Archives for posts with tag: edible flowers

Tulips! Edible! A wonderful piece on the beautiful blog The Botanical Kitchen. Includes an excerpt from a book about eating and hunger in wartime Holland, to keep it real, and lots of lovely culinary inspiration, to keep it magical…

The Botanical Kitchen

Have you noticed that tulips are everywhere at the moment?  I’ve been about and about today and noticed all sorts of different varieties.  They are about the only plants that have come up at my allotment too.

Copyright Urvashi Roe_amsterdam-22Beautiful tulips blooming everywhere this Spring in London

TulipsHundreds of varieties at the flower markets

The first thought that has come to mind has been to wonder if they are an edible variety. Many varieties are edible.  There’s a great list in this article by a fellow Great British Bake Off Alumni, Lucy Bellamy.

Leaves or bulbs? 

Well the truth is they are both edible BUT you need to have the right variety and prepare them in the right way.  Otherwise you could get serious food poisoning!

The bulbs were a staple for the Dutch during the second world war as there were so many and Office for Food Supply  pronounced them fit for consumption and…

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A medieval garden – from British Library MS Royal 6 E IX f. 15v

The Healing Power of a Garden – A Medieval View.  Came across this article this morning and felt a surge of springtime joy, reading about Henry of Huntingdon’s Anglicanus Ortus, a Verse Herbal of the Twelfth Century.

“This is no ordinary herbal: the work is staged first as a discussion between a master and a student walking around a garden, inspecting the plants in their separate beds, and then as an awkward performance by the same master before Apollo and a critical audience, seated in a theatre at the garden’s centre. Beyond its didactic and performative aspects, the entire work is framed as a prayer to God’s generative capacity and the rational order of nature.” –http://pims.ca/pdf/st180.pdf 

Check out this link for enticing excerpts pertaining to oregano, strawberry, dill, horseradish, and more.  Am a bit sad it’s a $175 book — doesn’t it feel like historical cultural production like this should somehow exist in the commons, for all of us to learn from and enjoy? Maybe this is a book Google might buy and put up on the web…

 

Enjoy the Guardian podcast above with Jane Perrone, Anni Kelsey and Martin Crawford   Thanks to Anni for her wonderful blog where I first saw this.  Inspiring and eas(ier) gardening, climate friendly and cheaper, plus interesting, tasty things to eat.

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Grub Street in London last year republished one of my, hmmm, I’d say 15? favourite cookbooks of all time– The Everyone Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook, by Ruth Waerebeek with Maria Robbins.  This is a presentation of Belgian cuisine written to honour the author’s great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother within historical backgrounds and as individual personalities.  It’s a collection of recipes that feel definitive yet friendly, elegant but possible to accomplish, familiar yet novel.

At first I was taken aback by choices the publishers made in the redesign of the book.  The original edition of 1996 has headings in cursive and charming line drawings and sidebars with historical and cultural tidbits.  I’d grown attached to this book in this style.  Grub Street’s republish has striking, stylised “food-porn” quality photographs and a very close and expert attention to lettering style and layout, colour and design. The Taste of Belgium, as it’s been renamed, feels as important as the book is, which is a good thing, even if I miss the cosier quality of the earlier edition.  But I’m happy, out of print as it was, many more readers and cooks will be able to explore the delicious and savoury comfort dishes that tempt one, page after page, of either version. And the new one is beautiful indeed, masterfully designed, a book to really look at, to visually take in.

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Rose petals are all over internet recipes these days! I wonder if you have noticed this too.  Sprinkled on cakes and infused in creams and mixed with dried orange peel in harissa in all sorts of spicy North African-inspired dishes.

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Because roses are associated with romantic love, they’re an iconic Valentine’s Day flower.  There is in the perfume of roses something so love-ly indeed.  A few years ago, during a very low ebb, a friend who is a herbalist gave me a gift: a tincture of rose to spray on myself as a kind of self-love potion.  “A hug in a bottle,” she called it.  It worked.  That’s what a lot of us need: self-love potions.

