If it was an insect it would be a bumble bee. If it was a sound it would be a big brass band. If it was a colour it would be the sunshine yellow of sand buckets on the beach. And if it was a game it would be tennis, played on a grass court in the shimmer of high summer.
What am I talking about? Gorse, of course.
And what if it was a food – what would gorse be?
Well, it might be a lollipop on a stick. Or a cool clean granita to cleanse a palate between courses. It could definitely be an ice-cream, maybe one made with coconut cream and textured with grated coconut flesh. And it would be the most perfect panna cotta, trembling fragrantly on a simple white plate with a garnish of some intense fruits – a blood orange and chilli syrup perhaps, or a little reduction of macerated peppered strawberries – and served at the end of an early summer’s meal or even a late Easter feast.
Though I’m plucking those garnishes out of my greedy imagination, I know that gorse makes the perfect panna cotta because I had the pleasure of making and devouring a gorse blossom panna cotta under the gentle guidance of the lovely Liz Moore up in Belle Isle Cookery School a couple of summers ago. I have of course long since mislaid the folderful of brilliantly usable recipes we left the blessed Co Fermanagh island armed with, but I’ve never forgotten the awe induced by the revelation that that most evocative smell of all my childhood summers could be encapsulated in one wobbly dessert – by simply infusing the bright blossom of gorse in some simmering cream which, once cooled and strained, can be magicked into a wobbly dream of a creamy sweet.
Now, I’ve been thinking about this panna cotta all week, having started blogging about my gorse and wild garlic scented ramblings on Howth Head last week (you can read Part I here and Part II here if you missed them). One reader mentioned that she had the pleasure of relishing some gorse ice-cream in Co Wexford’s Monart in recent weeks, and I know that the clever Jessica Murphy (ex-Bar Eight and Ard Bia, and recent FOOD&WINE Magazine Best Connaught Chef 2010) is planning on serving said gorse ice-cream on the menu at her soon-to-open Kai Cafe & Restaurant in Galway city.
But it was only when chatting to the inspiring not to mention thoroughly likeable couple behind Gleann Gabhra Farm in Tara, Co Meath that I thought of a goat’s yoghurt and gorse panna cotta. The goat’s yoghurt was their idea, the gorse addition was mine (by way of Belle Isle in Co Fermanagh). Now, because I’m still sort of making this all up out of my head, and because I don’t yet have a plastic bag full of wild gorse blossom to experiment on, this is mere supposition and conjecture at this point in time. But I’m thinking that the coming bank holiday and said late Easter feast might be just the time to experiment, so I’m gonna go forth and forage, and boil me some cream, and infuse it with the sunburst blossoms, and mix it with the tangy goat’s milk yoghurt waiting in my fridge, and then sweeten and cool and strain and set with gelatine. And I’m going to get back to you on the results.
If you get there before me, let me know how it works out for you?
In the meantime, for those of you who can’t bear to be left without a tangible recipe at your disposal, let me send you on your way with the following link to a delicious sounding gorse cordial that would make a lovely summer cooler mixed with iced mineral water (read the link here) and another one for gorse flower wine (read that link here). Now, the next challenge would be to dream up a high summer gorse-inspired cocktail. Having experienced the unlikely but considerable charms of Malibu and grapefruit on a hot summer’s day, there could be something in the combination of grapefruit, gorse syrup and white rum perhaps? But that’s another day’s thirsty work, as they say.
P.S. My sources (ie readers) have revealed the following hot spots for picking wild garlic:
1. MC says “The best wild garlic I found was in Powerscourt, go up to and beyond the house continue towards the back gate and the wooded area left and right is a pillow of wild herbs…”
2. Stef says “There is a TON of wild garlic outside the American ambassador’s residence in the Phoenix Park if you need to stock up.”
3. And my Ma says that the Mount Usher gardens are full of the stuff.
Go sniff it out!