Monday, February 1, 2016

The Floral Baker - Frances Bissell

I love the idea of using flowers in cooking, it seems like such a magical thing to do - to capture the colour and scent of something then introduce it quite unexpectedly into a meal. In practice most of my friends and relations are deeply suspicious of any such attempts on my part, considering the garden to be the proper place for flowers, not the kitchen. They are, of course, wrong.

I have Bissell's earlier book on cooking with flowers 'The Scented Kitchen', which if nothing else has made me plant all sorts of things in D's garden (frustratingly I never seem to be there when whatever it is finally flowers). I wish I had more success with pinks - I love their clove scent, but they won't thrive for me. I haven't used it as much as I might, but there are some really lovely jams in there, and I seem to remember the macaroon recipe being a winner. 'The Floral Baker' was a (much hinted for) Christmas present from my sister - who must have bought it through gritted teeth, as she certainly disapproves of flowers in food.

The flower that features most prominently is lavender (I counted 36 recipes in the index, which puts it well ahead of any if the others), this makes sense. Used in moderation lavender has a subtle smokey flavour that compliments all sorts of things both sweet and savoury. It's reasonably main stream now. Waitrose sells lavender shortbread, along with jars of lavender flowers in the herb and spice section. It works especially well with chocolate or lemon, and there's no shortage of inspiration here.

Apple and rose petal scones sound like the perfect thing for any girly tea party (at least I hope it's the sort of thing that small girls would still be charmed by). Sloe gin cake - a proper fruit cake scented by rose water and rose sugar, then fortified by sloe gin sounds like an altogether more grown up treat and is something I'll make as soon as my Christmas cake is finished (so not this week at least). The idea of using jasmine in baking strikes me as pure Arabian nights (come the summer...). There are also all sorts of things with saffron including chorizo, saffron, and manchego muffins, and saffron cider bread, both of which sound rather more earthy (maybe even macho) than the other recipes I've tagged to make so far, and will surely win over a few flower sceptics.

I know from experience that Bissell's recipes are reliable, and that her flavour combinations work. There are no colour illustrations in this book, no illustrations of the finished results at all, but nonetheless my favourite thing about it is how it feeds my imagination with all the colour and scent of a summer garden. As I said; magical


  1. This sounds lovely! I love the idea of cooking with flowers but so many recipes are a little...well...unimaginative. If I'm going to play the white witch and pick herbs and blooms by moonlight, and make syrups and jams in a copper cauldron, it has to be something really fun. This sounds just the thing! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I think her recipes are fun - they get the balance between frivolous and something that sounds good to eat right. Also I love sneaking lavender into things (I don't always tell people I've done it) so any book that has as many recipes for it as this one was always going to be a winner for me.