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Several years ago, when William and Kate got married, someone in our town organised a street party. Now– I love the idea of a street party, the history and tradition of mass celebration of Royal Weddings in Britain, the comradery, the feasting. Yet there’s also a deep ambivalence about the concept and public financial drain of monarchy. I was torn about participating.  But, because Kate and Will were a couple based in love, something truly to celebrate, and because I wanted to support the efforts of the girl so enthusiastically organising the event, I decided to join in.

At that time, I was attempting to make a dandelion preserve, a jelly really, but the whole thing went wrong, because without any pectin — I guess I could have used apples for a mild tasting thickening agent– it didn’t solidify.  What resulted was a thick syrup, known as Dandelion Honey.  I wasn’t fully satisfied though because I knew from the process that there had been a moment of beautiful, delicate fragrance that I’d boiled away in my attempt to make the jelly.  So I resolved to try again in the future to recreate that ephemeral moment of sublime dandelion perfume that I’d experienced.

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Vascular Dementia– slow, frustrating, watching capacities diminish but not quite believing what’s happening…  So, my mother-in-law, who was a geriatric social worker, finds herself in the odd position of being in a care home, wishing to take steps a geriatric social worker would take, but being thwarted by Authority (such as it is in a care home) and her own brain fog.

This was an energetic and thoughtful woman, who gave me a tatty copy of a book she’d enjoyed that represents an old and mostly rural way of cooking in Britain: Farmhouse Fare, “Recipes from Country Housewives collected by The Farmers Weekly.”   I often find copies of this book in charity shops, and I always buy it, to give to friends, because it’s such a treasure trove indeed. The edition she gave me is “the first impression of the enlarged (fourth) edition of Farmhouse Fare [and] was published in November 1946.  The second impression appeared in 1947; the third impression in 1950. The fifth revised edition was first published in 1954, reprinted 1956 and 1958,” which dates the copy I have, in beautiful, stained disrepair.  I also have a hardback copy from 1979 with a cheesy photographic cover.  Clearly this is a collection that’s been loved.  If you find this book, make it yours.

Last weekend, kids on holiday from school, we went to see my mother-in-law, and my husband popped by her recently sold house to talk with the new owners.  They weren’t in, but he took some apples lying on the grass underneath the old apple tree that they had –I hate writing this–  chopped down.  Must have been a recent chop, because the apples on the ground were beginning to get red, these cookers (green) that in most summers never ripen.  These were apples my mother-in-law had enjoyed all through her years in that home, making pies and chutneys and baby food for my babies!  Yes of course new people can do what they want with their new property, but I can’t imagine not loving that tree, that fruitful dwarf apple, variety I-don’t-know.  Wish I could ask Grace, but I don’t want to tell her what they’ve done; I think she’d find it very disturbing.

Somehow to deal with my own sense of injustice, I’m going to work through lots of the apple recipes in Farmhouse Fare.  For the Apple Marigold above, I used the last apples we shall ever have from that beloved tree. My husband collected them in a plastic bag from that grass on that stormy October day.

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I was interested in this Apple Marigold recipe for different reasons– because I’m “collecting” savoury apple recipes, because I love calendula flowers, because I’m interested in using herbs like thyme with apples (herbs in general with fruits in general), because it’s a chance to feel authentic with my enamelled baking dish, because it’s so simple a recipe but so personal, because it’s interesting to explore what British cooking is, English, Welsh, Scottish– and how within seasonal and economic limits “farm women” put together meals they felt proud of.

This recipe tasted wholesome and simple, basically, apples in an unsweetened custard, and the fruit quite discreet from that custard.  I added a little salt which felt necessary.  Of course could one fancify this, by infusing flavours, maybe even adding some pastry down below or on top of.    I’d wished to be able to cut proper rings– for the visual effect– but that didn’t happen.  To Mrs J Preston of Oxfordshire, thank you: I feel this is your recipe, the “marigold” petals and sage and thyme your original idea.  Through the years, there’s a voice in this Marigold Apple, a small celebration of resourcefulness in the name of a quiet artistry.

