Cooking Tips | 8 July 2016Edible flowers – not just for decoration Share article facebook twitter google pinterest We’re always looking for ways to brighten up our bakes or new ways of decorating our cakes – edible flowers are certainly a way to achieve this. From using primroses, chives or carnations on the top of our creations to creating lavender shortbread, edible flowers are not just something we see chefs use in top-end restaurants; the list is endless of what flowers and herbs we can incorporate into our own kitchens. We’ve highlighted a few varieties from Holly Farrell’s Grow Your Own Cake as well as a recipe that you can try using your edible flowers: Lavender When cooking with lavender be sure to only use the flowers (although never use the flowers of the French lavender L. stoechas as these are poisonous), varieties include lavandula angustifolia, lavandin or imperial gem. To use in shortbread use the lavender flowers or for a more intense flavour use lavender sugar in replace of caster sugar (add a teaspoon or two of flowers to a jam jar of sugar, seal, shake and leave to infuse) – it will keep for up to a month in an airtight tin. Roses While it’s possible to use any variety of rose, for having the best flavour Holly recommends pink apothecary roses, prickly hedgehog or the white-flowered Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’. Regularly pick and deadhead your roses to promote more flowering and cut the flowers as you need during the summer months. When harvesting, cut back the stem to a strong, outward-facing bud rather than leaving a little stub. Sweet violets All violets are edible but the best flavour comes from sweet violets, however don’t eat too many as excess consumption can make you sick – with violet roots being even more toxic. Sweet violets are also built of strong stuff and will grow in most soils but prefer to be shaded from the summer heat. Now you’ve got all these flowers there’s countless recipes you can use them in, but here’s a flower meringue recipe which is perfect for afternoon tea – make several differently flavoured batches and swirl with a little food colouring to denote the different flavours. What you will need: 1-2 baking sheets, lined with baking paper Ingredients: 50g/2oz caster sugar 50ml/2fl oz water handful of rose flowers/sweet violets/elderflowers/lemon verbena leaves/scented pelargonium leaves 1 egg white dash of lemon juice 50ml/2fl oz flower syrup gel food colouring (optional) Method: For the flower syrup: Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes Take the pan off the head and add the flowers/leaves, stirring to coat them in syrup and release their natural oils Leave, covered, to infuse and cool for at least half an hour. For the meringues: Preheat the oven to 120c/250f/gas mark 1/2 Whisk the egg white and lemon juice to soft peaks using a stand mixer or by hand Still whisking slowly, trickle in the flower syrup Once all the syrup is added, continue whisking on high speed until the meringue holds stiff peaks Spoon into a piping bag and cut the end off to make a hole of around 1cm/1/2in diameter Pipe small blobs of about 2cm/3/3in diameter on to the baking sheet To add the food colouring, squeeze a little on to a plate. Drag the point of a skewer through the gel, then swirl round the meringue blobs a couple of times, drawing the skewer point upwards as you do so Make sure you only have a tiny amount of gel on the skewer – large blobs of gel in the meringue will cause the surface to crack and sink. In an electric oven, bake for 30 minutes Turn off the oven but leave the meringues there for at least an hour, preferably overnight. (If you use a gas oven, bake for 40 mins at gas mark 1/2, then turn off the oven and leave the meringues in for at least 90 minutes, preferably overnight). To serve: Serve in a glass bowl or piled high on a cake stand. All image credit to Jason Ingram. The veg plot and fruit garden are the new starting points for the healthiest, best cakes – and with this book you can grow and bake the tastiest cakes with most of the ingredients not far from your fingertips, all the way from sowing the seeds to cutting the cake. Grow Your Own Cake helps you to take giant strides on the road to self-sufficiency while turning your fabulous crops into sweet, savoury, floral and delicate treats. We say: grow it, bake it, eat it! Find out more about the book and Holly here. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.