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PIQUANT PETAL POWER

Flowers and herbs have been used for flavouring and medicinal purposes since the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks. The Romans flavoured wine with roses and violets, the Greeks developed a thyme and honey herbal remedy for soothing sore throats that is still used today.

Now edible flowers are used with gay abandon by chefs worldwide. This trend was also very popular 20 years ago but dropped right out of favour because it was totally overdone. I’m enjoying this renewal of culinary ‘flower power’ because my herb garden is chocker with marigolds, violas, geraniums, blue borage and dianthus. And a combo of herbs, baby salad leaves and edible flowers — with a drizzle of lemon juice — is an eye appealing start to dinner.

It is important that all the flowers and herbs served are pesticide free, allergy-free, non-toxic and preferably organically grown. Check a good garden reference book or a reliable website for information on any plants that are questionable. Some varieties of the same species may or may not be edible so therefore it is best to reference them by their botanical name. Discard any flowers that taste really bitter. People with allergies should consume flowers with caution.

LENTIL, MINT & CHERRY MOZZARELLA SALAD

Basil and mozzarella is the conventional match but mint and mozzarella is also a winner.

Lemon Dressing: 3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salad: 390g can brown lentils, drained and rinsed
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, sliced
8 Clevedon Buffalo Cherry Mozzarella Balls
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups baby salad leaves

Whisk the lemon juice, garlic and seasonings in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil, until well combined

Place the lentils in a bowl. Gently combine with the tomatoes, spring onions, mint and cherry mozzarella balls. Season. Drizzle with the dressing.

Place the salad leaves in the base of two serving bowls. Top with the lentil salad. Great garnished with extra mint. Serves 2.

POACHED TARRAGON CHICKEN

French tarragon has the best flavour. It is one of the classic fines herbes of French cuisine.

Poached chicken: 1 small fennel bulb, sliced
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 sprigs each: French tarragon, thyme, rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups each: dry white wine, water
1 chicken stock cube
1.2 kg (8) skinned and boned chicken thighs.
Sauce: 2 egg yolks
3/4 cup cream
2 large sprigs French tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornflour

Place all the ingredients for the poached chicken into a large frying pan. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until cooked.

Remove from the heat and stand for 10 minutes. Place the chicken in a bowl and cover.

Strain 2 cups of the stock into a saucepan. Boil until reduced by half.

To make the sauce, whisk the egg yolks, cream and tarragon in a jug. Whisk in a little of the reduced stock then pour back into the saucepan with the lemon juice. Mix the cornflour with a little water and stir into the sauce. Stir over low heat until it just begins to thicken.

Return the chicken to the clean frying pan and add the sauce. Heat through gently. Serves 4.

PRAWNS ON WATERMELON WITH SAGE MAYO

Use borage flowers with discretion.

Sage Mayo: 1 tablespoon very finely chopped sage
3 tablespoons each: mayonnaise, low-fat Greek yoghurt
salt and pepper to taste
Prawns: 1 1/2 cups white wine
bouquet garni including sage
2 grinds freshly ground black pepper
12 large shelled and deveined raw prawns
2 x 3cm thick slices seedless watermelon
Garnish: edible flowers and herbs eg viola, blue sage flowers

Whisk the ingredients for the sage mayo until smooth. Place in a piping bag with a small nozzle

Place the wine in a frying pan with the herbs and black pepper. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to poaching temperature. Add the prawns. Poach very gently until they turn pink, about 4 minutes. The prawns are best served soon after cooking — not chilled.

Remove the rind from the watermelon and cut the flesh into 12 x 3cm cubes.

Place 6 down the centre of 2 long plates. Top each cube with a cooked prawn. Pipe a blob of mayo on top. Garnish the plates with flowers and herbs. Serves 2 as a starter.



 

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