Last summer I bought a copy of a beautiful book called Cooking With Flowers by Miche Bacher. I tend to regard flowers as things that belong in a garden or a vase, so cooking with flowers was a new concept for me. Visually this is a very beautiful book, but to be honest after my first look through it sat on the shelf last summer. This year I have decided that I am going to put it to better use.
The book is helpfully divided up by flower type rather than by recipe. This makes it easy to see what you have in the garden and then find something suitable to make. Last week lilac seemed a good place to start. Many of the recipes rely on maintaining a good store cupboard of flowery jellies, syrups and sugars, so I decided to keep things simple and start by making a lilac sugar. Flower sugars have a long shelf life and can be used to replace ordinary sugar in any recipe where a hint of floral taste takes your fancy.
I was surprised to see when I edited the photos that I had used a table cloth very similar to the one used in the book!
The proportions in the recipe are half a cup of lilac flowers to one cup of sugar, layered to fill whatever jar you are using. These little copper pans that I bought in an outlet in America last summer were just the right size for measuring my ingredients.
The most time consuming part of the recipe is preparing the lilac flowers. Each flower needs to be removed from its cluster and as far as possible the green sepal should also be removed as this can taste bitter. Once I had started this fiddly job it was actually quite pleasant to sit in the kitchen with the scent of lilac and a simple task to occupy me.
I used granulated sugar, although this was not specified in the recipe. I am sure any sugar would work, but granulated was what I had in abundance in the larder.
The idea is to pour in a cup of sugar and then half a cup of lilac flowers in layers until your sterilised jar is full. The jar should be kept in a dark cool place for a month to allow the flavour to develop.
Once made the sugar should last for a year. If it starts to clump together it can be turned into a food processor and whizzed for a few seconds to break it up. I often make vanilla sugar for the larder, but have never tasted anything made with a flower sugar. If the lilac sugar is a success it can be repeated with many other edible flowers – rose, lavender and violet are just a few examples.
This may only be a small step forward in my culinary skills, but I am pleased that I have started to use my lovely flowers in the kitchen. As the lilac is now fading I am turning my sights to the elderflower – another sugar, some cordial, a sorbet, perhaps an elderflower jelly with prosecco.
As the elderflowers are almost ready all suggestions for interesting ways to use them and links to recipes you have made would be very welcome!