Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Frances Bissell – The Scented Kitchen

Cooking With Flowers

There seem to be two schools of thought on using flowers in food. There’s the camp I belong to which finds the idea intriguing and attractive, and then those who react with a level of suspicion that suggest your trying to poison them. Sadly my partner falls into the latter category which calls for a certain level of ingenuity on my part if I’m to change his mind.
You could ask why bother? I like to use edible plants, partly because it looks pretty (and sounds charming) but also because of the long history of using herbs we’re now inclined to ignore in the kitchen, and this certainly includes a lot of flower flavours. The great thing about this book is that it’s not about making things look pretty; it’s about flavour - perfect for converting the unconvinced.
This book is the result of many years of research and experiment, there really is nothing gimmicky about it. Instead plenty of information on flavour extraction methods – sugars, vinegars, oils, butters and more, and a contents page that reads like an Elizabethan garden. Carnations, gilly flowers, elderflower, lavender, marigolds, jasmine, roses, and pansies all feature as do others.
I can personally recommend the white peach and elderflower jam - enjoyed by the most sceptical of testers. A little bit of lavender made a huge difference to apricot jam, adding a whole new dimension of smoky sophistication, and the macaroon recipe is brilliant, my macaroons slightly lacked the elegant appearance of Laduree, but otherwise where spot on, not a bad achievement. (It seems the secret is to let them dry out slightly before cooking.)
The only downside, if it can be called that, is that there are no colour pictures, just a few black and white petals scattered across the pages, but for anyone with an interest in food history, or experimenting with what’s in the garden and hedgerow, it’s indispensible and irrisistable in turns.


  1. I do love that cover... but I'm not converted on the idea of using flowers to cook...

  2. You don't know what your missing, honestly!