Along the Grapevine


26 Comments

Lilac Ice Cream

In this recipe I have, to my delight, figured out how to capture the intoxicating scent of lilacs and make it accessible to the taste buds. Having experimented before with wild flowers, I know how their delicate aroma and colour are not always easy to use for edibles, and I considered lilacs another one of those barely-worth-it ingredients. The flavour of the blossoms is bitter, and cooking them leaves little flavour apart from the sweetness of the recipe.

IMG_0013.JPG

I decided to make a no-cook ice cream, realizing that the result might be bland or even bitter. Also, how to infuse the blossoms without using heat or alcohol?

Some flowers I ground finely with equal parts sugar. I also took one cup of blossoms and mixed them with milk, set them in a sunny place outdoors for three hours, which was as long as the sun lasted. I then left this milk/blossom infusion for another 12 hours in the fridge.

The rest was easy. I strained the blossoms from the milk, and feared the flavour was not as strong as I needed it. However, once I mixed the lilac sugar with the milk and an equal amount of cream, the flavour was definitely that of lilac – sweet, aromatic and superb.

“Lilac

IMG_0027

So now I have another favourite ice cream which inspired me to use lilac in other no-cook ways. One is to preserve some in raw honey, leaving the infusion for a few weeks and leaving the blossoms in to serve. I will also try and preserve as much as I can in sugar which I have no doubt will be useful in all sorts of creamy ways.

Related Links: Honeysuckle Ice Cream

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #173; Love in the Kitchen and Her Life is Love.


8 Comments

Dandelion Cake

DSC03373The nutritional value of the dandelion is becoming increasingly understood, yet the number of appetizing ways to use the plant are still rare. While the flowers are not the richest source of nutrients compared to the roots and leaves, they do contain some health benefits, including antioxidants and vitamins A and B12. For more about the flower as a food source, this article is worth reading.

I just finished making a syrup from dandelion flowers which I found so good I already have a second batch on the go. I have used it to make a cocktail and a sourdough fruit bread, adding some to the batter as well as a glaze when it came out of the oven.

DSC03370

The recipe in this post was inspired by a recipe for revani, a Greek cake soaked in syrup after baking.  I found this recipe in my newest cookbook called “Three Sisters – Back to the Beginning” by Betty, Eleni and Samanth Bakopoulos which I noticed has just been shortlisted in the Taste Canada awards. Their cake calls for coarse semolina, which I substituted with casava which has a similar texture, but either can be used. It also calls for orange and lemon zest, but of course I didn’t need those with my own fresh and local dandelions, both in the form of petals and syrup. It makes a pretty dense cake, something like cornbread, and is sweetened mostly by the syrup which is poured over it right after baking. The cake could have absorbed more than the cup of syrup I used, so if you want a really sweet dessert, add another cup.

Dandelion

Ingredients

1 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup dandelion petals (approx. 12 flowers)

5 eggs

1/4 tsp vanilla

2 cups casava flour or coarse semolina

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup dandelion syrup
Method
Cream the butter with the sugar and petals. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the batter, beating well. Pour into a greased 9 inch square pan and bake at 350 degrees F. for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately cut it into serving size pieces. Pour the cooled syrup over it slowly, letting it be absorbed by the hot cake gradually.

DSC03374.JPG

Linked to Fiesta Friday #171


19 Comments

Dandelion Flower Syrup

DSC00695

With all the rain we have been having lately the fields are greener and more lush than ever – and that means the dandelions are at their absolute best. When I first started this blog four years ago this month, I had only a few ideas on how to use them in cooking, but in that time I have found they are a lot more versatile than I had imagined. I have been using the roots, buds and leaves, but today I decided to share a recipe I devised using the flowers. I am very pleased with the results, and more so because it is such an easy method for making a delicious floral syrup. A few minutes of picking the flowers and little else, as there is no need to separate petals or do any more than wash them.

Using 4 cups of flowers, I let them stand with 2 cups of sugar overnight or up to 24 hours. This will extract quite a bit of liquid from them just sitting there as you can see in the pictures below.

DSC03356DSC03362

At this point, I added 1 cup of water and heated the mixture to a boil, allowing it to boil for about 1 minute. I then strained off the liquid through two layers of cheesecloth into a sterilized jar and ended up with almost three cups of syrup.

DSC03368

The consistency is like that of maple syrup, the flavour sweet and floral. It can be used as any syrup would be, as a sweetener for drinks, fruit salads, baking, glazes, etc.  A new and original recipe using this syrup will follow within a few days.

