As Executive Head Pastry Chef at Ashford Castle, Paula Stakelum is used to working with the finest ingredients available. However, she still has a passion for foraging. As Paula explains, there is something unforgettable about sourcing ingredients straight from the ground—“when you pick something that is at that moment at its very best and the aroma and taste is so specific to where you are, that’s truly special and you can't buy that!”
Fortunately, the Ashford Estate is famous for its foraging and the ingredients that can be found here provide the basis for many of the dishes that Paula creates. At the moment, she is making use of the delicate white blooming elderflower. As the chef herself states, “I always say, you know when it's perfect because you can smell the aroma. The beautiful floral aroma reminds me that summer has arrived. When you smell it, you will see it! And once you see it, you will be drawn to it everywhere you go”
For those wishing to try their hand at foraging elderflower at home, Paula recommends looking “along woodland paths, country lanes and if you’re lucky, at the end of your garden. It is best to pick on sunny days when the aroma it will be at its best. Snip the flowers at the first joint and try to use as soon as possible, to capture the best flavour. Only pick a small amount from each tree, leaving some for berries in the autumn and for the wildlife.”
The chef suggests using your foraged delights to whip up a batch of delicious elderflower lemonade, which can be preserved for months. So, as she explains “on that wet rainy day in August, you can close your eyes, drink your elderflower cordial and you’ll be transported back to that wonderful sunny day in June.” She kindly provides her easy to follow recipe here, as well as a tempting serving suggestion.
Elderflower Lemonade Recipe
20 elderflower heads
1 lemon (sliced)
Place everything in a saucepan and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes. Leave to rest in the fridge for 2 days. Strain the cordial and place in bottles.
For your lemonade: Fill a glass with ice, ¼ cordial and top with ¾ sparkling water. Enjoy!
At Ashford Castle we love to infuse our local “Velvet Cloud” sheep milk with elderflower to create a light dessert to enjoy on a summer evening. Their sheep milk has a natural sweet taste, and with higher protein and fat contents compared with cow’s milk, it captures the aroma best. This may be a dessert that is actually good for you!
For our “Velvet Cloud Sheep milk & Elderflower” you will need...
350g sheep milk
50g caster sugar
350g sheep yoghurt
5 leaf gelatine
1. Soak the gelatine in cold water
2. Place the sheep milk and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently
3. Remove from the heat
4. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatine and all to the milk mixture.
5. Pass through a sieve over the yoghurt and mix to combine well.
6. Pour into a glass and leave to set for 3 hours
7. Serve with fresh Irish strawberries and Lemon Curd
8. Enjoy with Friends!
Sample Paula’s sensational pastry creations when you visit Ashford Castle.
Image Credits: Lead image iStock. Making elderflower lemonade iStock. Jug of elderflower lemonade iStock/. Elderflowers iStock/