The fragrant arrival of elderflower is always a pleasing time for the forager, as there are so many wonderful ways to make use of these uniquely-flavoured blooms. Fritters, champagnes, cordials and preserves are all popular but this delicate delight possibly tops the lot.
It’s a mystery that elderflower isn’t used more commonly to flavour Turkish delight, as its delicate and distinctive floral taste elevates this confection to a gourmet level. The consensus from everyone who tries it is that is easily surpasses the more common rose and lemon versions. After tasting this, you're unlikely to confine Turkish delight to Christmas, as it's one to look forward to every summer.
Turkish delight, known as “lokum” in Ottoman Turkish, has been a favourite in Turkey and Persia since the late 18th century, although may be far older. In Arabic, the sweet is known as rāḥat al-ḥulqūm, which means "throat comfort". Perhaps this is an even better reason for making an elderflower version, as elderflower itself is alleged to soothe the throat and has been used as a folk treatment for cold and flu symptoms.
There are a couple of options for both making Turkish delight and infusing it with elderflower. This “quick” version saves on a lot of stirring, as it can be made in around 30 minutes. The sweet is based on a gel of starch and sugar (Turkish delight is considered the predecessor to the jelly bean) and traditionally this relied on cornflour, which needed to be slowly stirred for up to an hour to set. Replacing some of the cornflour with gelatine or vege-gel/agar agar enables the stirring time to be reduced to around 25mins and produces a texture that is still recognisably Turkish delight but not quite as dense and chewy as the cornflour version.
Turkish delight can be flavoured with cordials or oilier flavourings such as rose water. If you have a flower cordial you want to use, you may need to reduce the sugar content accordingly. For this method, however, we have used fresh elderflowers infused directly into the mixture through a muslin bag.
10 sheets of platinum leaf gelatine or 20g vege-gel
20 heads of elderflower
700g granulated sugar
Juice of two lemons
2 heaped tbsp cornflour
2 heaped tbsp icing sugar
- Strip the elderflowers from their stems using a fork. Place in a muslin bag and tie up with string.
- Soak the gelatine in a dish of water.
- Combine the granulated sugar, 300ml of water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved and then set aside to cool.
- Mix 100g of cornflour and 100ml of water in a bowl and stir until smooth. Add into the cooled lemon and sugar syrup.
- Put the saucepan back on a low heat. Remove the gelatine from the water and squeeze to remove excess liquid. Add into the mixture and gently whisk until completely dissolved.
- Bring to the boil slowly and simmer for 10mins, stirring continuously.
- Add the muslin bag of elderflower to the pan and continue to stir for another 15mins. Squeeze the bag with the back of a spatula every now and then to help the flowers infuse.
- Once the mixture has become gloopy, leave to cool.
- Mix 2tbsp of cornflour and 2tbsp of icing sugar together in a bowl.
- Line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment and dust with a thin layer of the cornflour and icing sugar mixture.
- Remove the muslin bag of elderflower from the delight mixture, giving it a final squeeze.
- Pour the mix into the tin and leave to set in a cool place for around 1hr.
- Transfer to the fridge for a few hours until the consistency becomes rubbery.
- Slice the Turkish delight into portions and dust with the remaining icing sugar and cornflour mixture.
Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!