 


6 Comments

Savoury Yucca Petal Biscuits

I am discovering that more flowers than I had previously thought can be enjoyed by almost all the senses – all that is but hearing. This season I have experimented with floral flavours, wild and cultivated, and in so doing have discovered that they add a whole range of tastes, colours and aromas to all sorts of dishes. It was only recently that I learned that one of my favourite plants, the yucca, has edible blooms. Not to be confused with yuca spelled with only on ‘c’ which is what tapioca is made of, the yucca is a perennial evergreen shrub of the asparagaceae family. It grows mostly in arid regions, which is no doubt why it is so happy in my parched garden. I have taken pains to grow some from seed, successfully so, only to find that it spreads quite well on its own. Still, you can’t have too much of this dramatic plant with its gorgeous spikes of white flowers.DSC03153

So far, I have only tried the blossoms. They should be young and not fully opened, as they tend to get more fibrous with age. The flavour is delicate, a little like artichoke. They should be parboiled before using, and avoid all but the petals. There is conflicting advice on this, but I am sticking with the safe and sure. I first tried them in an omelette, but there are lots of recipes out there already. So to come up with something a little more original, I thought of making them into a savoury biscuit. I probably could have used more than the ten flowers I chose. The flavour is very delicate, and you can remove a lot of these blooms before the the plant looses any of its splendour. DSC03156.JPGDSC03160.JPG

Savoury Yucca Petal Biscuits

Ingredients

2 cups flour, sifted plus extra for rolling

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp finely grated organic lemon peel

1/2 cup cold butter

petals of 10 yucca flowers

1 cup buttermilk, plus extra for brushing on top before baking

Method

Separate the petals and discard the centre part of the flower. Blanch the petals in boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain and chill.

Mix together the first five ingredients. Cut in the butter.

Add the petals and mix to combine. Stir in the buttermilk. Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly until the dough holds together. Pat into a rectangle about 3/4 inches thick and cut with a sharp cookie cutter. Place on a parchment lined baking tin and brush with buttermilk. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden at 450 degrees F.

DSC03161To be honest,  these biscuits would be delicious even without the yucca, and I will undoubtedly try them with other flavourings too. I wish I could tell you that the yucca blossoms are some kind of super food, but I have been unable to find any information on their nutritional value. Nonetheless, I managed to satisfy my curiosity, and at the same time add to my repertoire of garden recipes. If you know something I don’t know about this plant, or have a recipe you have tried, I would love to hear from  you.

 


8 Comments

Floral Sun Tea

DSC03136.JPGLast year I experimented with making sun tea, a tisane really, made from mint, lemon balm and a little honey. I was pretty timid about the whole process, but figured the mint and honey would provide enough anti-bacterial properties to ward off any ill effects of infusing the herbs in the sunlight. It turned out to be one of my favourite summer drinks, so I have now continued to add and subtract to achieve a variety of flavours. This is one of my latest formulae where the addition of scented, edible flowers, and fresh stevia leaves to replace the honey makes a super, refreshing, low-calorie and nutritious summer drink. You can read about the benefits of lemon balm here and peppermint, which is what I used, here.

The idea of this recipe is not to limit yourself to the ingredients I find in my garden. Any sweet, aromatic herb can be used. If the herbs you choose do not have anti-bacterial properties, then I would recommend adding some unpasteurised honey dissolved in warm water to the mixture. Likewise, I chose flowers I have in my garden, but depending where you live and what the season, this can vary. No doubt edible leaves, berries or fruit in season would be an equally savoury addition.

I planted stevia in my garden for the first time this year and it is producing a steady supply of leaves which I have been using as a sugar substitute in several recipes. It should grow a lot more before the frost hits, at which time I will dry some for use in the winter. If you are not familiar with it, this article gives a good explanation of its origin, uses and health benefits.

DSC03127.JPG

I filled each container almost full, loosely packed, with lemon balm and mint leaves, with about five fresh, chopped stevia leaves in each container. To one container I added and handful of rose petals and chopped rose-scented geranium leaves – to the other about 1 Tbsp young lavender flowers. My lavender is just beginning to blossom – a later version of this recipe will no doubt call for a similar amount of mature flowers.

I filled the containers with water, covered them with a lid and set them in the sun for about five hours. Then strain and chill – or chill and strain. I poured some of the strained liquid into ice cube trays to use without diluting the drink.

Because these herbs and flowers are not cooked, their flavour and nutritional value are not compromised. And what better treat after a strenuous bout of working in the garden than an aromatic elixir of flavours from the very same garden! DSC03135.JPG

Linked to Fiesta Friday #126

 

 

 


25 Comments

Peony Jelly

Here is a way to preserve the exquisite colour and scent of your peonies – a flower which graces our gardens for an all too short period in the early summer. Serve it with your favourite buttered scone, as a garnish to fruit salad or just about any other dessert. 

