I still remember my mum’s reaction when I called her in early April to let her know that I would be making a crème caramel recipe for my blog and I would require the use of her Wisteria blossoms once they came into flower.
You’re going to do what with my Wisteria??! You do know it’s poisonous, don’t you?
In fact, I’d believed the entirety of the plant was indeed poisonous since my mother had first warned my siblings and me about its effects when we were old enough to understand the term. You see, my mother would take us on long walks in the summer months, aiding us, teaching us to identify different trees and plants – the poisonous and the edible – something that I have come to really value now that I have become an amateur forager. By about 9 years old, I could tell the difference between Queen Anne’s Lace and Hemlock immediately, and knew never to eat Deadly Nightshade or Yew tree berries that may have fallen to the ground. Of course, I am still learning more and more as I venture past harvesting rosehips and wild garlic, as there are still many things to be learnt and many more wild foods to be enjoyed in the culinary kitchen (I am still hoping to attend a mushroom identification workshop one of these days so that I can make use of the abundance of mushrooms around here).
Then, Wisteria became my new found object of interest.
Yes, I know, Yuma. Every part of the Wisteria is poisonous, except the actually blossoms. I want to make a syrup with them. Apparently, people make vinaigrettes and wines from the flowers all the time.
A hesitant silence on the other end of the line.
Apparently, it’s very delicious and floral, I insisted.
Ok, but you better make something nice with them.
As the story goes, the Wisteria blossoms used in this recipe were picked in the name of unconditional love, as my mother had to climb a ladder to collect them, which kept swaying in the wind with no one but Lucy, our little ray of sunshine, to keep the ladder in check. According to my mother, it could very well have cost her her life. Thank you, Yuma!
Wisteria Blossom Syrup
Cooking time: 30 minutes + 2 days infusion time
Makes: approximately 500ml
**Word of caution: almost every single part of the Wisteria – leaves, bark, roots, seed pods – is poisonous and therefore inedible. However, its blossoms are the only part of the plant that are edible. Harvest at your own discretion.**
Wisteria syrup is wonderful in a cordial, in cocktails, in ice-cream or sorbets, in frostings or even over fresh fruits. The taste is as perfumed and arcane as the scent: intoxicatingly mysterious and floral. A little goes a long way.
200g granulated sugar
50g Wisteria blossoms, cleaned and stems removed
1-2tsp lemon juice
Ensure that the Wisteria blossoms are cleaned and are removed of their stems. Set aside. In a saucepan, heat the sugar and water together until boiling, stirring occasionally. Allow to boil for 5 minutes before removing from the heat and allowing to cool enough that you are able to place your fingers into the syrup and it feels tepid to the touch. Add the lemon juice and stir.
Place the Wisteria blossoms into the syrup, stirring with a wooden spoon ensure they are all coated before allowing to infuse for 24-48 hours in a sealed jar, or until desired flavour intensity is reached. Stir occasionally.
Squeeze the flowers and get as much liquid back into the syrup as possible when removing before discarding the blossoms. Place in a sterilised, sealable glass jar and keep in the refrigerator until needed. Use within 2 weeks.
Orange Peel Powder
Cooking time: 1+ hours
Makes: 10 teaspoons
1 navel orange, peel only
Preheat the oven to 70ºC (50ºC fan-assisted) 160ºF, or on the lowest oven setting. Place the peel on a baking tray and dehydrate in the oven for 1 hour or until just dry (this may take longer when the heat is lower). Remove from the oven and grind until a fine powder in a coffee grinder. Place in a sealable jar till needed. Use within 1 week.
Cooking time: 1 1/4 hours plus overnight
makes: enough for 6 x 150ml ramekins
Floral and citrusy? They taste moorish and heavenly. It should be noted that Wisteria syrup does not take to heat very well and therefore is not really suitable to be used in desserts or foods that require high heat for long periods of time (like these crème caramels, however, I have heard they work beautifully in pancakes as these don’t require along period of time of cooking). If you still want to use the Wisteria syrup here instead of the simple syrup used to make the caramel, then feel free to heat 300ml of the Wisteria syrup until golden brown instead (you will still taste a fleeting hint of floral notes). Do still pour a little over the top of the caramels when ready to serve for a more floral flavour.
200g caster sugar
50ml wisteria syrup (or more as desired)
7-8tsp orange peel
1/4tsp vanilla bean paste
125g vanilla sugar
1/4tsp fine salt
2tbsp navel orange juice (or any variety at hand)
400ml heavy cream
200ml whole milk
Preheat the oven to 160ºC (140ºC fan-assisted) 325ºF. Place 6 ramekins into a large roasting tin. Set aside.
Pour the water and the caster sugar into a saucepan and over a medium heat, reduce the syrup until golden brown (this will take approximately 10 minutes). Take off the heat immediately distribute the caramel into the ramekins evenly, ensuring that the bottoms are well coated.
In a saucepan, allow the milk to come to a boil and allow to cool for 10 minutes before adding the salt, vanilla bean paste, orange juice, orange peel and heavy cream. Next, make the custard by whisking eggs and vanilla sugar together. Slowly and carefully (whilst continuously whisking), add small amount of the milk mixture to the eggs, whisking until all the ingredients are incorporated. Pour an equal amount of the custard into each ramekin (Note: if you want a smoother custard, pour through a sieve before each ramekin).
Boil a kettle and pour the hot water into the roasting tray until the water comes halfway up the ramekins and bake for 20-25 minutes and until the centre is only slight wobbly. Remove from the roasting tin and allow to come to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator overnight (or for up to 2 days).
When ready to serve, using a sharp, thin knife or a palette knife cut around the edge of the custard and place a plate on top and turn upside down (i.e the bottom of the ramekin is facing upwards). Raise the ramekin and the custard should slide right out. Else give the ramekin a gentle jerk to encourage its release. Allow the caramel to pour over the crème caramel from the ramekin.
Pour the Wisteria syrup over the dessert and serve immediately.
Thank you for reading.