Impossibly sweet, the pale cream and gold trumpets of honeysuckle produce an intoxicating perfume. Scenting the air on a sultry summer evening, I had the urge to capture and savour its fragrance. Close to where I work it grows wild, rambling its way through an unlikely course, most of it frustratingly out of reach.
I'd actually set out to make honeysuckle jelly; a conserve or preserve of golden summer days. Something I might bottle and fetch from the back of the cupboard in deepest, darkest, winter, slathered joyously on hot buttered toast. It's surprising just how many flowers you need for a jelly and, on this occasion, I only managed to snaffle two handfuls of blossoms. Not enough to make preserve, but enough to make a scented sugar.
2 Handfuls of Honeysuckle Blossoms
400g Caster Sugar
In an airtight container layer caster sugar and honeysuckle blossom -starting and ending with a layer of sugar. Leave for a week in a cool, dark place, shaking and mixing on alternate days. Sieve out the blossoms and store in a cool dark place. As I used most of the sugar immediately, I rather lazily did not sieve the flowers out for these recipes.
Whilst you work, how about some Honeysuckle Fizz?
Incredibly simple, perfumed and refreshing. Put half a teaspoon of honeysuckle sugar into the bottom of a glass, top up with chilled prosecco, cava or any fizz of your choice. Now then, where were we?
Honeysuckle and White Wine Jelly
Golden, sweet and fragrant; to let the honeysuckle sing, I find it is better to use a dry white wine in this recipe.
500ml dry white wine
3-4 leaves gelatine
4 heaped tbsp. honeysuckle sugar
Pour the wine into a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down a little, but allow to bubble away for 10 minutes to reduce the acidity and alcohol content. Place the gelatine leaves into a bowl of cold water and soak for 5 minutes. For jelly with a salacious quiver, use 3 leaves; if you prefer something a little more pert, use 4. Add the sugar to the wine, let it dissolve and remove immediately from the heat. Remove the gelatine from the bowl, squeeze out any excess water and add to the wine and sugar mix. Stir, allow to dissolve and then strain and pour into a mould. Allow to cool, before transferring to the fridge to set. To unmould, place into hot water for up to 1 minute and turn out onto a serving plate or dish.
Ricotta and Black Pepper Ice Cream
Simple, fresh, with a slightly grainy texture; the black pepper adds a warm and woody note to this ice cream. Makes more than you need -so perhaps try it with strawberry salad or lemon curd too.
300ml Double cream
3 heaped tbsp Caster sugar (if you prefer a sweeter ice cream 5-6 may suit your palate)
A handful of black peppercorns
Pour the cream into a saucepan and on a medium heat, warm until bubbles appear. Add the sugar, allow to dissolve, then turn the heat down further and add the handful of black peppercorns. Keep on a low heat for 5 minutes, remove and allow to cool down and steep overnight.
Place the ricotta into a bowl. Skim out the peppercorns from the cream and, pour over the ricotta. Mash and mix until smooth and either transfer to a container to freeze or place into an ice cream maker. Beat periodically whilst the mixture freezes. If you would like a little pep, grind some black pepper into the mixture when it has thickened a little.
Light, woody and peppery, this ricotta ice complements the sweet and perfumed honeysuckle and white wine jelly without overpowering. Jelly and ice cream -why should kids have all the fun?
Wild honeysuckle is still just about in bloom in the Southwest -find it rambling in unexpected places. If you use garden honeysuckle, remember, only cook with flowers from plants that have not been sprayed with pesticides. For a little taste of sunshine, this is definitely the recipe.