DSC03103

Freshly picked peonies

I have recently been experimenting with floral flavours from my garden as they appear – just the edible ones of which there are more than you would think. The easiest way to use them is often mixing them half and half with sugar, grinding them and allowing them to dry to be used as a sweetener. Jellies, perhaps the most obvious use, are a little more challenging. Pectin and some form or acid are necessary to get the desired consistency are necessary, but working out the ideal proportions and cooking time have proved to be a little challenging, leaving me at times with something either too thin or too thick. Also, not all pectins are made equal, so even when following a recipe the results can be disappointing.

Peony Jelly on Punk Domestics

For my first effort, I used a combination of white and red flowers – being careful to pick the ones with the best scent. I also used liquid pectin which might have been the reason that I needed a suspiciously large amount (2 packages) and long period of cooking. The result was satisfactory, the colour and flavour were better than I had hoped for, but the recipe was just too complicated and required too much cooking to share. So a second effort was called for.

This time I chose them for the colour – mostly red and some pink. I used powdered pectin, Certo pectin crystals to be exact. The cooking time was reduced by about one third and the consistency was perfect. While the white ones did give a beautiful reddish amber colour, the red and pink produced a stunning ruby colour, so if colour matters, go for the red as long as they have a good strong scent. This picture shows the difference of colour, although in photographs the contrast is not so pronounced.

DSC03109.JPG

Second batch on left

Peony Jelly

Ingredients
4 cups peony petals, tightly packed
4 cups boiling water
1/2 lemon
1/2 package certo pectin crystals
2 cups sugar

Method: Put the petals in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Use a plate on top to press them down and make sure they are all covered in water. Leave to infuse for 6 hours. Strain them through a cloth and ring tightly to get all the liquid out. Discard the petals. Pour this liquid (I had 2 cups) into a pot, add the strained juice of the half lemon, the pectin and 2 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, until it reaches 215 degrees F or 104 C if you have a thermometer. Otherwise you can put a small spoonful on a chilled dish and and when it cools it should set. Also, it is ready when the bubbling becomes so vigorous it does not subside when you put a spoon in it.

Pour it into sterilised jars and let cool. This recipe made 6 1/4 pint jars

DSC03106.JPG

Petals after soaking for 6 hours in water

There are so many ways to use floral jellies. One of my favourites is to use it to sweeten tea while sometimes with fresh buttered bread or biscuits alongside tea is preferred. It also works well as a garnish.

DSC03108

Fruit and granola topped with plain yogurt and jelly

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #124, Love in the Kitchen and Spades, Spatulas and Spoons.


15 Comments

Rhubarb Flowers

DSC03071.JPGWell-established rhubarb plants tend to produce large bulbous flowers which quickly grow into large frilly masses. They can appear soon after the rhubarb is ripe for picking, and I always instinctively removed  and disposed of them knowing that once the flowers get going, the rhubarb will stop producing.DSC03079.JPG

I might at least have collected them to make a bouquet, but into the compost they went along with all the leaves of the plant. Once I learned that the flowers were edible, I was keen for my rhubarb to bolt, which with the hot spell we had recently is exactly what happened. Of course, knowing something is edible and figuring how to use it when there is not much literature on the subject opens the way for some more kitchen experiments.

The flowers can be picked at any stage – the tightly furled pinkish bulbs at first or later the loose creamy blossoms. Just be sure to remove any leaves which are still clinging to the early blooms as they are poisonous as are all rhubarb leaves.

I tried a number of things with them. First, I roasted some with vegetables such as kale, onions and mushrooms all drizzled with oil. Not as strongly flavoured or as sour as the rhubarb stock, they added a very tasty, slightly tart flavour. They did not get crisp as I had imagined – just soft. Still, they did add some interest to the usual roasted medley. DSC03077.JPG

I also added some to a salad. Delicious if I may say so myself.DSC03080.JPG

I also added them to pancake batter. Where I was using 2 cups of buckwheat flour I added 1 cup of flowers, broken into small pieces. It did not change the texture noticeably, but had a nice flavour, a little reminiscent of persimmons. Served with honeysuckle syrup it seemed a fitting breakfast for the season.DSC03081.JPG

With some flowers left over I dehydrated them and hope to use them in future recipes. Maybe they’ll find their way into this year’s Christmas cake!

Linked to Fiesta Friday, La Petite Casserole, and La Petite Paniere.