Salads & side dishes
Head into your garden and pick spray-free, edible blooms for a side dish extraordinaire.
Zucchini, or courgette, blossoms are served as a side dish in Mexico and around the Mediterranean where they are often stuffed with rice. In Italy and France they are stuffed with cheese, then battered and deep-fried. The flowers have a mild zucchini flavour.
CHEESE- STUFFED COURGETTE FLOWERS Serves 4
Pick: 8 courgette flowers, trim off most of the stalk and remove any pistils. Wipe with a clean wet cloth if they look earthy, but don’t wash them. Make batter: Mix cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 scant cup soda water. Whisk until smooth and the froth has reduced. Make stuffing: cup, plus 1 tablespoon ricotta, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan, 1 small egg, 2 tablespoons each Italian parsley and mint, finely chopped, and 1 tablespoon lemon zest. Beat all together until mixed and light. Fill: Open each flower carefully then using a piping bag or a pointed teaspoon, fill with the cheese mixture. Twist the ends of the flowers to stop leakage. Heat: About cup canola oil or avocado oil in a deep pan. Dip flowers one at a time into batter, then lower into hot oil and fry turning once, until batter is crispy. Keep warm in the oven (sit on brown paper to drain) until all are done.
FLOWERS IN SALADS
Edible flowers lend subtle flavouring, but their biggest asset is their colour. Make a simple salad using multiple blooms and a light vinaigrette – not too thick or it will weigh down the flowers. Add your dressing at the last minute so that the petals do not become saturated and stick together. For a simple dressing, mix teaspoon paprika, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon mustard, pinch sugar and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Most herb flowers are delicious to eat, their flavour often resembling a milder and sweeter version of their leaves. The flowers of basil, dill, fennel, rosemary and sage are all fine-tasting – perfect for subtle flavouring or garnishing. The pink blossoms of chives are delicious too. Like garlic and other members of the allium family, the blossoms of chives ( Allium schoenoprasum) have an oniony flavour. Mix with cream cheese and slather onto crispy bread.
Edible flowers are grown more for their colour than for their taste, but that doesn’t mean they taste bad. Quite the opposite.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO QUINOA SALAD Serves 4-6
The chimichurri recipe makes more than needed for this salad, but it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
For the chimichurri
• 2 packed cups flat-leafed parsley
• cup oregano, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• 100ml olive oil Finely chop herbs and garlic, then mix with the lemon juice and olive oil.
For the salad
• 200g quinoa (red, white or a mix)
• 40ml ponzu sauce (available at Japanese food stores and some supermarkets)
• 1 tablespoon Japanese mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil
• 250g mixed colour heirloom
• 250g cooked baby beetroot,
cut into small wedges
• ripe avocado, peeled, stoned, chopped
• Edible flowers and microgreens
Put the quinoa in a saucepan with 2 cups water, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed – 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Once the quinoa is cool, transfer to a serving bowl and mix with the ponzu, mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice, and grapeseed oil. Gently fold through the tomatoes, beetroot and avocado. Season to taste with sea salt and drizzle with some of the chimichurri.
Garnish with edible flowers and microgreens if desired.