You are always connected. You are constantly sharing pieces of your life. Is there an end to all of this? How is it influencing the way you live your life? a man asked me last week, while I was speaking at a conference on the influence of Social Media and blogs on life.
It made me reflect and I’ve been thinking about it for a while. Is my blog really influencing my life? The answer is yes, in a remarkable way, since 2009. It keeps me alert and perceptive. Since that day when I decided to put my thoughts and discoveries here on the blog, my aim is not to give life for granted, to explore and marvel at the small things that happen daily.
It makes me choose the path of curiosity over the path of fear, and according to Elizabeth Gilbert, this is creative living.
If you had shared a car ride in the last month with me, you’d hear me exclaim: oh look, elderflowers! elderflower on that hill! oh, more elderflowers here, we should stop and pick them up. Bushes of elderflowers along the motorway, on the edges of woods, right on the river banks and under the bridges. Last year I was late on the elderflower fever and I could just forage a few heads to make three bottles of elderflower cordial.
So this year I decided to listen to my curiosity for elderflowers and hush the inner voice repeating in my ears you don’t have time, get back to your emails, write that post, wash the dishes, go to the gym. I’ve been scanning the countryside since the acacia flowers appeared, fat white clusters dangling in the wind, as I was well aware that elderflowers would follow soon after.
And there they were, creamy white clusters of tiny flowers, with a heady aroma, punctuating the countryside, especially along little streams and on the edges of cultivated fields and woods.
I wore the green boots that Tommy gave me for Christmas and we walked together towards a little back lane on the edge of a wheat field, venturing in the countryside, sniffing the air looking for the divine aroma of elderflowers.
My grandmother has always taught me that when you walk in a wood you should be as silent as possible: I don’t know if it was an archaic form of respect for the forces of Nature or because she didn’t want to be heard when she was searching for mushrooms, not to reveal her secret spots. This time, though, you could hear my shrieks of excitements coming from under the dome of elderberries, as I was finally diving into this new adventure, surrounded by one of my favourite smells.
Even though elderberry is widely diffused in our countryside, now we just eat the flowers dipped in a thin batter and fried, as we do with the acacia flowers. I’ve also heard of elderberry jam, which I’ll be sure to make come September.
We came back home with a basketful of elderflowers, some of them still unopened, as I had many projects for my harvest.
Tube 1575 ml – MCM Emballages Weck Distributor
Flacon 1062 ml – MCM Emballages Weck Distributor
The first time I got the chance to consciously smell the heady aroma of elderflower was not during a walk in the countryside at home, but in London, opening up a bottle of elderflower cordial. Since then, my crush for England went hand in hand with my love for everything with elderflower in it, including one of the most appraised Northern Italy cocktail, hugo. We served a glass of chilled hugo to our attendees during the last Three Acres Creative Gathering and it was a success, so I was even more motivated to prepare my elderflower syrup in view of the next Autumn edition (stay tuned for that!).
Make a refreshing summer cocktail with iced water, lemon and mint, drizzle over pancakes, use it to brush a cake or just smell it deeply to go back with your mind to those sweet first day of summer, kissed by sunshine and a light breeze.
The following recipe is inspired by Diana Henry‘s elderflower cordial, from her book Salt, Sugar, Smoke.
- 25 heads of very fresh elderflowers
- 1,5 l of water
- 1,5 kg of sugar
- 3 large organic lemons
- Gently shake the elderflower heads to remove unwanted bugs. Collect them in a large bowl or tall jar. Remove the zest from the lemons with a peeler and add it to the elderflowers. Slice the lemons and add them to the bowl as well.
- Collect the sugar and the water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the syrup comes to a boil, pour over the elderflowers and lemons. Stir to mix. Cover and leave in a cool, dark place for a day.
- The day after, strain trough a muslin-lined sieve and bottle into warm sterilized jars.
- You should keep this in the fridge and use within five weeks, even though mine, last year, lasted for longer.
Corolle 580 ml – MCM Emballages Weck Distributor
When I saw this picture on Instagram made by one of my favourite food photographers, Stuart Ovenden, I took a mental note to collect unopened elderflowers along beautifully open and fragrant flowers, as my fingers were itching to make pickled elderflowers, which resemble teeny tiny capers.
How to make it? Gently shake the elderflower buds to dislodge unwanted bugs and collect them in a jar. Heat in a saucepan enough apple cider vinegar to cover the buds and, when it starts to simmer, pour over the elderflower buds. Cover with a lid and store in a cool dark place until you crave for something tart and elegant. I can’t wait to add these pickled elderflowers to my summer potato salads.
Paste di farina gialla – Elderflowers cornmeal cookies
Pellegrino Artusi calls these cookies paste di farina gialla, yellow flour pastries, as they are made just with cornmeal and have this happy yellow shade and buttery taste which in my mind match perfectly a cup of tea. Double the quantities as they are never enough.
Elderflower cornmeal cookies
- 2 egg yolks
- 80 g of icing sugar
- 100 g of butter
- 200 g of cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons of elderflowers
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Whisk egg yolks and icing sugar, then add butter, cornmeal and elderflowers.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut it into round cookies with a scalloped cookie cutter.
- Arrange the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and baker for about 15 minutes, or until slightly golden on the edges.
- Remove from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.
- You can keep the cookies in a tin box for a few days, if only you can resist...
After the cornmeal cookies I found myself with some egg whites and still a ton of elderflowers, so on the spur of the moment I thought: meringues. I could not imagine that the result would have been so heady aromatic, as the sugar and the egg whites had captured the essence of Spring.
These meringues melt in your mouth, releasing the most intense flowery aroma. They are a perfect match with the cornmeal cookies for a box of sweets to bring to your friends when you’re invited for dinner.
- 125 g of egg white
- 250 g of sugar
- 75 g of icing sugar
- 3 tablespoons of elderflowers, fresh or dry
- Heat oven to 130°C.
- Beat the egg whites with the sugar for about ten minutes, until they are shiny, firm and compact.
- Sift the icing sugar and fold it slowly into the egg whites with a spatula. Fold in the elderflowers now.
- Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper, then with an ice-cream scooper scoop small meringues onto the baking sheet, keeping them well spaced.
- Bake the meringues for about 1 hour, until they are dry on the outside but still marshmallow-soft in the centre, then leave to cool in the ajar oven.
- Store the meringues in a tin box or an airtight container.
- I started using some of the Weck jars sent by MCM Emballages Weck Distributor. It is not a sponsored post, I am just genuinely happy to be using these beautiful jars, as you know well how I love to make preserves, liqueurs, jams and everything that you can bottle for later.
- Flower eaters: what to do with edible spring blooms. Useful ideas and stunning photos.
- From a blog I learnt to love recently for all the useful insights on Instagram, creativity and photography, Elderflower Gin, by Me&Orla.
- An elderflower cordial made by The River Cottage (and, as a side note, would’t you live there?)
- To Become a Better Cook, Sharpen Your Senses. How I loved this article on The New York Times. Learn to use all five senses in the kitchen and you’ll become a better cook — especially if you sharpen the ones that are less associated with cooking: hearing, touch and smell.