How to make Great British Menu judge Richard Bainbridge’s elderflower vinegar

Richard Bainbridge says elderflower is the scent of summer. Picture: Katja Bainbridge

Richard Bainbridge says elderflower is the scent of summer. Picture: Katja Bainbridge - Credit: Archant

Great British Menu veteran judge Richard Bainbridge says you can make summer last all year round with elderflower vinegar.

Richard and Katja Bainbridge of Benedicts Restaurant in Norwich love the taste of summer that elderf

Richard and Katja Bainbridge of Benedicts Restaurant in Norwich love the taste of summer that elderflower brings. Picture: Katja Bainbridge - Credit: Archant

Elderflower is one of those amazing kind of kitchen ingredients that is kind of like the fairy of summer.

It comes in with such a delicate floral tone that really sings of summertime more than anything else. You get the last of the wild garlic coming through, and you look up in the woods and see the first bunches of elderflower coming out.

For the last 20 years of me being in the industry, elderflowers have gone through a whole different realm.

When I first started it was all elderflower cordial – that was it! You'd put it in Champagne or sparkling water and that's all you did.

We started changing and evolving, serving it fried on dishes in a little tempura batter, putting it into savoury dishes like cured sea trout.

It's kind of had a resurgence in the last couple of years. People want to start using it in lots of types of cooking.

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I remember elderflower cordial was the first thing I ever really made with wild produce. When I was 17, working at Morston Hall, we started going out with Galton to pick elderflowers for cordial. It was my first sense of being in touch with the seasons. My first connection with foraging.

It normally comes into season about the end of May and will run through for about six to eight weeks. You can normally find it in any hedgerow as you walk around. We have a tree in our back garden, which is phenomenal.

The great thing about the elder tree is you get the flowers in the summer and the elderberries in the winter which are brilliant to marinate in gin or make game sauces.

The recipe I'm giving this week is for elderflower vinegar. It's something a little bit different and it continues the taste of summer all through winter. I love the idea when you go into the depths of winter when it's all parsnips and swede and sprouts, this vinegar can perk the season up and show there's a light to the end of the tunnel.

It will keep for a year and it's so versatile. Use it as a dressing with a little bit of rapeseed oil, salt and pepper. Put it into lemon butter sauce at the end. It's great with fish. Put a spoonful over vanilla ice cream to get those floral notes coming through.My chef's tip is to push a fork through the flowers when you get home – that's the quickest way to get them off the stems.

Elderflower Vinegar

Ingredients

36 elderflower heads (Pick 18 and after 10 days pick another 18)

1lt cider vinegar

1 orange

2 x 1lt sterilised kilner jars

Method

Pick your first 18 elderflower heads and pluck the flowers away from the stalks, shake off any insects but avoid washing. Place the heads into your sterilised jars, using a zester or vegetable peeler take the zest off the orange and add to the jars, top up with cider vinegar. Seal the jars closed and store in your larder or a dark place for 10 days turning the contents once a day.

After 10 days pick the next 18 elderflower heads.

Strain the vinegar through muslin or a fine sieve to remove the elderflower and orange zest into another sterilised jar, add the further 18 freshly picked elderflower heads, seal the jar and store back in the dark place for at least one month if not longer occasionally turning the contents as before. Once the vinegar has infused, strain through several layers muslin to remove the flowers and any pollen that may have sunk to the bottom into another jar (You may need to repeat this process a couple of times to ensure all the flowers and pollen is removed). Using a funnel pour the vinegar into a sterilised salad bottle and you're ready to use.

Richard and Katja Bainbridge own and run Benedicts Restaurant in Norwich.

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