I am working on that free recipe book to give away to anyone who buys "The Song of the Cypress". In the meantime I thought I would share with you some of the recipes. Here is one which is just right for this moment of the year as the elderflower (sambuco) bushes are heavy with blossom.

Sambuco Flowers in Batter

When Annie first meets the old lady Fiammetta, healer and guardian of the cypress, who the locals believe to be a kind of white witch, she is picking elderflowers from a hedgerow;
“This evening there was no heavy load for her to carry, just a woven basket filled with damp elderflowers. I picked some of the flowers from higher up on the bush and tucked them into the basket. They had a pleasant, slightly medicinal scent. I wondered what they would be used for.
"Per i conigli?" I asked. For the rabbits?
Fiammetta laughed and shook her head.
"Fiori di sambuco. Da mangiare!" she chuckled, deeply amused that anyone would think of giving elder flowers to rabbits. They were to be eaten, but not by rabbits, she explained. They were good. They were from the plant that gave you its black berries later in the year so that you could make the liqueur, Sambuca. You fried the flowers in batter, sweet or salted, or you made them into omelettes. She laughed again at my bemused expression.”
The following morning Fiammetta leaves Annie a gift of these Sambuco fritters on her doorstep and their unusual friendship begins.

Italians love frying food in a light batter and call it a fritura, which can be of mushrooms, fish, vegetables or flowers. Most commonly used are courgette flowers but I have also eaten beautifully scented Italian acacia flowers. There is a great debate about whether or not an egg should be added to the batter. Adding an egg makes the batter puff up more but my husband says that it also covers the flavour of whatever you are cooking. The quantity here depends on how many flowers you have. If you do not make enough the first time, mix a bit more for a second batch. One thing Italian women are very bad at is following a recipe – they do not need to as they adapt according to what ingredients they have. My mother-in-law’s favourite reply to any request of mine on how much of a certain ingredient was needed was an eloquent shrug, accompanied by a bit of dramatic eye rolling and a caustic “As much as is needed!”

Pick a handful of fresh elderflower heads. Rinse them and wrap them in damp kitchen towel until you are ready to use them. They are best picked and cooked straight away. You can eat them as sweet or savoury treats using a neutral batter and then adding either salt or sugar once they have been fried.

Make a light batter by mixing flour and water until it has the consistency of cream.

Heat sunflower or corn oil in a deep pan until a drop of batter will sizzle immediately in it.

Holding the elderflowers by their stalk, immerse them in the batter until covered then allow the excess to drip off before putting them in the hot oil.

Cook until a pale golden colour then place on kitchen towel to absorb excess oil.

Sprinkle with sugar and eat with fresh fruit such as strawberries or if you prefer a savoury version sprinkle with salt.