If you have been meandering along the country roads for the past few weeks, you’ll have seen swathes of fluffy cream flowers along the verges, tiny sweet fragrant blossoms clustered together in irregularly branched cymes. The plant grows 2-4 foot tall and is called meadowsweet. The legendary Tudor botanist and herbalist John Gerard called this wildflower that blossoms from the end of June until mid-September ‘Queen of the Meadows’, and described how it ‘delighted the senses and scented people’s houses’.
It thrives in clammy meadows and ditches and along river banks. It delights me too and I love it for a myriad of reasons — not only the fact that it comes into season just as the elderflowers fade. I’ve been using the latter in so many ways but from now until September, it’s the turn of frothy meadowsweet. It has many medicinal qualities and is known to contain salicylic acid, one of the components of aspirin and has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Herbalists value it for its many medical qualities, bees and hoverflies love it too.
But this is a cooking column so how do we enjoy it in the kitchen. Well, I’ve been adding to my repertoire of meadowsweet recipes for the past few summers. It flavours custard deliciously which can then be churned into meadowsweet ice cream. You can imagine how fragrant meadowsweet panna cotta and crème brûlée are — infuse the milk for rice pudding. It also makes a delicious cordial, lemonade, spritzer or a simple tea. Strew a few blossoms on the base of a cake tin while making a sponge and/or add some to a lemony icing. Try flavouring end of season rhubarb compote for a delicious surprise and I’ve had success with both rhubarb and ginger meadowsweet jam plus it also combines well with gooseberry to make a delicious compote. How does meadowsweet gin and tonic sound? Infuse gin for a week or two as you would sloe or damsons. Strain and enjoy.
Keep your eyes peeled for meadowsweet as you drive through the countryside. Pop it into a vase on your kitchen table, it will perfume the entire kitchen while you decide on delicious ways to enjoy it.
Rhubarb and meadowsweet compôte
Meadowsweet is sometimes called mead wort or Queen of the Meadows. It grows in damp places, meadows and sometimes along the roadside. It flowers from early summer to early autumn. We use it to flavour panna cotta, ice-cream, custard — here I’m using it to
Preparation Time10 mins
Cooking Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
- 450g rhubarb
450ml stock syrup (dissolve 175g of granulated sugar in 300ml of water and boil for 2 minutes)
4-6 sprigs of meadowsweet
Cut the rhubarb into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces. Put the cold syrup into a stainless-steel saucepan, add the rhubarb and meadowsweet. Cover, bring to the boil, and simmer for just 1 minute, (no longer or it will dissolve into a mush).
Turn off the heat and leave the rhubarb in the covered saucepan until just cold. Remove the meadowsweet, serve with lots of softly whipped cream sprinkled with meadowsweet blossoms.
Meadowsweet rice pudding
A creamy rice pudding is one of the greatest treats on any day of the year. You need to use short-grain rice, which plumps up as it cooks. I love this irresistible version perfumed with meadowsweet. It's delicious warm but I love to serve it chilled in su
Preparation Time10 mins
Cooking Time1 hours 30 mins
Total Time1 hours 40 mins
100g pearl rice (short-grain rice)
small knob of butter
20g freshly picked meadowsweet
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4.
Put the rice, sugar and butter into a pie dish. Bring the milk and meadowsweet to the boil. Strain using a colander, remove the meadowsweet and pour the fragrant liquid over the rice. Bake for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours approximately (usually the latter but keep checking). The skin should be golden, the rice underneath should be cooked through and have absorbed up the milk, but the rice pudding should still be soft and creamy. Calculate the time so that it’s ready for pudding. If it has to wait in the oven for ages it will be dry and dull and you’ll wonder why you bothered.
Serve with a dollop of softly whipped cream and a sprinkling of soft brown sugar.
All the kids will be back to school at this stage so you’ll want to send them off each day with something healthy and delicious in their lunch box. It’s hard to find ideas that the kids will love and that you too will be happy with. We have lots of exciting tried and tested ideas. Some can be done ahead, others can be whipped up early in the morning. There’s sure to be something to everyone, even the pickiest eaters. You’ll also learn how to make fizzy water kefir, a delicious healthy substitute for energetic kids.
Treat yourself to this Saturday morning class and delight your kids when you return. Available also as a Streamed demonstration.
cookingisfun.ie or telephone 021 4646 785
It’s all happening in Co. Laois. If you’re lucky enough to live near The Lower Glass House Organic Grocery Store at Dunnes Garden Centre in Durrow, Co. Laois, don’t miss their fresh picked organic produce which is grown onsite and harvested daily. Grab some homemade treats and freshly brewed coffee from the Bloom Coffee Box while you are there.
@thelowerglasshouse and @bloom_coffee_box on Instagram
Huge congratulations to the many Irish cheesemakers who won gold, silver and bronze at the recent Melton Mowbray Artisan Cheese Awards 2021. The Irish sent over 155 cheeses from 31 dairies and won a slew of awards starting with Joint Supreme Champion Runner-Up for Galway and for Fermoy. Check out Instagram @meltonartisancheesefair