If at first you don’t succeed…

by Sam Bilton on June 18, 2012 No comments

Fritters of Elderflower

Take some elderflowers and pound them in the mortar. Mix them with cream cheese and grated parmesan, fresh eggs, a pinch of cinnamon and a few drops of rose water. Work the lot into a paste and then form little round cakes or balls. Fry in butter, serve hot with sugar sprinkled on top.

Taken from Venus in the Kitchen (or Love’s Cookery Book) Edited by Norman Douglas

Elderflower bush

I was intrigued by this recipe dating back to the seventeenth century. Despite the seemingly random combination of ingredients (which Douglas promises tastes better than it sounds) I thought I would give the recipe a go. I am used to gathering elderflowers at this time of year to make elderflower champagne or cordial but had never thought of actually eating them.

Hundreds of years ago cooks were craftsmen who instinctively know how much of each ingredient to use and therefore did not require specific amounts let alone recipes. I am more than happy to work with vague quantities (a pinch of this, a handful of that) but

like most twenty-first century cooks I’m accustomed to following a recipe. So with a lot of guess work and crossed fingers I set about attempting to recreate these fritters.

My efforts were not a success. The pounded elderflowers turned brown and mushy. After adding the remaining ingredients my fritter mixture had the consistency of a thick batter with no chance of forming a ball shape. I fried spoonfuls of the batter which crept across the bottom of my frying pan as the cheese started to melt. In short, I ended up with a gloopy mess which even when sprinkled with sugar tasted odd.

I felt the problem lay with the lack of flour then wondered what elderflowers would taste like in a pancake. I am pleased to say my next attempt was far more successful. Delicious in fact particularly when served with a strawberry compote. I never tire of combining strawberries with elderflower so make no apologies for using it again here.

Incidentally, if you are hell bent on making elderflower fritters Nigel Slater published a recipe in the Observer magazine last year. I’ve not tried it myself but his recipes have never let me down yet so I’m sure it will be good.

Elderflower & Goat’s Cheese Pancakes with Strawberry Compote


Serves 4 – 6 (Makes around 20 pancakes)

If the prospect of using goat’s cheese in a sweet dish perturbs you then use ricotta cheese instead. This can be served as a breakfast dish as it is or paired with a good vanilla ice cream for a delicious dessert.



  • 225g self raising flour
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g mild, soft goat’s cheese or ricotta
  • 2 tsp elderflower cordial
  • 25g melted butter
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 large elderflower heads


  • 400g fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1 tbsp elderflower cordial
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar, sieved


  1. For the pancakes, place all the ingredients except the elderflower heads in a blender or food processor. Blend until combined. Pour the batter into a jug.
  2. Snip the elderflowers from their stalks into the batter. Try to avoid adding too much of the stalk as you go (some will inevitably end up in the batter but it is the flowers that carry the flavour). Stir to combine.
  3. Heat a griddle or a hot plate to a medium – high temperature. PouElderflower pancakes on a hot plater little puddles of elderflower batter onto the griddle around 8 – 10cm diameter (they will spread a little as they cook). You may want to use a fork to gently distribute the flowers within the pancakeas they tend to congregate in the middle of the pancake.
  4. When bubbles appear on the surface flip the pancake and continue to cook for a minute or so until done. The pancakes can be made in advance then gently Elderflower pancake cookingreheated in a microwave if you wish.
  5. For the compote, mix all the ingredients together then leave to macerate for at least 20 minutes. This will produce a delicious syrup. This is best eaten on the same day as it is made although you could make it a few hours before you serve it.


Sam BiltonIf at first you don’t succeed…

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