When I was little a badge turned up in the house that said ‘Flour Power’. Desperate to imitate my peace sign and flare wearing older sisters, I wore the badge for weeks, just slightly confused that the word was spelt wrongly.
I only vaguely recall the activism taking place around me or the row that followed my fathers announcement that he wanted to pack us all up for a teaching position in Sierra Leone. I experienced my first crush as handsome young men in uniform passed through our home – boys on leave from or heading to Vietnam, calling to pay their respects to my parents.
I would spend hours and days on end in our rambling garden, fascinated in particular with flowers of all descriptions. I gained endless entertainment creating stick people frames and then dressing them with petals – my favourite the flowing miniature gowns from iris and rhododendron petals matched to faces of pansy or lilac.
When filling a vase with almond blossom last weekend the petals and scent tumbled me backwards nearly fifty years. Suddenly I could remember the colours and smells, the place and time as if I was actually there.
The point is – and there is one, I am still delighted by flowers – their uses, usefulness, perfume and now also their flavours. These days I use flowers on some of our dishes, not because it is fashionable, but in spite of it being so.
Borage and rocket flowers nestled over wagyu prosciutto are not only pretty but play a role in the dish. The blue and cream visually offset the side dish of pickled beetroot while bringing to life the otherwise dull look of the meat. Most diners claim to be able to pick up the taste of oyster in the borage and rocket flowers are herbaceous and peppery.
Right now broad bean and snow pea flowers are tasty in a salad as are the pretty yellow choy sum gone to seed.
Dainty blue rosemary blooms are slightly numbing, oily tasting and with a distinctly rosemary burst. Pretty in pink gone to seed radish tastes not radishy but blandly pleasant.
In summer chamomile flowers will be plucked freshly from the garden and steeped for tea, as will the borage.
While critics applaud chefs for piling our plates with ‘soil’, some are also saying flowers are passe. How can beauty in any form be passe? If the ceramics, toiletries, linen and furnishings in the restaurant need serve only function too, then I will save a fortune!
The fashion police will always bleat about what we should and should not do – what is cool and what is not.
The person who created the slogan on the badge a little Kiwi girl wore in the 70’s, they understood having food was more important than having the ‘right’ food.
Parents still farewelling children off to fight on foreign shores and the entomologists struggling to save the worlds bees from Varroa mite – these are just some who might think you can eat what you like – and be grateful that you can.
If you want to put a flower in your hair, or your food, go for it.
Make Jam Not War
Marmalade as taught to me by Lesley Russell
2 kg citrus of any sort
4 litres water
2 kg sugar
Cut the fruit into pieces, remove seeds and whiz in a processor
Cover with the water and leave overnight
Next day boil the fruit and water with a lid on until soft, about 30 mins
Measure the liquid and add 3/4 sugar by volume ( 4 cups fruit = 3 cups sugar)
Boil (no lid) until set, about 40 minutes or more.
We have a number of Mulberry trees on the farm but the season has been really dry and the BEST mulberries are growing in our bookkeeper Julie’s garden. She has been very kindly providing for our needs.
The addition of this lovely fruit to a tarte tatin adds just the right amount of tart-ness and colour. Add our house ice-cream – Honey
Don’t let anyone bluff you into thinking that this classic French dish is difficult because it simply is not. If you like pastry work make your own, if you don’t, just buy it (and the same goes for the ice-cream). There’s a brand called Careme – comes from the Barossa and is almost as good as that Lindl makes at The Zin House (but not quite).
We’ve been making a caramel, coating the bottom of small non-stick pans with this, adding a few layers of thinly sliced apples (core, and skin intact), a smattering of berries and topping with a thick lid of our house made puff pastry. Then it’s baked at about 200 degrees until the pastry is nicely brown and you can tell the bottom is getting gooey because there’s a bit of ooze up the side of the pan.
Don’t be scared about flipping it, that’s the fun bit.
The other great thing about this dessert is that even as the sixth course on our menu, it never comes back. Somehow there’s always just that little bit of extra room. It also passes the most testing test of all – we always bake enough for everyone on staff to eat at the end of service with a big dollop of Dubbo cream.