Wednesday, 1 June 2011

At long last, dessert: Elderflower fritters

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you’ll have probably noticed by now that I don’t really do desserts.  That may have something to do with the fact that for most of my time at the Rivington I was in charge of the cold starters, salads and desserts station, and as a result, now I don’t have to, I’m just not gonna…  Although, were that entirely so, you’d also expect me not to do cold starters or salads at home either, neither of which is the case.  No, I think it’s got rather more to do with neither Becca nor myself having much of a sweet tooth, and just never really feeling that bothered about having a dessert anyway.  And with Becca’s allergies, the pudding options are always more limited, and often less appealing – no butter pastry, no custard, no cream.  Perhaps my favourite dessert, and one of my particular specialities at the Rivington (the recipient of at least one ‘compliments to the chef’, from an actual stranger…), bread and butter pudding, clearly isn’t an option then…

However, we do not live entirely in a dessert desert (sorry!), and we did have a dessert (the same one) with both the dinners I’ve written up in the past week or so.  Not, I have to admit a dessert that I could take much of the credit for, as it was almost entirely the work of Becca, although it’s probably fair to say I received more than my share for the addition of the showy garnish that was my contribution.  I would, normally, be too embarrassed to add to that imbalance of due credit, by writing up (and therefore, inevitably, and whatever the purity of my intention, bigging up) my bit here – but it is a seasonal treat (and there should yet be a week or two at least of that season left), that’s available to pretty much everyone, pretty much for free, and so very easy to do that I think I’m justified.  And besides, the pictures are so pretty…

First off, though, credit where it’s due and all that: Becca’s rhubarb and strawberry sorbet.  She followed this recipe, and not only was it delicious, it really was as creamy as advertised, so much so that you genuinely might mistake it for ice cream.  Something about the silky texture of the rhubarb I guess.  She also made a sorrel sorbet, that it seems ungallant of me to mention at all, because she would be the first to admit it was less successful – but I have to say, it was the recipe’s fault not hers.  The recipe seemed to rely on soaking the sorrel leaves in cold water to extract their flavour, which might indeed have happened, but if so it was at a homeopathic level of dilution – and you know what I think of homeopathy…  Anyway, fortunately there was lemon juice and zest in there as well, so the end result ended up not as a sorrel sorbet, but as a very decent lemon granita. A scoop of each, topped with a golden, crispy elderflower fritter, made a dessert that was not only very pretty, but light and refreshing with a perfect combination of sweetness and sharp.  You could of course use a good vanilla ice cream (as well, or instead).

For the elderflower fritters make a batter that is as simple as flour and water, except use fizzy water, straight out of the fridge, or, even better, fizzy booze: I used prosecco.  Quantities don’t need to be exact but you do need to get the consistency to about that of cream (the slightly more complex – and eggy, and therefore no good in this house - recipe here suggests it should be ‘thin, like double cream’, which I find somewhat contradictory in so far as that, to my mind, double cream is quite thick for a batter, particularly for coating so delicate a thing as an elderflower. I would have thought thin, like single cream would be more like it).  I used 100g of sifted plain flour and whisked in about a wine glass worth’s of prosecco, i.e about 200ml.  If you don’t have, or don’t want to waste prosecco, cava or champagne (but really, it isn’t any kind of waste…), by all means mix fizzy water and a splash of (preferably sweet) wine, or perhaps vermouth; or grappa, or a similar spirit, as suggested on that recipe I’ve linked to above.  And then you leave it to stand, for at least fifteen minutes.

The key things with a batter, particularly a light batter, like a tempura are, apparently (and I was first told this by a Japanese tempura chef I once very briefly shared a flat with in Florence, so I’m prepared to believe it) fizziness, and coldness – whether you use fizzy water, or sparkling wine, it should come straight out of the fridge, you might even add ice cubes as you whisk it, and when you leave it to stand, that should be back in the fridge.  Other than that, there’s no great trick.  I mix up my batter just before we sit down to dinner and put it back in the fridge while we eat.

When you’re ready for dessert, just heat up your deep fat fryer, or a couple of cm of light oil in the bottom of a saucepan.  Dip the heads of the elderflowers into your cold batter till lightly coated, then lower them into the hot oil (the stalks provide a useful handle, so don’t cut them too short when you’re collecting your flowers) for just a few seconds till crisp and golden.  Drain them on kitchen paper.  Dusting with icing sugar is optional, but I think I prefer not too – you end up tasting the sugar more than the elderflowers, which is a shame – you can dip your finger in icing sugar and suck it off any time you want to, elderflowers only come out once a year.


  1. N-ice!
    Sorrel recipe B followed might have been for Caribbean sorrel which comes dried and has a flavour a bit like hibiscus - I made a similar mistake once.
    Just a thought.
    Like the blog!

  2. Ah, Kitty may have it! 'Sorrel' is the Caribbean word for hibiscus, it's the same thing. And would make a nice, tart, beautifully coloured sorbet. It makes a lovely summer drink - make tea and then cool it, or perhaps just infuse it cold? I haven't tried that method.

  3. No, fraid not. Flattering, indeed humbling, as it is to have a comment (with an approving frozen dessert related pun no less) on my sorbet post from probably the world's hippest ice cream maker ( - thank you Kitty - I've checked with Becca and she is clear that the recipe was for fresh sorrel leaves like we have in the garden. There was, apparently, an accompanying picture of sorrel leaves soaking in a bowl which left no room for ambiguity