I spent yesterday making this year’s batch of elderflower cordial. The wet weather earlier this year in the UK seems to have been a great thing for the elder bushes, which are positively groaning under the weight of all their flowers. The flower heads were so heavy with creamy pollen that I picked six extra heads to turn into fritters.
Foraging is brilliant. There is nothing like the warm glow you get from eating food which is, to all intents and purposes, free; it’s also a great pleasure to know that the food you’re eating is from a healthy environment (be careful to pick your elderflowers well away from any roads, and, as always, leave plenty of flowers on the bush – you’ll want them to turn into berries later in the year) and is perfectly fresh. Look for blossoms which are in full flower, and which have not yet started to brown or drop petals. For fritters, try to pick the heaviest, most pollen-filled flower heads you can find about three hours before you cook them. Pop them in the fridge in a plastic bag. Their scent will develop after picking and they’ll be very perfumed when you come to cook them (don’t leave the flowers in the fridge any longer than three hours or their scent will start to turn in the direction of cat wee).
To make six large fritters, you’ll need:
1 pint (450ml) milk
Six large elderflower heads
Flavourless oil to fry
1 tablespoon honey
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
In a large, non-stick frying pan, heat about ½ cm of oil over a high flame. Check the elderflowers for any arthropod inhabitants, but don’t wash them (you want to hold on to that pollen). Hold a head of elderflowers by the stalk and dip the flowers into the thick batter, then drop them, flower side first, into the hot oil. Fry the fritters in pairs so you don’t crowd the pan; they’ll brown better this way.
Turn the fritters after about two minutes – the flower side should be a golden, crisp brown. Fry until the stalk side is also crisp, then remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.
Remove to a serving plate and scatter the perfumed fritters with some fresh elderflowers, pulled from their stalks, and drizzle with the honey and lemon juice. Serve piping hot and crisp.