“…for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.” – C.S. Lewis
…thought I’d start with that to get your attention 😉 …and let me tell you it tastes every bit as wonderful as it looks! Not one to be defeated by the wet weather, I was determined today to get out in the brief respite from the showers to harvest some elderflowers before it was too late (they are mostly ‘gone over’ now).
I first tried the Elderflower Delight recipe from the River Cottage Hedgerow Handbook last year, making two versions, one with gelatine and the other using cream of tartar as a thickening agent (a recipe adaptation from the internet which, alas, I no longer have). Although the tartar did work as a vegetarian alternative, it made something more akin to elderflower jelly babies.
It unfortunately didn’t have the yielding texture of the exotic treat we know.
You can get the recipe from the link above; this is just to give you a few tips, as it is one of those where you’re constantly worrying “am I doing this right / is it gloopy enough / is it ready yet”, etc. I’m pleased to say that if you follow the recipe quantities and timings exactly, you really can’t go wrong. I saved a bit of time by using scissors to de-flower the sprays, rather than using a fork, which, if I’m honest, I am just far too lazy to do!
The recipe calls for 20 sprays of elderflowers – I tend to add a few extra to make up for the fact that some are small – and in the photos what you’re looking at is a double-batch.
The key is to leave a long enough string so that you can pull out your bag later. I tied both ends of mine together and wrapped them under the handle of my saucepan so they couldn’t fall in. 🙂
Once your bundles are ready and your ingredients are measured out, you get to the really fun part – soaking the gelatine! For the easily amused, a tray of soaking gelatine leaves can provide endless fun!
Mixing your sugar, water and juice (I’d add here that this recipe is one of the few times I’d strongly advocate using bottled water – you don’t need much, and it makes for a much cleaner tasting end result) and heating it, you think it looks so milky and cloudy!
You think: “How is this gunge ever going to clarify and thicken?!!” – but it does!!!
Trust me, it gets pretty gloopy. This recipe, like risotto, is one of those that gives back the love you give it – you need to give the pot your undivided attention and stir constantly until its done. Very useful to have an assistant and take turns. (One person stirs while the other drinks the lavender beer you brought back from holiday, then you swap over.)
Use a kitchen timer and follow the timings exactly and you can’t go wrong. However, in spite of me telling you this, I know for a fact you are going to look at your gloop and wonder if it is gloopy enough – so I have made a little video to show you the consistency…
You’re basically going to want it to look like wallpaper paste…
It will continue to thicken in the 10 mins or so it cools while you prepare the tray. You can see in the photo to the right that its pretty thick!
Now comes the hard part – waiting for it to cool! You’ll want it to be firm – almost as firm as set jelly, before you slice it (in the tray) into squares (Once the squares are sliced I take the whole thing out of the tray and onto the counter, picking up the parchment by the corners.) An assistant is handy for this next bit too, as one of you can separate the cubes, while the other dusts with the cornflower/sugar mix.
The cubes will feel very sticky – that is what the cornflower-sugar mix is for, so don’t worry if you’re sticking to your squares – just be liberal with the icing sugar, and coat your fingers between squares if necessary. At this point stop what you are doing and eat one! You have earned it with your mad foraging skills, stirring skills, and sticky-fingered sugar-coating skills! You possibly also deserve a glass of wine.
Another thing I’d point out is that you are going to want to share it with your friends. But you are also going to want to keep it all for yourself. (Ergo you may wish to take a leaf out of my book and make a double batch! – we have boxes going to my work, my hubby’s work, and a stash for the fridge too!) These keep for ages (seeing as they are basically just sugar) but best in the fridge. Enjoy!