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Edible flowers

Edible flowers

by MARLENE VAN DER WALT

Edible flowers have been used in food for thousands of years, and many cultures still include flowers in their traditional dishes. Geraniums, roses and violets formed part of Roman cuisine centuries ago, while the Chinese and Greeks used day lilies and chrysanthemums in food. A recipe book dating back to 140 BC, includes a list of herbs essential in daily use: borage, chrysanthemums and violets in soup, violets added to sauce and carnations in drinks.

Edible flowers are by no means a modern trend and although not usually part of the family diet, they are becoming increasingly popular in the preparation and garnishing of dishes.

Dishes garnished with edible flowers have added visual appeal and lend flair to an event. Eating the flowers may even boost your health, because the flowers of plants with medicinal properties give the same benefits as the plants themselves.Dishes garnished with edible flowers have added visual appeal and lend flair to an event. Eating the flowers may even boost your health, because the flowers of plants with medicinal properties give the same benefits as the plants themselves

WHEN ADDING FLOWERS TO YOUR CUISINE, BE SURE TO  CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
• Make doubly sure that the flowers aren’t poisonous.  There are many websites identifying edible flowers.  Try www.gardendrum.com and www.homecooking. about.com. Also ensure that the flowers haven’t been  treated with harmful substances and never use flowers  picked by the roadside.
• If you are allergy-prone, it is advisable to initially eat a  small piece of the flower to gauge its effect on  you. (Don’t  eat too many at a time, as quite  a few plants have laxative properties …)

A FEW TIPS:
• Pick the flowers in the early morning and shake them  well to dislodge any ants or insects, then rinse under  cold running water. Leave to dry on greaseproof paper  in a warm, dry place, but avoid direct sun as this will  affect both the colour and the flavour.
• Ensure that your choice of flower complements the  flavour of the dish. Some flowers have a bitter taste.
• For decoration, the whole flower is usually used. When  used in the dish itself, only the petals are used. (Except  for pansies)
• The petals may be frozen in ice cubes and served with  drinks.
• Use flowers in salad dressings and marinades.  Oil and sugar can also be flavoured with the flowers for  later use.
• Crystallised roses and violets look beautiful as garnish  for deserts and sweet treats. (Dip the flowers in  whipped eggs, paint with fine castor sugar, place on  greaseproof paper and leave to dry in a warm place.  It usually takes a day until the petals have hardened and are ready to use when the leaves have turned  brittle.)
• Apart from the glorious colour that nasturtiums bring  to salads, the peppery taste of the flower also works  well in sandwiches or a herb butter.
• Any flowers of the squash family, as well as the day lily  and hibiscus flowers can be filled, dipped in batter and  deep fried.
• Dried marigold petals can be used in the place of  saffron to give a yellow colour to food.

Chicken with yoghurt sauce

Serves 6

Chicken mixture
Ingredients

2 (500g) cooked chicken breasts, chopped
1 large red apple, unpeeled and chopped into small pieces
3 stems of celery, finely chopped
1 Lebanese cucumber, pitted and cut into small cubes
125ml chopped pecan nuts

Yoghurt sauce
Ingredients

500g plain Greek yoghurt
125ml cream
2 tablespoons (30ml) chopped parsley
3 teaspoons (15ml) lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper

Method

Prepare the ingredients for the chicken mixture and mix well. Mix all the ingredients for the yoghurt sauce and add to the chicken mixture. Chill and serve on salad or attractive plates.

Note: The geranium has a delicate, sweetish taste and won’t clash with the flavours of this dish.

ROAST LAMB STEAKS WITH VEGIES

Serves 2

Ingredients

350g lamb steaks
2 small beetroots
1 bunch baby carrots
1 Lebanese cucumber

Method

Cut the beetroot into bite-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper. Add a few drops of olive oil and place in tin foil. Seal the tin foil and place on baking tray. Bake at 180 °C for an hour.

Place baby carrots in salt water and cook for 10 minutes. (Carrots may be glazed before serving by rapidly frying them in sugar and butter.)

Cut the Lebanese cucumber into long thin strips and quickly cook them in a hot pan with olive oil until brown. Pan-grill the lamb steaks in oil with a sprig of fresh rosemary until done to taste. Let rest a while before serving.

Arrange the steak and vegies on a plate and add gravy as required.

Note: Decorate with a garnish of edible flowers.

Fruit with mint sauce

Use a variety of fresh fruit and place in glass containers. Marinate for approximately 2 hours in mint sauce and serve chilled.

Mint sauce
Ingredients

125ml white sugar
125ml water
30ml fresh mint leaves, chopped
40ml lemon juice
100ml orange juice

Method

Boil the sugar and water for 2 minutes.
Chill in fridge and add the rest of the ingredients.

Note: Cornflowers (a sweet, spicy taste formerly used to lend flavour to Lady Grey tea), roses and violets can be added to the glass.

SHORT BREAD

Makes 24 squares

Ingredients
250g butter
100g (125ml) icing sugar
240g (500ml) plain flour
60g (125ml) corn flour (Maizena)
1ml salt
30ml lavender leaves, finely chopped

Method

Cream half the butter. Add sugar, then gradually add the rest of the butter until mixture is very smooth. Sift dry ingredients and add to butter mixture. Mix well, but don’t overdo it.

Press into a swiss roll pan (23cm x 33cm) and cut into squares. Bake at 140°C for an hour. Loosen the squares before completely cool. Garnish with lavender flowers.

Note: The lavender taste and smell of the flowers is an excellent stress reliever.

Photographs: XANDRI MYBURGH

 

 

 

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