With gorse flowers, it's more a case of slow plucking than snappy picking
I have been watching Masterchef. And it shows. So instead of offering a jelly and an ice cream made from gorse flowers, I am going to present Textures of Gorse showcasing, primarily, the scent of this coastal scrubland flower.
Scrubland is probably a bit harsh - but then so are the lethal-looking spikes that protect the bright yellow florettes that you are going to have to pluck carefully - one, painstakingly, at a time - in order to produce an intensely heady flavour to your ice cream that is a flavour unlike anything else I have ever tasted.
A powerful infusion that smells somewhere between coconut and almond on the gorse bush, it was this wafting scent of the flowers – more than their colour or taste – that I had wanted to capture and so the fact that the ice cream is not only deeply fragrant but delicious too proved an unexpectedly joyous bonus!
In true Masterchef-style I served my Textures of Gorse as a Quinelle of Gorse Petal Ice Cream with A Trinity (Three) of Gorse Jelly Cubes and a dark slice of sinful warm and sticky Spiced Date Cake.
My botanist husband took up his dessert spoon with what looked to me like trepidation but after a long and somewhat alarming silence, produced one of those one-word sound bites so beloved of primetime TV: “Showstopper,” he said.
And I agree.
This is Jelly & ice Cream for the Grown Ups who, just like the kids, will definitely want more please!
Textures of Gorse
Harvesting the flowers: With gorse flowers, it's more a case of slow plucking than snappy picking and you will need to be very, very patient. Actually, rush if you like but you will pay the price with lots of nasty spikes and pricks from the thorny spines that give gorse its natural protection from predators (and if you have set out to forage and thus incidentally steal the pollen, this means you!)
If your flowers are going to be on show, as they are in the top of the jelly, then what worked best for me was to carefully pluck the largest petal on each flower whorl and set this aside 'for best.' You can then return to each spiny branch to nip off the remainder of the flowers for the ice cream.
Check, as you pluck, for tiny white maggots with little black heads - very cute but probably not if appearing as a frozen specimen in your pudding dish - and for other roaming insects. Relocate Jain-style to somewhere more suitable than your freezer/fridge.
Gorse Petal Scented Ice Cream
2 medium sized egg yolks
150g caster sugar
200ml double cream
2 generous handfuls of gorse flowers
A pinch of sea salt
Soak your gorse flowers in the milk and leave overnight in the fridge so that coconutty/almondy/not-like-anything-else-really gorse scent and flavour can really infuse the liquid. When you are ready to make your ice cream, beat your eggs yolks with the sugar.
Tip the infused milk and flowers into a saucepan; bring slowly almost to the boil and when hot, add to your bowl of beaten egg yolks and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar granules. Add your pinch of salt and then sieve this mix to remove and discard the now mulched gorse flowers.
If you have an ice cream maker, follow the instructions from now on. If, like me, you work for a charity and so can only dream (#dreamingbig) pour your mix into a freezer proof container (how about an old ice cream carton?) and leave to freeze.
Check the ice cream mix on the hour, every hour and beat it each time you check to prevent crystals from forming. Stop this once it looks - and tastes - like ice cream. My mix took about four hours to properly freeze and worked a treat. The only thing I found hard was resisting the temptation to open the door every five minutes because patience, as it turns out, is not my middle name.
Next time: I plan to use clotted cream instead of double cream and golden caster sugar which I think/hope might change the resultant ice cream from a pale, pale chiffony yellow (very Masterchef) to a more intense lemon colour. But that's the joy of cooking with wild foods, you never know until you try it ...
Gorse Jelly Cubes
1 litre of cold water
2 generous handfuls of gorse flowers (reserve a small pile of the more pristine petals for show)
3 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 sachets/leaves of vegetarian gelatine*
Method: Very Easy!
Make a gorse-flavoured syrup by putting your gorse flowers in a saucepan, along with the water, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously. When all the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and leave the flowers to steep. When cooled, sieve the syrup to remove the flowers.
Return the sieved/cooled syrup to the heat and add two sachets of vegetarian gelatine. Bring slowly to the boil, again, and boil for two minutes.
Take off the heat, allow to cool enough to pour into your mould (I use a loaf tin).
Just before you pour, layer the pristine petals you picked first in the bottom of your mould. These are purely for decoration and will look great when you plate up your Textures of Gorsefinished dish.
When the jelly has set (2-4 hours) slice (or cube) to serve with your gorse ice cream.
Next time: You will need to work out your water to vegetarian gelatine ratio depending on which brand you are using. The starting point is that you use 1 litre of water. I admit I panicked the first time I made this jelly. Finding it hard to judge whether or not the syrup was going to set, I used far too much gelatine which was a shame because it made for a very dense jelly. Next time I will make myself trust the manufacturer's instructions!
Coming next (if the weather holds): Sorrel & Scurvy Grass Pasta Parcels
Susan Clark is the managing editor of Resurgence & Ecologist
Follow her: @suzresurgence