Flowers lend a delicacy to cooking. Many flowers are appearing on restaurant menus, as more than a pretty garnish. You can buy punnets of edible flowers from select greengrocers and markets. Some of the flowers in your garden may also be edible, especially the flowers of culinary herbs and vegetables. The flavour of their flowers is often similar, but more subtle. If using the flowers, scatter over before serving, to add another layer of flavour to the dish.
Violets, nasturtiums, lavender and rose petals are commonly used in cooking. Ensure that any flowers to be eaten haven’t been subjected to spraying with pesticides and trim off the bitter white ends of the petals.
Flowers can also be used to make flavoured waters. Orange blossom water and rose water are used extensively in cooking. You can buy these beautiful looking bottles from select supermarkets, specialist food shops and delicatessens. The flavour is intense, so only a small amount is required. Look to Middle Eastern and Indian cook books for recipes using these fragrant waters.
Don’t forget that several of your spices are actually from flowers too. Saffron is the stigma from the flower of the saffron crocus. And capers are buds from the caper bush. Cloves are dried flower buds too. So you have probably been using flowers in your cooking already.
There’s no denying that adding flowers to a dish makes it instantly more appealing.
This recipe is based on a delicious pumpkin tart that I tried at Heronswood’s Fork to Fork café, in Dromana on the Mornington Peninsula. I have made it in a rectangular tin, but you could easily use a more traditional round tin. The quantity of pastry makes enough for 2 tarts this size, so freeze half and you will have pastry ready for another use.
½ onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
few sprigs rosemary
pinch saffron threads
50g fine semolina
sea salt and white pepper to season
2 tbsp pine nuts
200g chilled butter chopped
250g plain flour
125ml sour cream
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 200C.
Place pumpkin in oven and roast for 30 minutes, until tender.
To make the sour cream pastry, place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a dough forms. Remove, form into a ball and flatten slightly. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Remove pumpkin from oven and allow to cool, then scrape out seeds and discard. Use a large spoon to scrape out the flesh and place in a large bowl. Roughly mash to break up any large pieces.
Melt butter and cook onions, garlic and rosemary until softened and fragrant.
Place saffron threads in a small pan and cook over high heat for a few minutes until fragrant. Add saffron to onion mix. Remove from heat and mix with pumpkin. Add semolina and stir to combine. Puree with stick blender for a smooth consistency, or leave chunky for a more rustic style.
Mix in eggs, one at a time. Season well with salt and pepper then set aside.
Divide pastry dough in half (wrap up the other half, freeze and reserve for another use). Roll out sour dough pastry to 5mm thickness, to cover the base and sides of an 11cm x 34cm rectangular tart tin. Place in dish and trim around the edge with the back of a sharp knife. Patch any tears and holes with the pastry off cuts. Prick base of pastry lightly with a fork.
Cover base with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or rice. Blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and remove paper and pastry weights.
Place pumpkin filling into pie base and smooth the top. Sprinkle over parmesan cheese and pine nuts.
Bake for 40 minutes until golden and set.
Remove from oven and cool on wire rack before serving.
Orange blossom, pear and walnut salad
3 ripe pears
2 ½ tbsp honey
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 tbsp orange blossom water
2 tbsp verjuice
3 tbsp walnut oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to season
½ cup pickled onions
2 cups mixed lettuce leaves
handful fresh edible flowers
Peel and quarter pears, then remove the core.
Heat honey in frypan with cardamom, orange blossom water and verjuice.
Toss pears in mixture, then cook over low heat until soft and slightly caramelised.
Whisk walnut oil and vinegar to make a simple dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large serving bowl, mix lettuce and pickled onions with salad dressing. Add pears and walnuts. Scatter over edible flowers and serve.
Raspberry and Rosewater Pannacotta
2 cups (500ml) thickened cream
1 leaf rose geranium (optional)
5 tbsp caster sugar
one and a half leaves gelatine (Alba gold strength)
200g raspberries, plus extra for serving
2 tsp rosewater
pink rose petals to serve
Heat the thickened cream and milk in a small saucepan with rose geranium.
Remove from heat and allow the delicate flavour to infuse for 1-2 hours.
Strain mixture through a sieve and return to the heat to warm gently. Add sugar.
Soak gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes to soften. Squeeze to remove excess water. Add gelatine to cream mixture and stir to dissolve.
Blitz raspberries in food processor. Add rosewater, then pour through a fine sieve to remove raspberry seeds. Pour raspberry puree into cream mixture and stir gently.
Pour into small dariole moulds.
Refrigerate overnight or until set.
To unmould, dip the moulds in a bowl of hot water briefly, then turn upside down onto small serving plates and shake gently to release the panna cotta.
Serve with rose petals and extra raspberries to garnish.