Food UK

Simon King of trees

Bring on the elder – king of trees

Simon King

Simon King

Simon King, chef/proprietor at restaurant 1861 near Abergavenny, is  a keen forager, and uses seasonal bounty in his restaurant.

Here, he extols the virtues of the elder tree.

The elder might not be the most magnificent of trees, not like a mighty oak or a graceful beech, but it is a fabulous wild foodstore.

Throughout the year, it provides us with a fantastic range of different ingredients.

1. The young shoots  of the tree when new and young are pale and green, rather like asparagus. Just peel and trim them, and boil them in lightly salted water. Don’t use the leaves, however, as these are bitter. Serve with a little butter and a dash of lemon.

2.  The flower buds can be pickled and used rather like capers. They go very well with fish and a cream sauce. When pickling them, use a white wine or cider vinegar rather than malt, unless you want an especially powerful taste. As with any other pickles, you can add  flavourings such as lemon peel, chilli and garlic, depending on your tastes.

3. The flowers have a myriad uses, the most popular being a flavouring for cordial. The blooms have a lovely fresh, summery aromatic taste.  The cordial is very refreshing when topped up with some sparkling water.

I use the flowers for lots of other things in the restaurant too –  to infuse a custard,  in creme brulee and pannacotta…

You can drop them into jams such as strawberry, gooseberry or rhubarb to give a delicate  flavour. They also look pretty.

Elderflower fritters are delicious. I make a tempura batter, which is very light, then deep fry them quickly.

I make this dish in the restaurant,  served with a  rhubarb sorbet and coulis, creating a fantastic mix of warm and cold, soft and crispy generating a great mix of flavours and textures.

4. The berries are excellent infused in vinegar, using the same technique as you would with raspberries or walnuts.

You can use them in jam, along  with apple – this is  an excellent combination as they are rich and intense, and have a deep, jewel colour, and compliment the apple well.

They are also good infused in sauces and served with game.

5. The elder tree hosts a mushroom called Tree Ear that actually looks like an ear in shape. It’s brown in colour and can be a bit rubbery, but is better when dried and reconstituted as the texture improves, along with the flavour.

I have had them deep fried, and they take this very well.

These mushrooms pretty much have a year-round season. After a dry spell, they disappear into the bark, but re-emerge like magic once we have a shower of rain.

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