Summer’s Best Desert: Elderflower Fritters

What a spring for flowers, so far this year! The hawthorn flowers have been truly amazing. I wasn’t sure if this was me paying them more attention (I had a hawthorn flower wine recipe to try), or whether they were actually producing more flowers. My beekeeper friend assures me that every five years or so, the hawthorns explode with flowers, as they have done this year. Anyway, this is not the topic for today’s blog post. Instead, I wanted to share one of my favourite things to do with the flower of another common tree:  elder (Sambucus nigra).

Elderflower fritters are easy to make and delicious. There is a danger of overconsumption, and being deep fried, there might be a need to expand your belt. But it’s probably worth it.

Firstly, collect one or two heads of elderflowers per person, keeping the stalks long and shaking off any insects.

Elderflowers in a willow basket Photo: Nicola Strange

Next, make yourself a batter thin enough to dip your flowers in. Recipes vary with exact amounts, while the liquid part can be anything from water or milk to lemonade or beer. For four people, Roger Phillips suggests:

  • 100g/4 oz flour
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ pint water
  • Pinch of salt

I rarely use an egg and usually add a teaspoon of baking power. Before I mix the batter, I have a pan with at least 2 cm of oil heating. It is good to get the fritters into the oil as soon as you can after mixing, otherwise the lovely baking powder bubbles have all escaped.

You then dip each flowerhead into the mix, using the stalk as a handle. Give the head a good shake, then drop it into your hot oil.

Mopping up batter with a flowerhead Photo: Nicola Strange
Mopped up batter on the flowerhead Photo: Nicola Strange

The fritters need to be turned over occasionally until each side is golden-brown, then lifted onto kitchen towel or an old tea towel to drain.

Fritters frying Photo: Nicola Strange
Fritters on an old tea towel to drain Photo Nicola Strange
Ready! Photo: Nicola Strange

They are now ready to eat, but avoid consuming the bigger stalks, which contain compounds which metabolise into cyanide. Serve as they are, with a dusting of sugar, or lashings of maple syrup. Let us know how you get on!

Reference: Phillips, R. 1983. Wild Food. Pan Macmillan, London.

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