Thursday, 7 June 2012

Gelsomina's Cucina: Gorgeous Elderflower - Champagne, Cordial and Panna Cotta

We would like to thank the lovely Diana for this Butterfly Lane guest blog.  If you love the sound of elderflower champagne, cordial and panna cotta as much as we do, I suggest you read on...

Hi, My name is Diana and I write a blog called 'Gelsomina's Cucina',  and I have been very kindly asked to write a guest post for Butterfly Lane. My greatest love in life is to bake and to feed my gorgeous family, eating together is a massive part of our daily life and is something we feel passionately about.

With the recent warm weather, my thoughts as always when the sun shine's, is to spend as much time outside as possible and this includes eating! There is nothing better than balmy hot summer's evening sat outside until late in the evening sharing good food and great company.

I spend a lot of time preparing the food we eat and I like to give just as much thought to where we are going to eat it, we always lay the table and in the Summer I love nothing more than coming up with beautiful table settings. I love to use flowers from our garden or even better, wild flowers in rustic jugs, set with pretty table linen, dainty glasses and delicate pastel china, you just can't help but want to while away the evening at the table.

We also love to entertain, creating a beautiful setting outside for our guests as well as the perfect Summer menu is a must.

I like to make everything from scratch, this includes everything from the bread, to the dessert, to the drinks we have and this time of the year provides me with one of my favourites ingredients, it's free, all over our lovely countryside and all you have to do is go on a little forage for it, which is all part of the fun.

I am of course talking about Elderflower's! I make my own cordial, champagne and even panna cotta with this beautifully scented flower, elderflower for me sum's up the taste of summer.

So here are my three favourite recipes:-

Elderflower Cordial

20 heads of elderflower
1.8 kg granulated sugar, or caster sugar
1.2 litres water
2 unwaxed lemons
75g citric acid

Shake the Elderflowers to expel any lingering insects, and then place in a large bowl.

Put the sugar into a pan with the water and bring up to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.

While the sugar syrup is heating, pare the zest of the lemons off in wide strips and toss into the bowl with the Elderflowers. Slice the lemons, discard the ends, and add the slices to the bowl. Pour over the boiling syrup, and then stir in the citric acid. Cover with a cloth and then leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

Next day, strain the cordial through a sieve lined with muslin (or a new j-cloth rinsed out in boiling water), and pour into thoroughly cleaned glass or plastic bottles. Screw on the lids and pop into the cupboard ready to use.

To serve Elderflower Cordial: Dilute the elderflower cordial to taste with fizzy water, and serve over ice with a slice or two of lemon, or a sprig of mint floating on top.

For something a touch more sprightly, add a shot of gin or vodka and a lemon slice, or add it to white wine and sparkling water to make an elderflower spritzer.

Elderflower cordial is also brilliant in recipes such as gooseberry fool, and in vinaigrette - mix with wine vinegar, a touch of mustard, salt, pepper and a light olive oil (surprisingly good with a courgette, lettuce and broad bean salad). You might even try adding it to a marinade for chicken breasts. Try it in sorbets, or ice-creams, or just spooned over scoops of vanilla ice-cream, or use it to sweeten and flavour the fruit for a crumble.

Elderflower Panna Cotta

Serves 6

3 sheets of gelatine
2oz caster sugar
100ml elderflower cordial
300ml double cream
300ml milk

Heat the milk and cream through gently but don't let boil.

Add the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Soak the gelatine in warm water for a few minutes.

Take the cream mixture off the heat and stir in the gelatine until it has completely melted. Add the elderflower cordial, stir and pour into six ramekins or moulds. Place in the fridge to set for a 3-4hrs it can easily be over night if you want to get ahead.

To release from the moulds dip them into warm water for a few seconds or run a pallet knife around the edge. Serve with soft fruit. Gooseberries are a great with elderflower.

Elderflower Champagne

4 litres hot water
700g sugar
Juice and zest of four lemons
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
About 15 elderflower heads, in full bloom
A pinch of dried yeast (you may not need this)

Put the hot water and sugar into a large container (a spotlessly clean bucket is good) and stir until the sugar dissolves, then top up with cold water so you have 6 litres of liquid in total.

Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently.

Cover with clean muslin and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. Take a look at the brew at this point, and if it's not becoming a little foamy and obviously beginning to ferment, add a pinch of yeast. (I checked mine as the recipe suggests & no bubbles, I added the yeast and within a couple of days there were bubbles, loads of them)

Leave the mixture to ferment, again covered with muslin, for a further four days. Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin and decant into sterilised strong glass bottles with champagne stoppers (available from home-brewing suppliers) or Grolsch-style stoppers, or sterilized screw-top plastic bottles (a good deal of pressure can build up inside as the fermenting brew produces carbon dioxide, so strong bottles and seals are essential). I saved Sparkling Water bottles as I knew they could withstand the pressure and I am so pleased that I did, the Champagne is so bubbly that you have to be very carefully opening it, letting out a little pressure at a time, or else you will have Champagne everywhere!

Seal and leave to ferment in the bottles for at least a week before serving, chilled. The champagne should keep in the bottles for several months. Store in a cool, dry place.

Tip: I am going to keep mine stored in the garage in the plastic bottles and decant into prettier bottles to serve or to give as gifts as required.

So here's to a long hot summer, lots of Al Fresco dinning and many happy memories.

1 comment:

  1. I will definitely be trying the champagne!


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