Rosella hibiscus conserve with guava and whipped tahini
In the same way that eating an uncooked stick of rhubarb is not enticing, rosella flowers, or wild hibiscus, in their raw form are not entirely pleasant to consume. Preparing rosellas in fragrant light syrup and gently poaching them returns a conserve that can equally be used in sweet dishes or summer drinks, or served on top of your scones with cream. Rosellas are a native ingredient that we may have seen previously in a glass of sparkling wine but their use goes far beyond mere garnish.
Capturing the sweetness of fragrance from a flower has brought about many failed trials for me. Fresh is fleeting, too cooked is bitter, and dehydrated becomes unpalatable. Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines capture that fragrance with rosewater, and I have found the best way to emulate that olfactory lift is in a very light sugar syrup steeped like a tea. Be sure to use roses that have not just been grown for long cut-flower life, as intense spray regimes during their growth, along with early picking, mean they become less fragrant and therefore less sweet for the syrup. I find the more wild and open the flower when picked, the more fragrant the syrup. An afterthought for this recipe is to add a leaf of rose geranium in with the rose petals to really lift the fragrance in the same way we have used the rosemary. But in conserves such as this it’s best to pick a single herb to complement the other ingredients.
The whipped tahini almost emulates a panna cotta. If you think of tahini as a replacement for egg yolk, it makes its potential as an ingredient endless. High protein means it can hold large volumes of liquid and still maintain its structure. The best way to experience just how much stability tahini can bring to liquid is to whip it simply with water. It initially firms up and then slowly lets go the more water you add. You can even add small amounts of sesame oil or other oils to help strengthen the flavour.
This combination of ingredients, flavours and methods is timely. We already have the Anzac biscuit to show how food can be used to recognise events. Here, Turkish and Australian flavours mingle in the one dish.
Time: 1 hour preparation + 2 hours cooking
- 1kg rosellas (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
- 6 roses
- 300g icing sugar
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 200g tahini
- 100ml date syrup, or honey
- ½ tsp cinnamon powder
- 300g unsweetened yoghurt
- 100g toasted sesame seeds
- 3 fresh guavas
- Prepare the rosellas by cutting off the base and pushing out the seed pod. Discard the seed pod, as this is inedible. Retain the flower structure, keeping it as intact as possible.
- Pull the petals from the rose stems. Place the sugar into a small pot with 400 millilitres of water and bring to the boil. Drop in the rose petals and stir to submerge, then set aside for 30 minutes to infuse at room temperature. Strain and squeeze all the liquid from the petals, as the most fragrance comes from the oil in the petals.
- Add the rosellas to the rose syrup, then bring to a simmer. Add the rosemary then set aside to steep for one hour.
- In a food processor combine 100 millilitres of water with the tahini, date syrup or honey, cinnamon and yoghurt. Whip until the tahini firms up, adjusting with water to get the required consistency. (This will vary according to the tahini you are using.) Set in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Serve by scooping a large kitchen spoon of the tahini into the middle of a bowl and sprinkling it with sesame seeds. Scoop the guava flesh from the skin and place alongside.
- Spoon the rosellas and syrup over the guava.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 23, 2022 as "Coming up rosella".
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