My first day working at Catalonian countryside restaurant Els Casals was an experience I won’t forget any time soon. After introductions, a few small prep jobs and the awkward realization that kitchen banter would not be in Spanish but Catalan, which I can’t speak one word of, the head chef, Oriol, took me on a mid-service excursion to pick elderflowers.
We were using some fresh elderflowers to garnish a salad when I casually asked him where he picked it. Like I’d pulled some sort of trigger, he went off like a gun, ranting how important elderflower was to him and the area, stories of picking it as a kid, all the while cooking on the pans for lunch service! Realising that his tale alone wasn’t convincing enough, he handballed the pans to his sous chef, asked me to follow him out of the kitchen and jump in his 4WD. We drove for a couple of kilometres up the road. Elderflower was everywhere up there and we were right in season.
I’ve seen elderflower used as a salad garnish, in a sauce, in a cordial, or in booze (a lot of people would have seen this one). But the recipe I’m sharing is much simpler and is a classic way for Catalans to enjoy elderflower when in season, summer.
"After introductions, a few small prep jobs and the awkward realization that kitchen banter would not be in Spanish but Catalan, which I can’t speak one word of..."
When Oriol was a child, he told me they would use the elderflower to make a refreshing drink for the kids to enjoy and although it’s barely a recipe, I really wanted to share it.
When you pick your elderflower, make sure all the flowers are open as the flavour really lies in the pollen. Also try not to pick them after rain as the pollen (along with the flavour) will have washed away. Be careful of stinging nettles when picking, they are good mates with elder trees.
Scott is a Melbourne-born and now Sydney-based chef at acclaimed Spanish restaurant MoVida Sydney, where he's currently sous chef. When he's not perfecting tapas behind the pass, he's turning shoulders of lamb on a spit in the backyard, or cooking six different Indian curries for a feast with a... Read Full Bio