Desserts, Drinks

Elderflower Cordial and Rhubarb Pannacotta

Last day of May.  A spring that was slow to start but has exploded with a big ka-bang!  Every year I vow to do something with the wild elderflowers that grow all around my house.  I’ve heard you can make them into fritters, but I chose to make this elderflower cordial.  It is lovely with club soda (with or without a healthy splash of gin) or a glass of champagne. You can use it as a syrup on pancakes or to sweeten berries or a simple fruit salad.  It’s easy to make.  You pick ten bunches of elderflowers, and combine them with 3 cups of sugar, 3 sliced lemons and 2 litres of boiling water.  Then it sits for two days at room temperature.  After that, strain through a fine mesh strainer and pour into jars.  Store in the fridge, or for longer storage, the freezer.
Elderflower Cordial
This time of year, things get a little crazy as I race from one early summer activity to the next.  Flying from the kids’ school to work to the grocery store to fitness class to the garden, I sometimes catch myself unaware of what I’m doing right now, too often thinking about what’s next and how to cope with it.
Grow Spinach, Grow!!!

I was in the Cafe kitchen, hurriedly prepping lettuce before a busy dinner service last Saturday.  I had too much to do and not enough time to do it.  An old familiar feeling crept over me, a kind of stressed out resentment.  And then, just as it came, it vanished with this thought: I am doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing.  And I am alive to do it.


a Wine Tasting at the Cafe inspired this purchase

Our asparagus is bursting through the ground like mad, despite the fact that weedier asparagus beds never existed.  We moved a few huge asparagus crowns to our main garden, where I hope to take better care of them.

I mulched this Asparagus right after I took this picture, honest!
 The raspberry canes I planted last year have all multiplied…
And the garlic is already over a foot high.

Last week Rowan and I planted twenty different tomato varieties from Glad Gardens and he sowed a row of broad beans from a free packet he picked up at the local school’s Edible Garden Grand Opening.  We still have a long way to go before our garden’s finished, but our spinach, kale and Swiss chard are up!

Bonus when you purchase Mushroom Compost at Valley Mushroom

About a week or more ago I made a pot of tea for a friend from mint in my backyard, and gave her some eggs for a new broody hen of hers to sit on.

In exchange she brought me a jar of Vanilla Bean Rhubarb Jam.  It sat for about a minute on my counter before I had to toast some bread and try it out.  Pink with flecks of vanilla seeds, it looked amazing and tasted even better….

It inspired me to make this dessert.  I had wanted to try out a Panna Cotta recipe based on the recipe in Michael Smith’s Chef at Home cookbook and knew it would be lovely with a sauce inspired by the jam.  I made this in two stages:  the Panna Cotta, a sweet custard-like dessert set with gelatin was made one day, and I made the Vanilla Bean Rhubarb Sauce the next.

Panna Cotta with Vanilla Bean Rhubarb Sauce

for the Panna Cotta:

4 C. Milk (whole Milk is lovely, but 1% will do)
2 Packages of Gelatin
3/4 C. Sugar
1 Bay Leaf
2 t. Vanilla (I used a vanilla bean, hence the little black flecks)

Choose 6 ramekins or teacups to mold your panna cottas in and lightly oil them.
Pour 1/2 cup of the milk into a medium bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over to soften it.   Heat the remaining milk with the sugar, bay leaf and vanilla over medium heat until just beginning to steam.  Pour the hot milk mixture over the gelatin-milk mixture and whisk gently to combine.  Pour into your molds and put in the refrigerator to set for at least two hours, or overnight.

for the Vanilla Bean Rhubarb Sauce:

5 C. chopped Rhubarb (the pinkest you can find)
1/2 C. Sugar
pinch of Salt
1 Vanilla Bean

Place the rhubarb, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.  Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, then scrape all the seeds out with your knife and add them to the pot.  Drop the pod in, too.  Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer (you shouldn’t need additional liquid).  After about five minutes, shut off the heat and let the rhubarb cool, then remove the vanilla pod.

To serve,  unmold the panna cotta by dipping the mold into hot water, then run a knife around the edge.  Place a serving plate on top, then flip over.  Add a big spoonful of the rhubarb sauce and maybe some whipped cream.