Flowers are not just for decoration in cooking but can add elegance to the most ornate dish. Swati Basu Das take a look at some canny ways to make your food more fragrant.
‘A flower never rushes to bloom’, and that’s what I learned from a rose harvester called Mohammed on a recent visit to the terraced rose gardens at Al Jebel Al Akhdar.
Blooming when they should – flowers (be they roses or any other species) – can appease our senses while dispensing some wonderful aromas.
A blush of fragrant pink petals contouring the high Hajjar not only serves a decorative purpose but also adds elegance to the most exotic dishes.
Be it a cup of sweet-smelling chamomile tea or rose petal infused drinks, floral cuisine is a culinary trend that cannot be ignored.
Robert MacLean, the principal of National Hospitality Institute, says: “Flowers add freshness; with colour bringing a decorative flair to the menu.
“In Oman rose petals are used widely in cuisine. They are muddled to create jam, jellies and other rose-water. Rose petals are added fresh in salads, and their sweet floral flavour makes them perfectly palatable. The rose petals look stunning on top of cakes as well.”
The most popular flower – the rose – doesn’t stand alone in the category of edible flowers. Many specimens are, in fact, edible and have made their way into mainstream cuisine.
Choose only blossoms that you know to be edible and pesticide-free. Remove the stamens if you are prone to allergies and just use the petals.
While some of my own favourites include lavender and chamomile petals, there are a few that can create some magic for your menu:
• Nasturtium – Enjoy this edible variety cooked or raw.
• Hibiscus – Well-known for its culinary and medicinal application, it is usually used for tea, relishes, jams and jellies
• Borage – Slightly sweet flavour, this flower is eaten fresh in salads or as a garnish, added to soup and sauces.
• Purslane – A succulent species, the tiny yellow flowers and the leaves are best served raw in salads and sandwiches
Let the spring bloom in your kitchen with these following recipes:
• A big handful of grapefruit blossom petals
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 4 large egg yolks
• 3 tbsp sugar
• 1/3 cup freshly squeezed white grapefruit juice
• Put the cream and the blossoms into a heavy bottomed sauce pan and stir to combine. Heat on medium stirring occasionally until the mixture just comes to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Cover, put in the refrigerator, and leave overnight, making sure that the flowers are immersed in the cream.
• Strain the cream through a fine mesh sieve. Measure out one-and-a-half cups (you’ll have a bit left over).
• Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a saucepan. Add the strained cream (one-and-a-half cups) and the grapefruit juice.
• Heat on medium, stirring constantly until the mixture just comes to a slight simmer and thickens. Don’t boil.
• Pour the thickened mixture into small glasses or cups. You should have four servings.
• Refrigerate until fully chilled or overnight.
• Garnish with a blossom or a twist of grapefruit zest if you like.
• 1/2 cup room-temperature, best-quality unsalted butter
• Small or torn fresh herb leaves, including milder-flavoured ones (thyme, dill, and flat-leaf parsley) and stronger ones (tarragon, sage, and/or oregano)
• 1 green onion, sliced
• Petals from edible flowers such as anise hyssop, marigolds, pansies, calendulas, nasturtiums, Johnny-jump-ups, and borage
• Flake sea salt
• Cracked coriander seeds, red chili flakes, and poppy seeds (optional)
• Baguettes or crackers
• On a platter or board, smear on butter 0.5cm to 1cm thick, using an offset spatula. Scatter generously with herb leaves. Scatter with sliced green onion, flower petals, salt, and pepper. If you like, add cracked coriander seeds, chili flakes, and poppy seeds. Serve with baguettes.
• 680g of white chocolate, roughly chopped
• 3/4 teaspoons of ground cardamom
• Chopped pistachios
• Edible rose petals
• Edible gold leaf
• Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a very low simmer. Place a bowl over the pot so it sits just above the water. Melt the white chocolate, stirring constantly with a spoon. White chocolate burns very easily so make sure to keep the heat on low. Add the cardamom. When it is mostly melted and there are just a few small lumps remove from the stove and continue to stir until the remaining chocolate is melted.
• Pour the chocolate over a silicon mat or parchment paper and even out the chocolate by tilting the baking tray.
• Sprinkle pistachios and rose petals over the white chocolate. Then using tweezers, place pieces of edible gold leaf on to the chocolate.
• Allow the chocolate to cool entirely in the refrigerator until hard.
• Break off into pieces