Chelsea Flower Show
This week I am looking at the secrets and wonders of cooking with flowers, in honour of the Chelsea Flower Show.
The first Royal Horticultural Society Great Spring Show (The Chelsea Flower Show’s original name) was held in 1862. It has now become a cornerstone of the British Season. Bringing flowers into the kitchen – in a recipe, not a vase – is a way to add a touch of flavour, as well as a feast for your eyes. Cassie Winslow’s new book, Floral Provisions, guides you through the edible flower garden. “If you love flowers, it’s just another way to incorporate them into your life,” she says. Here’s her advice on how to do it.
Some flowers are very much inedible – so don’t feel you can just munch on anything you find in the flowerbeds. In fact I would never eat any flowers other than the edible ones I buy from respected retailers.
If flowers are too much for you but the improving weather is tempting you outside – it’s worth learning from the experts how to do more than throw some sausgaes on the BBQ. Skye Gyngell, head chef of Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, suggests something different is to grill little game birds which are fantastic because they are naturally so tender and succulent. First, you need to spatchcock them which leaves them flat and easy to cook. Season them the day before, then put them in a hot oven for about eight minutes and grill them on the barbecue on both sides for about two to three minutes. Rabbit legs are also very quick to barbecue and make a great alternative to chicken drumsticks. Rub them in olive oil and herbs, season well and they take about eight minutes. My final suggestion is any of the small, oily fish - sardines or mackerel are cheap and delicious when grilled. They're also easy to handle on the barbecue and would be perfect served with a salsa verde.
Alan Jones, head chef at Almeida Restaurant, says, we generally don't give enough attention to the possibilities for babecued desserts. We have most of our barbecues at the height of summer when some of our fruits are at their absolute peak. He says you should wrap a peach or any other stoned fruit, such as plums or apricots, in tin foil with a spoonful of brown sugar, a knob of butter, some star anise and a cinnamon stick and put it on the barbecue. After a while, the natural juices combine with the sugar and the butter to make a beautiful caramel syrup. The fruit becomes deliciously soft and you serve the fruit whole and pour the juices over the top as well. Bananas with Malibu are also good. Again wrap the whole thing in tin foil and make some slits in the banana skin, spoon over some brown sugar and a good shot of Malibu. Stick it on the barbecue, then serve with a vanilla ice-cream - the perfect end to a summer's day.
And there is some good advice for us all from Brian George, president of the National BBQ Association. He says - it's a basic tip, but a lot of people forget this: never cook over actual flames; and if you're cooking on a charcoal grill then you need different temperatures for cooking foods faster or slower. So on one end of the grill you want the coals about an inch deep, and at the other end, about three inches. As well as adding oak or apple-wood chippings to the coals to create flavour and smoke, you can also add vine leaves or wet herb branches.
Tip: To ensure your meat is cooked properly use our digital meat thermometer.