Meanwhile: I made this today too, with some applesauce from apples that really needed doing.   It’s in the oven now.  Love the simplicity of three ingredients– and even refrained, against the wisdom of experience, from adding any salt or fat, though glugged in some sourdough starter in lieu of “yeast”.   Not sure I let the dough sit long enough, but the oven is on for another purpose so wanted to get the baking done, in the the name of efficient energy use.

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Flowers and Onions and Black-eyed Peas

One more post then must-get-crackin’ cleaning this messy house!

Chives are great. Wikipedia is telling me they are the smallest species of edible onion. (I bet there’s a smaller one, waiting to be discovered by an intrepid forager somewhere, but hey-ho.) In a garden, they are apparently a good pest deterrent, though the flowers are attractive to bees– a wonderful combination. I love them because even as a novice gardener I am able to have them thrive, and because the “scapes” or leaves are so useful as a garnish and a flavour, and because my pot has flowered on and off, through the summer, on into now– late September.

That purple visible in the photo is a beautiful colour, and it’s so fun to eat flowers! This is such a nice dish, was so simple to make: Boil, perhaps having first soaked, the black eyed peas, drain them and let their heat slightly wilt and mellow the raw slivered moons of onion, a nice vinagrette and rehydrated sun dried tomatoes which feel like a nice ingredient to have on hand for a concentrated tomato taste when fresh ones aren’t possible. Salt and pepper, and the flowers, because purple and black and white and green look so great.

When I was really teaching myself to cook (an odd statement, because I still feel I’m always learning, and actively self-teaching)– I had a wonderful and personally influential book called The Natural Gourmet by Annemarie Colbin, who had a cooking school in New York City. (This book also has a very enlightening chapter on The “Five Phase Theory” –wood, fire, earth, metal, and water — in ancient Chinese philosophy as it pertains to cooking and eating. This is something I’d still love to get to grips with, at least intellectually.)

The Natural Gourmet has a recipe that I felt immediate prejudice against, for it’s mixing of world ingredients divorced from  their specific contexts. Nevertheless, I tried to make it, maybe that was 1992 (as the book came out in ’91) — and it’s become an important dish for me.   I’m always varying it but never not loving it, even as it’s morphed into something (usually vegetarian) Hoppin’ John that I seem to make every year, traditionally, on New Year’s Day. The dressing mixed flavours like whole-grain mustard, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and tamari. And in the salad of the legumes she put sun-dried tomatoes. “A dog’s dinner,” I would have thought, had I at the time known the phrase. And how wrong I would have been, because it’s absolutely delicious. And to remind myself to fight one’s own prejudices, I like to use sun-dried tomatoes whenever I cook black-eyed peas.

Thank you Annemarie Colbin.  Here you are at a recent Ted Talk I just found: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJtcuNiJnwk

Three Sisters

Last night I stayed up late baking for this morning, three cakes for the launch of a community kitchen venture I will write about soon. I’d been inspired by the idea of the Three Sisters of Native American growing– corn and beans and squash.

A cornmeal (or polenta) cake with blackberries my family picked; Vegan Black Bean Brownies that were equally delicious and weird– hard to get a grasp on; and a moist, dense Pumpkin and Apple Cake, that I made with gluten-free flour and roasted, very orange and dense squash that I pureed through a food mill. The internet is so vastly full of ideas when you need them. Ask me and I can give you any particulars…

I am entranced by the idea of cakes with vegetables– of course carrots and courgettes and marrows, and all the chocolate beetroot cakes — though I want to try the squash cake above with that rosy beet instead, to play and shine the earth of beet rather than hide it behind the dusky sweet chocolate. Parsnips too intrigue, and there’s that world of sweet pies and tarts that have spinach or swiss chard with raisins and custard, or not… and would love to try these with nettle leaves some day. You could imagine savoury cakes and loaves too, playing with the sweet form with usually salty ingredients, but what I feel like exploring first is just how far you can take veg into a sweet cake. Going to do a little research– I’m sure there’s loads to be discovered.

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