Grown at Home: Cooking with Flowers
As a chef, one of the great things about having a green-fingered landscape designer as a partner is having a garden full of fruit, vegetables and flowers to cook with.
That’s right, flowers. Let me show you.
I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and thanks to Trinity I get to cook with produce grown just a few metres from my back door. It’s a real joy. There is so much you can grow and use to create healthy delicious food, including flowers.
When it comes to cooking with flowers, there are two ways to do it. You can use flowers as an ingredient or as decoration. I like to do both.
Cooking with edible flowers
With regard to edible flowers, I think the most well-known are courgette flowers. They can be added to risotto and pasta dishes, or filled with cream cheese and herbs, and gently fried.
But there are plenty of other edible flowers. There are Viola flowers that you can tuck into, although it’s important to know which ones. Also, you can eat the flowers from your herbs, such as the ones that spring up with your rosemary, lavender and thyme. There are fruit flowers as well – strawberry flowers retain a subtle strawberry flavour.
Using flowers to decorate your cooking
But if you’re not into eating flowers, that’s fine. I find when a dish is lacking in colour, using flowers as decoration creates a visual appeal and adds a sense of vibrancy that would otherwise be missing.
There are lots of flowers that you can use. Campanula, calendula, California poppies and sweat pea are all common flowers that you may already grow in your garden. I also think miniature dianthus flowers look great.
I’ve used flowers here to add some colour to some courgette and sweetcorn fritters. The fritters are delicious as a light lunch or a small starter. The crunch of the courgette and the sweet sweetcorn complement each other beautifully to create the perfect bite. Here’s my recipe:
James’ courgette and sweetcorn fritters
with a warm sweet chilli sauce and rocket salad
For the sweet chilli sauce
- 4 skinned red peppers
- 50g red chilli
- 1 tomato (deseeded)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 large thumb of ginger
- 225g sugar
- 175ml white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped coriander
In a food processor blend together the pepper, chilli, garlic, tomato and ginger until smooth. Add the mixture to a medium-sized saucepan along with the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Once boiling, gently simmer until thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon. The sauce can be served warm or refrigerated and used cold.
For the salad
- 2 radishes, sliced
- A handful of rocket
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
For the fritters (makes 8-10)
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 100g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 medium egg
- 150ml milk
- 200g cooked sweetcorn kernels (canned if you don’t have fresh to hand)
- 200g grated courgette
- 8 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Sift the flour, baking powder and seasoning into a large bowl, then make a well in the centre. To the well, add a medium egg and the milk, and gradually whisk until it forms a smooth batter.
Pat dry the cooked sweetcorn and grated courgette on a tea towel, and then add to the batter mix along with the parmesan, parsley and seasoning. Mix well.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick frying pan, and add heaped tablespoons of the batter and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side (on a medium heat), until golden brown.
Serve immediately with the sweet chilli sauce (warm or chilled) and the salad.
There are so many flowers that can contribute so much to your cooking, from dahlias to nasturtium and herb flowers to antirrhinum.
And it isn’t an expensive thing to do – the flowers, including the edible ones, can be grown at home from seed.
Not matter what size your garden, it can really be a treasure trove.