Now is prime elderflower season, and a good excuse to get out into the countryside to collect blossom to make your own cordial or jam.
Anyone who has ever tasted homemade elderflower cordial will know it’s far preferable to the overly expensive, syrupy bought stuff.
You shouldn’t have any trouble finding the creamy white blossom of the elder. It stands out like a sore thumb against the lush green of the other summer trees and hedges.
Head out into the country and you’re bound to spot it poking up through the hedges, lining the lanes and footpaths, and growing on the edge of woods.
Chef Connor Wilson, who showcases his culinary skills at The Twice Brewed Inn at Bardon Mill, Northumberland, is a fan of elderflower.
It was his recipe for elderflower jelly with brambles and vanilla tuilles - featured here - that was chosen as one of 14 from chefs and hospitality providers in County Durham and Northumberland celebrating their respective areas and the fresh, local food on their doorsteps, to help publicise the launch of four Tasty Trails.
The routes, which are free to download from both the This is Durham and Visit Northumberland websites, take in some of the two areas most scenic and gastronomically inspiring countryside.
They have been produced as part of a Northern Lands initiative funded by DEFRA with the aim of encouraging food tourism in both Northumberland and Durham.
You can choose from Weardale and the Derwent Valley, In and Around Teesdale, the North Northumberland Coast and the south west of the county, which includes Kielder, the Tyne Valley and the National Park.
The Twice Brewed Inn is set amongst some of the North East’s most breathtaking scenery in the shadow of Steel Rigg in the heart of Hadrian’s Wall country.
Connor strives to use as much of the best local produce as possible on the home cooked menu. As he says: “We do not serve fast foods, only food as fast as we can!”
The menu is a mix of world foods and classic British comfort dishes – covering both the tastes and appetites of the thousands of people who flock to nearby Vindolanda, Housesteads and the Roman Army Museum every year, or prefer to exert themselves by stepping out along Hadrian’s Wall.
A nod perhaps to the Roman soldiers who once called this area home, you’ll find antipasti and pasta both on the menu alongside more eclectic choices like vegetable curry and pan fried Cajun chicken.
But there’s plenty of other options to quite literally get your teeth into: homemade steak and kidney pie made with short crust pastry top and bottom encasing prime Northumbrian beef; a 10oz sirloin steak from butcher Tom Stephenson of WMH in Haydon Bridge; locally made sausages, and lamb chops. This is, after all, sheep country.
Desserts are hearty too with sticky toffee pudding, fruit crumble and almond and raspberry tart.
Daily specials reflect the season, however, like Connor’s elderflower jelly dessert, a delicate and easy to make summer recipe that can be easily paired with any fresh, seasonal berries.
Elderflower will only be in season for a few more short weeks, so download or pick-up a Tasty Trail from a Tourist Information Centre, head out into Durham and Northumberland and get foraging while you can.
Elderflower Jelly with Brambles and Vanilla Tuilles, created by Connor Wilson and served at The Twice Brewed Inn, Bardon Mill, Northumberland
For the Elderflower Cordial:
2 lemons, halved
1tsp citric acid
40 elderflower heads, cleaned
To a large pan add the sugar, water, halved lemons and citric acid. Bring the mixture to the boil and reduce by half.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the elderflower heads.
Allow to cool, strain to remove all the bits, and bottle.
For the Elderflower Jelly:
750ml sparkling wine
150ml elderflower cordial
(Be careful as strength of the cordial may vary each time it is made)
8 leaves gelatine, soaked in water
Add the water, sugar and elderflower to a pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Let the mixture cool a little and then add the soaked gelatine.
Gently stir in the sparkling wine, being careful not to remove the bubbles.
Pour the mixture into 5 martini glasses and place in the fridge to set.
For the Bramble Sorbet:
250ml bramble coulis
200ml simple syrup
50ml glucose syrup
The bramble coulis is made with sugar and water to taste, depending on the sweetness of the brambles.
The simple sugar syrup is made with equal parts sugar and water.
Whisk all of the ingredients together thoroughly.
Freeze in an ice cream maker.
For the Bramble Compote:
Gently heat the sugar, water and brambles in a small pan until the juice starts to come out of the fruit.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the pan to finish off the cooking gently.
For the Vanilla Tuilles:
50g plain flour
50g egg white
½ vanilla pod seeds
In a large bowl blend together all the ingredients into a smooth paste.
Spread the paste thinly on a baking tray lined with parchment.
Bake in the over at 150°C for seven minutes.
Remove from the oven and cut into rectangles while still warm.
For the Meringue:
100g egg white
Whisk the egg white until the peaks are firm.
Slowly whisk in the sugar until the mixture is glossy.
Spread the mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment and bake in the oven at the lowest setting until dry.
To Assemble the Dish:
Break the meringue into pieces and place over the top of the jelly along with the bramble compote, making sure they are evenly spaced.
The dish is finished with a quenelle of the sorbet onto the top of the jelly; the tuilles are served on the side.
Why not continue the gastronomic journey through the region by downloading the food trails from either www.thisisdurham.com/food-and-drink/Tasty-Trails or www.visitnorthumberland.com/eat/food-trails . Alternatively, you can pick one up from a Tourist Information Centre. And look out for the next regional recipe in Journal Taste on July 11.