Monday, 4 June 2012

Rhubarb and Elderflower Crumble

Elderflower has been an ever present flavour throughout my life. When I was younger it was always such a treat when we had a bottle of elderflower cordial or pressé in the fridge. I would relish the flavour trying to make it last as long as possible. I remember making ice lollies in the summer; orange juice, blackcurrant squash or lemonade but it was always the extraordinary elderflower lollies that got eaten first. Elderflower seemed rare, elusive and exclusive. 
 
Last year on a foraging trip I found some elderberries which meant only one thing: a few more months and I could finally pick fresh elderflowers. I had been waiting to pick some for as long as I can remember and that time has now come. Off I went with my basket on my bicycle to sniff out these delicate flowers. 
Every patch of cow parsley set the heart racing, it does look very similar. There was much cycling, stopping, sniffing and looking and finally I found some, not quite where I remember it, proudly bursting forth in flurries of white. After carefully sidestepping the nettles, running away from bees and avoiding the inhalation of small insects I picked three nice blooms.
Elderflower can be identified firstly by its appearance; if you're not sure the leaves have a jagged edge. Secondly by the smell of faint elderflower and slight yeast. If you're still unsure (I'm not saying this is advisable) eat one of the flowers, it should taste of elderflower! I ate one just to make sure but I'm not convinced you're meant to.
I had my elderflowers which were making the kitchen smell wonderful and I also had a few sticks of rhubarb. They are both available at the same time of year so it makes complete sense that their flavours would work together. I wanted something elegant and uncomplicated where each individual flavour could shine. Crumble would be the vehicle to celebrate these two great flavours.
You will need:
Rhubarb (I had four small sticks)
Two large elderflower heads divided into smaller sprigs
75g butter
175g flour
50g golden caster sugar and a little extra
First of all put the rhubarb in a saucepan, cover and cook for 10 or 15 minutes until soft but not broken down. Sprinkle in a little sugar and check the sweetness. When it's ready put it into an oven proof dish. While the rhubarb cooks make the crumble. Rub the butter and flour together until you have breadcrumbs and then mix in the sugar. Normally I use muscovado or demerara sugar for the crumble topping for a more caramel flavour but I used caster for this as I wanted a lighter taste. 
When it comes to preparing the elderflowers it is essential that the flowers are shaken to within an inch of their life; not so ferociously that all the flowers fall off but not so gently that the insects can cling on and make their way into your crumble. What your guests may think is an elderflower stalk could turn out to be the legs of an unwanted arachnid. No one will thank you.
Put the crumble into a preheated oven at 180C for 30 to 40 minutes or until lightly golden on the top and the divine pink rhubarb juices are bubbling through the crust. Allow to cool a little before serving with cream, custard or ice cream. I always opt for cream. 
It was glorious, a celebration of classic flavours and textures. The rhubarb gave tang and acidity, the crumble delivered sweetness and biscuity crunch and the elderflower seeped into the crumble to give it all a beautiful floral piquancy. I was concerned that I had put in too much elderflower but it was just right; the perfect balance of fruit and flower. 
The elderflower was subtle but it was enough to bring back the memories of long summers and of the flavour I craved. I have many more plans for elderflower, but, if I don't get round to them or mother nature is not on my side I have the elderberries to look forward to.

P.S. I have since learnt that the stems can be toxic. I only put in small florets, no big stem pieces and after having a look around the toxins are destroyed by cooking. Do be careful!

26 comments:

  1. Lovely story, particularly the foraging bit. You're right, there is something very special and exotic about the wonderful elderflower. A.

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  2. Such a pretty flower! I've heard of elderflower wine, is that a thing in the UK?

    I must say I'm in the mood for crumble lately and yours looks lush. Also loving rhubarb at the moment, lovely combination overall.

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  3. Those are so precious!! What a fantastic idea. Looks like a delicate flavor.

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  4. what a lovely dish! it truly sounds special, i would love to try this!

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  5. I can see a wonderful huge spray of elderflowers from where I am sitting - just inside the wood down below me ...unfortunately there is a 50 foot drop between us and no way I can reach them safely-so near and yet so far...

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  6. I have still NEVER tried rhubarb anything.. not pie not nothing! This looks delish!
    Buzzed ya!

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  7. It looks very yummy! Elderflower is one of my favourite flavours in the summer. I missed them this year but am aiming for the berries instead.

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  8. Wow I have never seen this before. I love the smell of elderflower and never thought of using it in cooking. I can imagine though how well it goes with rhubarb. Lovely recipe X

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  9. I have heard of elderflower, but had no idea what it looked like. That crumble looks amazing!

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  10. this sounds like a really good flavour combination. Have a great week.

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  11. Sorry to be unpatriotic, but no-one will ever convince me that Elderflowers don't smell (+ taste?) like cat's pee! I'll just have the Rhubarb crumble please.

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  12. Elderberries grow prolifically in my home state of Missouri- I look forward to seeking out these flowers to try this recipe- it sounds fabulous!

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  13. Elderflower is truly an up and coming ingredient! I love the scent and I think it would add wonderful elements to this gorgeous crumble - well done :D

    Cheers
    CCU

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  14. Ooh! I normally think of gooseberries with elderflower but rhubarb, now that you mention it, would be great too - a perfect English celebration of summer! I've never been lucky enough to find the actual flowers - I always think I've found them but it's just cow parsley! This looks lovely!

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  15. I wonder if we have elderflowers in Los Angeles. You foraging adventure sounds fun. GREG

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  16. Elderflowers are wonderful to cook with... can't say I'm a huge rhubarb fan, but this does look really good.

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  17. Since I have been introduced to The NEW NORDIC KITCHEN in Denmark, I have been fascinated by the foraging concept. I love it. Unfortunately, I am not good like you at recognising edible plants and flowers. Your crumble looks delicious!

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  18. Elder is such an underused ingredient here in Canada... it's almost impossible to find the blossoms or berries, and I've never seen them growing wild where I am. I did plant a small bush two years ago, though, so I'm eagerly awaiting the day it grows big enough to yield a decent crop! :)
    I love the idea of pairing elder and rhubarb. So fresh and spring-ish.

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  19. The flower and the recipe both is new to me but I sure learned something new today.

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  20. I have never heard of elderflower before! This looks fantastic! They just started selling rhubarbs around where I live, and I'm very excited about that!

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  21. Beautiful I must say. I love the elderflower element, though I've never really experienced it. This is a dish that needs to be placed on a pedestal and hailed- looks so nice and sounds so stately .Love it.

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  22. Unusual combinations of flavours which make perfect sense. And once again, great photos!

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  23. I had no idea about foraging for elderflowers or how best to prepare them. Who knew they contained spiders!
    A very original recipe.
    A crumble is always a winner in my eyes.

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  24. I can only imagine how fragrant this was! PERFECT for summer!

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  25. This is an amazing recipe with elderflower! Never try elderflower in any of my bakes but I really love to try this recipe! Thanks for sharing! Have a lovely day!:)

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  26. Do you know what, I haven't had elderflower before. I've tried them in this apple elderflower juice from chegworth, but didn't get to appreciate its full flavour. This looks yum! I love it!

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