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The Scented Kitchen: Cooking with Flowers

Carrot, Celery and Nasturtium Risotto

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Carrot, Celery and Nasturtium Risotto

2 shallots
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
350 g / 12 oz Arborio or vialone rice
300 ml / pint dry white wine
1 litre / 2 pints chicken or vegetable stock
2 finely diced carrots
3 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
6-8 nasturtium flowers

To serve
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4-6 nasturtium flowers

One of the nicest risottos I have ever eaten was in Florence, and it couldn't have been simpler — no expensive foie gras, truffles or porcini, just finely diced carrots and celery. I have taken it one step further with the addition of golden nasturtium flowers, which somehow enhance the rusticity of the dish. A deep, heavy frying pan is needed for cooking risotto.

Chop and fry the shallots — without browning them — for 4 to 5 minutes in the olive oil. Then stir in the rice until it is well coated with the oil.

Bring the wine and the stock to the boil in separate pans. Pour a couple of ladles of wine over the rice, stir well and, when it has been absorbed by the rice, add the rest of the wine. When this too has been absorbed, add the stock, a little at a time, allowing the rice to absorb it before adding more. Add the chopped carrots with the first batch of stock and then, after 5 minutes or so, add the celery. Stir the risotto from time to time.

The rice may be cooked to your liking before you have used up all the stock. I like risotto quite soft, moist and creamy, rather than dry. Just before serving, tear up the first batch of nasturtium flowers and stir into the risotto. To serve, place a nasturtium flower on each serving and pass around the Parmesan cheese and a grater.

Copyright © Frances Bissell, 2007

 
Lemon and Lavender Curd

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Lemon and Lavender Curd

4 large lemons with good skins
8 egg yolks or 4 whole eggs
150 g / 5 oz unsalted butter
350 g / 12 oz golden granulated sugar
6 lavender heads

Lemon and lavender combine superbly and this curd makes a fabulous filling for tarts. Grate the rinds and squeeze the juice from the lemons, then put them both in a double saucepan. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the pan with the lightly beaten eggs and the sugar and lavender. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and continue cooking on a low heat, stirring the mixture until it thickens. Remove the lavender heads and pot in small, clean, dry jars that you have warmed in the oven. Cover immediately, label, refrigerate and use within 3 to 4 weeks. If you want a stronger flavour, you can add a sprig of fresh lavender to each jar just before potting.

Copyright © Frances Bissell, 2007

 
Rosa Cubana

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Rosa Cubana

1 stalk of fresh mint, plus 1 small sprig for garnish
Ice cubes
1 measure rose petal syrup (p. 32)
1 measure white rum
1-2 measures pink grapefruit juice
Rose petals — optional

This is based on the Mojito, with white rum and mint being the key ingredients.

Put the mint and plenty of ice cubes in a cocktail shaker or glass jug. Bruise the mint against the ice cubes and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir vigorously to chill the liquids, then strain into a glass and add the sprig of mint and rose petals before serving.

Copyright © Frances Bissell, 2007

 
Saffron Buns

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Saffron Buns

1 tbsp fast action dried yeast
Up to 450 ml / 16 fl oz warm milk
100 g / 4 oz caster sugar
50 saffron filaments or 1 sachet powdered saffron
250 g / 8 oz butter or lard, or a mixture of the two
750 g / 1 lb strong, plain flour
250 g / 8 oz seedless raisins or sultanas
50-75 g / 2-3 oz mixed candied peel
1-2 tbsp rosewater (optional)

These buns are best served warm and freshly baked, perhaps best of all with 'thunder and lightning', in the Cornish manner, split and each half spread with clotted cream, over which you trickle some treacle.

Sprinkle the dried yeast on 150 ml / 5 fl oz of the milk, together with 1 teaspoon of sugar, and let it work for 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the saffron in 2 to 3 tablespoons of very hot water. Rub the fat into the flour, stir in the sugar, fruit and the mixed peel. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture, the rosewater — if using it — and the saffron liquid. Combine to a dough, adding more warm milk as necessary. Knead on a floured work-top until smooth and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a clean, damp tea-towel and let the dough rise for an hour or so in a draught-free place.

Knock the dough back and shape into buns. Put these on a non-stick baking sheet, cover again and let them rise for a further 30 to 40 minutes. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Copyright © Frances Bissell, 2007

 
Elderflower Syrup

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Elderflower Syrup

400 ml/14 fl oz water
About 8 heads of fully open flowers
Juice of a lemon
400 g/14 oz granulated sugar

Makes 600 ml/20 fl oz

This easily made syrup can be used to flavour all manner of creams, custards, ice-creams and sorbets.

Boil the water, pour it over the elderflower heads and leave overnight. Then put all the ingredients in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, simmer for 2 or 3 minutes before removing from the heat and leave until cold. Strain, bottle and label.

Copyright © Frances Bissell, 2007

 
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