Lilacs, I was told a few years ago in gardening class, have so little wildlife value they might as well be made of plastic. Since I love lilacs, especially the Dwarf Korean lilac with its knockout scent, this was bad news. Ever since, I have eyed the lilacs around our house with a mix of doubt – whenever I spot bees swarming around a lilac bush, I am telling myself it cannot be that bad – and a bit of guilt, because every year I transplant lilac shoots and rejoice about them taking off so easily and growing fast with so little maintenance.
To put my scruples to rest, I am telling myself that we encourage a lot of wildlife on our property by providing shelter, food and a pesticide-free and insecticide-free environment. So the dozen or so lilac bushes really don’t matter.
Earlier this week, my favorite magazine arrived in the mail from Germany: Landlust, a stunningly beautiful yet very hands-on magazine about rural living, which The Economist described very aptly in a June 2011 article as the Germans’ “nostalgie de la boue”.
The latest issue had a recipe for lilac-infused ice-cream in it. I had no idea lilac blossoms were edible. After a bit of poking around on the Internet to make sure that lilac blossoms are indeed edible (not that I don’t trust the magazine editors) I decided to concoct my own recipe, a modification of the Honey Parfait from my cookbook Spoonfuls of Germany. I felt the airy consistency of parfait, which is made without an ice-cream maker, is a better match for the ethereal lilac aroma than a heavy, custard-based ice cream.
Now that I am on an edible flower roll, lilac syrup is next. The blossoms are steeping as I write this. It should be ready in about five days.
Lilac Honey Parfait
1 cup freshly picked lilac blossoms
1 cup heavy cream
3 large, very fresh eggs, separated
½ cup golden honey
Pinch of salt
1. Wash the lilac blossoms in cold water to remove any dust and insects. Drain in a colander and shake to remove excess water. Spread on a piece of paper towel, gather the edges and gently shake to dry even more. Place blossoms in a small bowl. Pour the heavy cream over the blossoms and push them down so they are fully immersed in the cream. Cover with plastic foil and refrigerate for 24 hours.
2. Strain the cream through a fine sieve. Push down the blossoms so extract as much cream from the blossoms as possible. Set the blossoms aside. Whip until if forms soft peaks. Refrigerate.
3. Beat the eggs whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Refrigerate.
4. Put the egg yolks and the honey in a double boiler or a metal bowl place over a pot of gently boiling water. Whisk until the mix becomes thick and very foamy. At the end, add the blossoms and stir for another 1 to 2 minutes. Strain through the sieve and again squeeze down on the blossoms until no more liquid comes out.
5. Place the bowl over a bowl of ice water and continue stirring until cooled.
6. Fold the cream and the egg whites into the egg yolk mix. Pour the parfait in a pre-chilled container and freeze for at least 4 hours, or until firm.
Makes 6 servings