Lychees, cherries and rose petals with tahini and sesame cake
Flowers are commonly used the world over in cooking and not just for their aesthetic beauty. Lavender, rose, chrysanthemum, dandelion, borage and marigold have been used to give aroma to sweet and savoury dishes and have also played a major role in medicine.
Borage was believed to drive away dullness and melancholia – possibly due to it commonly being mixed with wine. It was also said to bring courage – again, most likely enhanced by an alcoholic kicker – and so a single flower would be placed in the stirrup cup of those leaving for the Crusades. Fast forward to today and we are most likely to find a single borage flower on our poached eggs with ancient grains at the local cafe.
The incongruous use of single flavourless flowers aside, I am a huge fan of the power of the flower. Commitment to their flavour and gentle handling reap great reward. I guess the best way to communicate this is through the use of saffron, itself the stigma of a flower. Overheating or overuse leads to bitterness, but a light toast and restrained application bear excellent results.
Remember, though, when using flowers, as with any food, it is best to know the origin and how they have been grown. You do not want your meal to be served à la pesticides.
- 3 eggs
- 140g sugar
- 200ml milk
- 80g rice flour
- 100ml tahini
- 100ml olive oil
- 20g sesame seeds
- 10g baking powder
- 120g plain flour
- 500g cherries
- 500g fresh lychees
- 80g sugar
- 90ml water
- 3 “ripe” roses (unsprayed)
- 40g sesame seeds
- 80ml full cream
- 10g sugar
- Preheat your oven to 170ºC. Meanwhile, combine the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer and whisk until creamed lightly. Add the milk, rice flour, tahini and olive oil, then continue mixing on a medium speed until combined. Add the sesame seeds and the baking powder before folding the plain flour through the batter. Pour the batter into a greased cake tin and bake until cooked (about 40 minutes).
- Split the cherries through the centre by scoring the outside with a small knife before twisting the two halves to release the stone. Flick the stone out of the other half and reserve. Peel the lychees and remove the stone by scoring the top, then squeezing the stone out. Do this over a bowl to ensure you retain any juice that is released during this process.
- Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Remove the petals from the roses and drop them into the syrup with the lychees and juice. Let them steep. Place the cherries cut-side down in a single layer into a heavy pan and place over a high heat. Scald the cherries briefly (about one minute) but not so long that the liquid starts stewing out. Let the pan cool with the cherries in it, then pour the rose liquid over the cherries before adding the petals and lychees.
- Give the remaining sesame seeds a light toast in the oven, then grind using a mortar and pestle until just before they become a paste. Add the cream and sugar and keep grinding for a further two minutes or so to combine.
- Place two spoonfuls of this cream onto a plate then a slice of the tahini cake. Top with the lychees, cherries and rose mixture and finish with a little extra syrup.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on March 9, 2019 as "Super flower powers".
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