grated Parmesan, 20g of melted butter and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Spoon into buttered molds and bake for 15 minutes at 180C. Good warm or cold.

Next I’m off to look for some elderflowers far from  roadside smog. I think I’ll head for the Thames near Richmond.

Elderflower cordial. Take 20 saucer sized flowerheads and shake them a little to get rid of bugs etc., before immersing them for 24 hours in a barely warm sugar syrup made from of 1kg granulated sugar and 2 litres water. Add the grated zest of 3 lemons and the fruit sliced up. Next day strain through a fine sieve. For long keeping I crush half a Campden tablet and add it to the flowers. Once strained I crush the other half and dissolve it in the strained syrup. This limits any fermentation and prevents the likelyhood of the bottled syrup going off or exploding. A good safety precaution.