You know how people say that smells bring back memories more vividly that sights?
I really think that’s so true. One of the things which reminds me of my grandmother, of Prague, of my childhood at the summer cottage is elder. I have this strong recollection associated with the smell of elder flowers. It always reminds me of fritters my grandmother used to make.
This year my arrival to England was delayed by about two weeks, (remember the ongoing floor saga…the bane of my existence!), but I still found freshly opened elder blossoms and so I decided to treat myself to an elder flower fritter lunch. (Try saying that three times 🙂 )
The elders on the West Coast have blossoms which are held in grape-like clusters, but the European elders have these beautiful, wide umbrella-like clusters.
Best to pick them in the morning when they just open and before they start turning brown. Give them a good shake and dislodge all the hitchhikers. (Not that there are very many on elders, but still…)
I don’t have my grandmother’s recipe any more, and, besides, she generally never used recipe books anyway, and, if she did, she usually doubled the butter and added cream in there somehow, but good old Nigel Slater has a lovely tempura-type recipe which sounded like it would work very well.
Sift 100g of plain flour into a basin then add 2 tablespoons of oil and 175ml of sparkling mineral water. Beat to a thick paste, then stir in a tablespoon of sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes. Just before frying the elderflowers, beat an egg white and fold it into the batter. Rinse 12-16 elderflower heads, shake them dry and snip the flower heads into small stems. Get a pan of oil hot then dip the elderflowers into the batter and lower them into the oil. Hold them under the oil by pushing down on the stem. Fry until the batter is pale gold and crisp then lift out and dip straight into a dish of caster sugar. Eat the fritters while they are hot and crisp.
I made the fritter according to Nigel, minus the sparkling water, (I never have that in the house and am not about to drive 10 miles to the nearest market town for a bottle), so I used very cold still water, and, OK, I don’t do deep pans full of oil either, so my fritters were fried in a very small amount of olive oil, but…
Very, very yummy and fragrant and childhood memories and everything.
I remember my grandmother also using nettles for loads of recipes, but I don’t remember if her elder fritters were sweet or savoury. These sweet ones were wonderful and I wonder if the season will stretch a little and I can find a few more just opened blossoms for a savoury treat. 🙂