With the hot, sunny weather we’ve been having these past two weeks, the musky scent of elderflower hangs heavy in the still air, perfuming the countryside and drifting in the open windows at night as we fall off to sleep.
The elderflower was late to bloom this year, but the trees have made up for the delay by being especially abundant. After making the obligatory batch of cordial, I wanted to experiment with something new to me this year: elderflower fritters. The fritters are basically just deep-fried flowers; it’s like crossing the notorious fried foods of an American state fair with the Irish countryside. Delicate, crisp, sweet and floral, they are ethereally delicious.
The elderflowers are already starting to turn and by next week the flowers will be past their prime, so if you want to bring them into your kitchen, do it quick, before it’s too late this year.
*For more elderflower and wild food recipes, check out the archive.
adapted from Nigel Slater in The Guardian
The best time to pick elderflowers is on a dry, warm day, well away from traffic and roadsides. Shake the flowers gently to get rid of any insects.
100g plain flour
175ml sparkling water
1 egg white
12–16 elderflower heads
gooseberry and elderflower compote, to serve (optional)
Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add the sparkling water and 2 tablespoons of the sunflower oil. Whisk together until a thick paste forms, then stir in 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes (don’t be tempted to skip this resting time, it’s essential for a light result). Just before you’re ready to fry the elderflowers, beat an egg white and fold it into the batter.
Gently swirl the elderflower heads in a bowl of cold water to clean them, then lightly shake them dry. Line a plate with some kitchen paper and sprinkle a good few tablespoons of caster sugar into a shallow dish.
Pour about 3cm (1 inch) of sunflower oil into a heavy-bottomed, deep-sided pan and heat the oil until it reaches 180°C (350°F). (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test that the oil is hot enough by dropping in a cube of bread — the oil is ready when the bread turns golden in just a few seconds.) Dip the elderflowers into the batter and lower them into the oil. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until the batter is golden and crisp. Lift out and blot on the kitchen paper-lined plate to soak up any excess oil, then dip into the dish of caster sugar. Eat the fritters straightaway, while they are hot and crisp, pulling the fried flowers off the thick woody stems. You can serve them with a gooseberry and elderflower compote, but they are a delicious, decadent summertime treat just on their own.