With their unique flavours, textures and colours, edible flowers are bang on trend and popular as a creative and innovative ingredient in the culinary world, says Alison Dodd of Yorkshire-based specialist grower Herbs Unlimited.
Edible flowers have been used in cooking for thousands of years. Both the Chinese and the Romans valued them, with the latter using pinks, violets and roses in dishes and lavender in sauces. Currently on the best fine dining restaurant tables throughout the world for the elegance and spectacular ‘prettiness’ they bring to any dish, edible flowers can be so much more than a garnish. Not only are they good to look at – they are good to eat, providing colour but texture, intriguing flavours and aroma too.
Highly versatile, edible flowers can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes and to add the finishing touches to cocktails. Perhaps though, where they shine most is in cakes and desserts, adding a real wow-factor and the finessing touch to any menu. Try them in everything from cakes to whipped cream to pancakes and on cheeseboards. Edible flowers can also be used to dramatic effect for decorating naked cakes and desserts.
At Herbs Unlimited its edible flower range includes nasturtiums, marigolds, borage, tagetes, dianthus, stocks, violas, cornflowers and blackcurrant.
Different flowers bring different qualities to the finished dish. They range in look and taste, from sweet to bitter to tart but it’s important to note that not all flowers are meant to be consumed. By buying from specialist suppliers, like Herbs Unlimited, you are guaranteed food quality produce that is safe to eat.
Below are just a few of the recipes supplied by award-winning chef consultant, Stephanie Moon, of All Things Food, to inspire couples to use edible flowers to brighten up their pudding plates on their big day…
Lemon Verbena Flambé Peaches (serves four)
Split four peaches and remove the stones. Place the peach halves onto a tray ready to flambé. Then heat four tablespoons of golden caster sugar in a pan until it forms a caramel. Place the peaches inside the pan and add Grand Marnier to ignite with a flame and allow the peaches to infuse with the two stems of verbena. Garnish with edible flowers taking care to remove some of the stems as you serve them.
Strawberry Cinnamon Basil Jelly with Cornflower Chocolate Coral
To make approximately six of the jellies you will need:
Six sprigs of cinnamon mint
480 ml clear strawberry juice
18 ripe strawberries
Caster sugar to taste
One sachet of gelatine
Simply boil four tablespoons of the strawberry juice and once boiling remove off the heat and add the sachet of gelatine and allow to dissolve and stir as necessary. Once dissolved add the rest of the liquid and finely shred the cinnamon mint leaves and add to the juice. Taste and add caster sugar if necessary. Pour over the hulled sliced strawberries and add some edible flowers inside the jelly. Now place in the fridge to set. Once set garnish with a corn flower and serve.
Strawberries and Peach Plate
You will need – Peach panna cotta, marinated strawberries, ice cream, lemon verbena peach flambé, strawberry elderflower jelly, fresh basil puree and strawberry confetti and strawberry jelly.
One pint of braised strawberry juice (you will need to warm 2 punnets of washed hulled strawberries). Place the strawberries onto a tray cover with 1 tablespoon of caster sugar and warm in an oven at 170°c for 5 mins with a tin foil cover over the strawberries. Once the juice has come out of the strawberries (this can take longer depending on the size and softness of the berries), pour this liquid through a sieve and gently squeeze the strawberries to release any excess liquid.
Set the body of the strawberries to one side to make into puree later. Using the juice add two caps of elderflower cordial and top this up to one pint with water. To set the jelly – soak six leaves of gelatine in cold water (this is home style gelatine not the catering type which is much stronger). Once softened and the gelatine has” bloomed.” Remove a ladle of strawberry elderflower juice and heat it with the gelatine until it has melted then add the rest of the juice and mix well then set into moulds. We are using dome shape moulds you can purchase these on line or from Lakeland Plastics or other companies. Place the moulds on a tray and top up with the gelatine juice and allow to set. Simply place under a hot tap to pop out the moulds and serve the jelly.
You will need – 100g strawberry pieces chopped up. 100ml water and 100g caster sugar.
Bring all ingredients to the boil, when ready, sieve gently taking care not to cloud the strawberry syrup and serve with the hulled washed strawberries removed and the liquid cooked until think and sticky.
You will need – four leaves of lemon verbena, four peaches, 150g caster sugar, 60g whole butter, one shot of Amber Liqueur or Brandy.
Remove the stones from the peaches and cut into wedges. Melt 150g caster sugar in a frying pan. Add the Peach pieces. Next add 60g whole butter. Next add one shot of Amber Liqueur and ignite. Once the liqueur has burnt out add the lemon verbena leaves. Allow to infuse slightly then pour this onto a tray to cool.
Peach Panna Cotta
You will need – Three gelatine leaves, 250ml milk, 250ml double cream, one vanilla pod split, 20g caster sugar, one peach peeled and finely chopped.
Place the gelatine in cold water to soak until it has “bloomed” or softened. Place the milk cream and sugar and split the vanilla pod removing the seeds and add into the pan and bring to the boil. Add the gelatine and once melted place in a bowl to cool. Now once cool place into the fridge and begin to set in a bowl. Stirring regularly until the panna cotta goes like a vanillary scrambled mess. Now add the chopped peaches and allow to set into the moulds or ramekin dishes. The reason we do this is so that the chopped peaches and the vanilla pod seeds are evenly dispersed throughout the panna cotta.
You will need – Dehydrated strawberries – these can be made using a dehydrator or purchasing as a ready-made product and ice cream. We are using a white chocolate and meringue ice cream but other delicate ice creams will do.
To bring the dish together, simply serve the ball of ice cream on the plate and wedge into place with the panna cotta and some strawberry confetti. Now add the three spheres of Strawberry elderflower jelly and the extra meringue and strawberry syrup and if available some edible flowers and fresh mint sprigs. Serve to the delight of your guests.
For more information visit www.herbsunlimited.co.uk