I’ve made no secret of my love of elderflower. There’s a recipe in the cookbook, and also in my Guardian Cook residency column on bringing the outdoors in. But, I’ve just found a new ingredient that is currently rivaling my affections for elderflower – Meadowsweet (also known as mead wort)! Also a native wildflower and herb, it’s a part of the Rosaceae (rose) family and grows in damp meadows. Which means it’s everywhere in the marshes at the moment.
The gorgeous little creamy, frothy flowers and green leaves are incredibly fragrant – the smell reminds me of a warm summer’s walk, and the flavour they impart when infused in cordials and creams is sweet and floral, with hints of almond. This means it works beautifully well in ice creams, creams, cordials and jams.
I came up with this recipe for cherry and meadowsweet ice cream because I’m a big believer that what grows together goes together – and wild cherries have been covering the trees all over Hackney for weeks. When I make this again I’m going to play with making the cherries into a coulis to ripple through the ice cream, but I also like it like this with the refreshing frozen fruit running through it.
Make sure you don’t wash the meadowsweet or you’ll wash away all the fragrant, flavour-giving pollen, and in the same vein, don’t pick it just after it’s rained. Also remember to keep some extra flowers back to scatter over the ice cream for garnish. They really are beautiful.
200g cherries, pitted and sliced
10 heads of flowering meadowsweet, plus extra flowers for garnish
300ml double cream
300ml whole milk
100g golden caster sugar
3 large free range egg yolks
- Put the cream, milk, half the sugar and meadowsweet heads in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir gently until the mixture just reaches boiling point and there are little bubbles popping to the surface. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for half an hour.
- In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with half the sugar until frothy and pale and ribbon thick. Strain the infused cream through a muslin or clean tea towel. Return to the pan and bring up to the boil. Drop a teaspoon of the egg yolk and sugar mixture into the hot cream and whisk it in to temper it. Then pour the hot milk and cream mixture in a steady stream into the egg mix, whisking continuously.
- Wash and dry the saucepan. Return the mixture to the pan and heat over a low– medium heat, for 3–4 minutes, until it is very hot but not boiling, and the mixture begins to thicken. It should coat the back of a wooden spoon or spatula, and leave a clear trail behind when you swipe your finger across it.
- Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then chill for 2 hours, or preferably overnight.
- Pour the custard and cherries into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions for 45–50 minutes. If not eating immediately, remove the paddle, transfer the ice cream to a Tupperware container or tray, cover and freeze.