Magnificent Magnolias

There is nothing more amazing than discovering something new. Every year, I come across a wild (or in this case…not so wild) plant that I have always just walked past. And suddenly I find out that I can eat it! Last year, my obsession was June Berries (also known as Saskatoons – the fruit of Amelanchier shrubs). I turned it into jam, into clafoutis, into compotes…you name it…I tried it! And this year it is Magnolia. The flowers of this magnificent shrub come in all sorts of sizes and hues of pink. It may have given its name to that most bland of paint colours, but the flavour of Magnolia is anything but.

They have a texture like a really amazing salad leaf or a thinly sliced cucumber. And the flavour! It’s roses and ylang ylang with a hint of spice and a fantastically heady fragrance. You can use it in sweet dishes (like the sorbet recipe below or the cordial that is currently undergoing amazing alchemy in my kitchen), or in savoury (shred it and put it into stir fries, or in salads…). Even if you don’t have the time to necessarily make something with them, find yourself a bush and try a petal before they all fall off. I can guarantee it will surprise you!

In this week’s episode of Basket Case, I have used the blossom to make a sublime sorbet. The flavour of it is unlike anything I have ever tasted so I hope that you will give it a go! The season for this gorgeous blossom is coming to an end so if you would like to try this recipe, don’t leave it too long! Why not take advantage of the fact that it’s a bank holiday weekend and (in Leeds at least) the weather forecast looks good, and go out and pick yourself some blossoms and make this sorbet. If you don’t have an ice cream machine, the instructions on how to make this are below the recipe.

I hope you enjoy the video!



Magnolia Blossom Sorbet


175g Magnolia Flower Petals
350g Sugar
700ml Water
1 tbsp Liquid Glycerine
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 3 lemons

Strip your flower petals off the stalks and weigh them. Using a pair of scissors, chop them up so they are roughly the size of a rose petal and set aside.

Take a heavy bottomed pot with a lid and add your sugar, water, lemon zest and juice. Stir over a low heat until melted. Simmer very gently for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat up and boil vigorously for 1 minute then turn the heat off. Allow the syrup to cool slightly or it will burn your blossom when it goes in. After about 1 minute, add in your flower petals and liquid glycerine and stir to combine before covering your pot and leaving it to infuse for at least 8 hours. Once the pot has cooled, you should put it in the fridge to cool the mixture down completely so it churns more effectively.

Once your mixture has cooled completely, strain it through a muslin to obtain your flower syrup. Don’t throw away the spent petals! Set them aside and read the notes below. Switch on your ice cream machine and slowly pour in the syrup before churning until it freezes and looks like soft sorbet. Transfer the sorbet into a freezer container that you have already frozen and freeze for at least two hours before serving.

To make sorbet using a food processor: Freeze your syrup solid. Remove from the freezer, break it into chunks and put it in your food processor. Blend till smooth and return to freezer. Once it’s frozen back up again, remove and repeat. You need to work fast so that it doesn’t melt too much while in the processor or you’ll be at it forever! Return it to the freezer one last time to harden up again before serving.

To make it using a fork: Mix the sorbet regularly with a fork as it freezes. You don’t need an ice cream maker to make sorbet, but the texture of the finished sorbet will not be as smooth without one.

Notes: The spent flowers have effectively been candied. Spread them out on a non-stick baking sheet and put in a dehydrator (or oven on the lowest temperature with the door propped open with a wooden spoon to let the heat escape) until they are dry but still tacky. Remove them from the sheet and put them straight onto the perforated dehdrator trays upside down. At this point, I put them back in the dehydrator but didn’t bother switching it back on. A couple of days later when I got round to checking on them, they were completely dry. They taste amazing and have a chewy texture like fruit pastilles. I’m planning on rolling mine into little balls and dipping them in chocolate. I can’t wait!