Michelle Darmody: I never tire of the first blossoms of elderflower

THE patterns of a year are beautifully mapped out by the growing seasons. I never tire of the first blossoms of elderflower, the white spray fanning out from the stalks. The flowers are most often made into a cordial, but I have also used them to make fritters. They are dipped into a light batter and quickly fried. Delicious. If you do make cordial, it can be used to flavour a variety of baking. Elderflower cordial works as well in a buttercream icing as it does in a gin and tonic. The slightly astringent taste is offset by the sugar used to make the cordial and the floral flavours add that wonderful hint of a warm summer day.

Elderflowers are best picked on a warm, dry day, when the buds are freshly open. It is also best to choose a tree that is not too near a road, as it may be affected by traffic fumes. The flowers should have a strong, sweet and summery smell that hits your nose when you get near to the tree. Give the flowers a shake — to remove insects — before storing them and then rinse them briefly in cold water just before using.

A cordial that is made with citric or tartaric acid will keep in the fridge for a few months. You can make it without either of the acids, but it will need to be used up in about three to four weeks. If you have a large batch and are worried about its longevity, you can freeze it in plastic containers.

Elderflower and raspberry semifreddo

  • 100g raspberries
  • 80g of golden caster sugar
  • 280mls of cream
  • 400 mls of crème fraiche
  • 4 tbsp of elderflower cordial
  • The zest of 2 lemons
  • A handful of shelled pistachio nuts, finely chopped

Line a 2 lb loaf tin with parchment.

Mash half of the raspberries with half of the sugar and set aside.

Whisk the cream with the rest of the sugar until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the creme fraiche with the cordial and zest until they are all combined.

Fold the cream and crème fraiche together.

Scoop half of the mixture into the prepared tin, flatten it out and spread the mashed raspberries in the centre. Scoop the rest of the cream mixture on top and flatten this as well. Sprinkle the rest of the raspberries and the chopped pistachios on top. Place into your freezer, at least overnight.

It is best to leave the top open and the tin with some space around it so it does not get hit. You can either serve it the next day or if you wish to keep it longer (it will last about a month in the freezer) cover it once it is completely frozen.

Take the tin out at least two-and-a-half hours before serving. Keep it in the fridge so it defrosts evenly. Peel off the paper and serve.

Strawberry andelderflower fool

  • 500g of strawberries, stalks removed and quartered
  • Half tablespoon of caster sugar — depending on how sweet your strawberries are
  • 4 tbsp of elderflower cordial
  • The juice of half a lemon and the zest of 1
  • 350ml of cream
  • A handful of unsalted pistachio nuts, toasted, chopped

Place the strawberries, sugar, cordial, juice and zest into a saucepan and simmer for about two minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whip the cream until italmost has stiff peaks.

Fold the cold strawberry mixture through thecream.

Scoop into cold serving bowls and place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with the pistachio nuts before serving.

Lemon yogurt cake with a hint of elderflower

For the bundt cake

  • 50g of natural yogurt
  • 25ml of milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • The zest of 3 lemons
  • 225g of soft butter
  • 210g of golden caster sugar
  • 225g of self raising flour

For the syrup

  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp of elderflower cordial

For the icing

  • 100g of icing sugar
  • 3 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp of elderflower cordial
  • The zest of 1 lemon

Grease and flour a 2lb bundt tin and set it aside in a cool place. Heat your oven to 160 degrees.

Mix the yogurt, milk, eggs and zest in a jug until combined.

Whisk the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sieve in the flour a third at a time alternating with a third of the liquid. Stir everything until combined with each addition.

Scoop the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 minutes until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.

Poke holes in the bundt with the skewer once the cake is out of the oven. Pour the syrup over it and then allow to cool in the tin.

Whisk the icing sugar with thecordial, zest and lemon juice.

Carefully tip it out onto a plate. Drizzle with the icing.

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