By brittalippiatt, Jun 8 2017 07:31PM
I have to admit, I am still quite new to foraging, but I really am loving it. Last year was the first time we tried elderflower cordial – so quick, so simple, so delicious (I will post a recipe next week). What surprised me the most though was how foraging changes your perspective of the landscape. Where you have only seen a hedgerow before, there is suddenly a hedgerow with elder, and lots of wonderful cream-coloured flowers that would taste really lovely as a drink. Once it is imprinted in the brain, there is elder everywhere, just waiting to be picked.
For my Forest School sessions I was looking for something with elderflowers that can be done in two hours. Cordial needs to be left overnight, so that was not an option, and then I stumbled over elderflower fritters. Perfect!
Our first try was not great though. A book suggested to use buckwheat flour as a gluten free alternative to wheat, and as we have a vegan in our parent & toddler group I thought I just try buckwheat and water as a simple dough. My daughter and I went out in the driving rain to pick some flowers (apparently they are best and most aromatic though when it is nice and warm), so there was quite some effort involved, but the finished product, we said in unison, was simply“yuk”.
A good friend suggested to just use a normal pancake batter, and, hey presto – success! We have now had two lots of elderflower fritters on the campfire (any cooker at home will do) and we all thought they were absolutely delicious. So, here is my step by step guide:
1. Find some elder
Elder is quite easy to identify but you do need to be 100% certain that you have the right plant as there are other shrubs and flowers with similar flower heads that are poisonous. Elder itself is actually slightly poisonous as well, including the berries, which is why they need to be cooked before eaten (in some countries they are very popular in desserts and as syrup). The leaves actually smell very unpleasant which is a giveaway as well. Have a look here for some more information on elder and how to identify it.
2. Cut about 10-12 (medium sized) flower heads
The best ones will have only just started flowering. Make sure you don’t take all the flower heads of any one shrub; they are very popular with all kinds of wildlife, too.
3. Wash the flower heads
At home, dunk the flower heads in cold water to get rid of any dirt or small insects that might be hiding amongst the flowers. Then shake off the water and leave to dry. Cut off any leaves and thick stalk so that you are left with the flower heads only.
4. Prepare the batter
Either use your favourite pancake recipe or try the one below.
For 4 people just mix together:
• 50 g flour (we used gluten-free self-raising flour)
• a bit of salt
• 1 egg
• 90 ml milk
• 30 ml mineral water
• Some lemon (to taste)
• Some honey (to taste, we used quite a lot)
For the vegan alternative we just replaced the milk with coconut milk and left out the eggs but I am not an expert in that field, so just have a little play.
5. Fry the fritters
Heat some (quite a lot of) oil in a pan. Dunk the flower heads into the batter then put them into hot oil. You can carefully cut the rest of the stalks off with some scissors while in the pan so that you can turn them around and bake them from the other side. Or you can try and bake them from one side only (making sure, of course, that they are baked all the way through) and eat them directly from the stalk. They are done once lovely golden brown all around. Use some kitchen roll to get rid of excess oil.