The first elderflower blossoms bring to mind a visit decades ago to a close relative, Anneli, in Germany (my mother’s much-loved cousin). On one visit, in early summer when the weather was warming up nicely, she took me for a bike ride along the Rhine near her home and stopped to collect some flowers. I didn’t know what they were. Elderflower wasn’t especially well-known in Australia then, though lately you can find them in things like flavoured drinks.
For something so small, they pack an incredible fragrance – heady and delicate and strong, all at the same time.
When we got home from that bike ride, Anneli stepped into her kitchen for an impromptu lunch – elderflower pancakes. Sprinkled with some sugar and cinnamon – amazing! It’s been decades, but I still remember how good they were.
Yesterday, when I saw some tiny flower buds on my own young plant, I had a yen. It was once again my friend Robyn who came to the rescue. She has some in her own garden, and there are a few bushes along the river near her home she can pillage.
Using the whole head looks great, but you can get a more fragrant finish (for reasons I don’t understand) by trimming it right back to the flowers and stirring them into the pancake mix just before you put it in the pan. Both taste great, it just comes down to personal preference.
It’s almost the essence of seasonal, foraged eating: Fresh, fragrant, available only for a limited time and impossible to recreate at any other time of the year.
Mix well, and then leave for at least an hour, covered:
1 cup (115g) plain flour, sifted
250ml milk (roughly)
I didn’t use all the milk first time, but you can expect the pancake mix to thicken a little while it stands, and you might need the extra milk to get back to the right consistency.
Prepare your elderflower florets. A good shake is useful, as there are often small bugs. Trim the stems back.
Make a sugar mix with cinnamon to sprinkle on top.
Heat the butter in a frypan til hot. Cook your first pancake or two without any elderflower heads, and these never taste right and should be thrown away.
There are a number of ways of doing this:
- Pour the pancake mix into the pan and drop your flower head on top, flower side down. Press lightly on the back of the flower head. Flip when the first side is cooked.
- Drag the elderflower head through the pancake mix and put that into the frypan. Flip when the first side is cooked.
- In a small bowl put enough mix for one pancake, and trim the flowers into the mix, stir carefully to cover and then put it in the frypan. Flip when the first side is cooked.
Serve immediately. Sprinkle with the sugar mix and eat while still warm!
Verdict: A bit special.