I never once encountered Elderflower in Japan so it was a delight to be reacquainted with these beautiful frothy heads of pollen and pretty little blooms. I recently made some elderflower syrup, with only Rapadura sugar to hand the resulting syrup is earthy brown in colour and not as delicate as it could be. My kids weren’t too impressed, so I began to think of alternative ways to use it.
This is a twist on my favourite lemon drizzle adding summer raspberries and using elderflower syrup on top. It’s what I call a ‘saucepan cake’. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar first (which requires you to be organised enough to take the butter out of the fridge in advance) the butter is melted with the sugar in a pan. I then use the same pan to mix the other ingredients (I even stick it on the electric scales to weigh the flour) meaning just the pan and baking tin to wash up at the end.
My children were much more impressed with this.
- 200g butter
- 180g sugar (I use Rapadura)
- 200g self-raising flour (or plain spelt with baking powder)
- Zest of one lemon
- 3 large eggs
- 1 punnet raspberries
- 3 – 4 tbs elderflower syrup
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Melt the butter and sugar in a pan over a gentle heat
- Take off the heat to cool slightly
- Add the lemon zest and one tbs of elderflower syrup, crack in the eggs and beat well
- Add the flour and mix to make smooth batter
- Break the raspberries into smaller pieces
- Pour a third of the cake mixture into a prepared loaf tin
- Sprinkle over some raspberries pieces, repeat and finished with raspberries on top (they mostly sink but some might remain)
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean
- While still warm prick all over with a skewer or fork and spoon over the remaining elderflower syrup
- Leave to cool in the tin
The heat of August is intense, except the wonderful first hour after daybreak. But kayabuki, the traditional thatched house comes into its own, remaining cool and dark under its dense, heavy roof.
Produce strung from bamboo poles hang from the kura to dry. School children play in the river and catch insects during their long summer break. It’s a slow, lazy month as it’s just too hot…
This completes my year of life and the seasons in Kanbayashi, north Kyoto Prefecture. Compiling these images each month has made me notice and experience more and has been a very special experience.
I really do miss this landscape.
After the monsoon rains the humidity and heat soars, the cicadas shrill during the day while the frogs chorus through the night. Dragonflies dart through the rice fields which have grown tall and green.
Summer evenings are filled with festivals: spectacular fireworks or thousands of lanterns floating down the river. Here in Kanbayashi shrines and temples hold smaller festivals with local food and taiko drumming. Children don their yukatta, summer kimono, and light fireworks.
The 7th day of the 7th month is Tanabata in Japan. The one night in the year that the two lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshsi, separated by the milky way are permitted to meet. People mark the day by writing wishes on colourful paper, tanzaku. When in Japan, my two daughters spent the days leading up to Tanabata making paper decorations and writing wishes to hang on bamboo.
On that night we would have star themed meals, star carrots in chirashi-zushi (scattered sushi) or last year the farm shop in Ayabe Tokusankan was selling star and heart shaped cucumbers! We created a huge salad with a grated carrot milky way, and lots of cucumber stars.
This year being back in the UK, I didn’t have the usual reminder of hanging tanzaku leading up to the entrance of the kindergarten. It was my daughter who happen to ask the day before “wasn’t Tanabata coming up soon?”.
We are still not back in our house nor unpacked our belongings so we had a make-do celebration that evening. When she came home from school we wrote down our wishes and she strung them up on a nearby tree. We had chirashi-zushi for supper, unfortunately without any stars or hearts, but still a Japanese meal to mark the day.
The beginning of June is magical with (the difficult to catch on camera) fireflies twinkling during the warm nights. Sansho pods and ume plums are ready for pickling. Then tsuyu or the rainy season begins, and the rice fields turn a lush green.