To celebrate National Gardening Week, we’ve chosen three floral and herbal recipes that have been written with those first sunny, garden lunches in mind. So get into the garden and start picking the greenest shoots, peas and beans, edible flowers in every hue and armfuls of soft, fragrant herbs.
Spiced yoghurt and herb soup with saffron butter and borage flowers
Ingredients (Serves 6 as a starter)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet white onion, roughly chopped
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
3cm piece fresh turmeric, peeled and finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp ground turmeric)
1 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
300g young spinach leaves
a handful parsley leaves and stalks
a handful chervil leaves and stalks
a small handful mint leaves (no stalks)
900ml vegetable stock
120g Greek yoghurt
Extra parsley, mint, watercress and chervil leaves, to garnish
For the saffron butter:
A large pinch of saffron stamens
30g slightly salted butter
2 tbsp borage flowers
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the turmeric and cumin and cook for 2 minutes more, until fragrant.
Stir in the spinach, watercress, parsley, chervil, mint and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then blitz the soup with handheld blender – or in a freestanding blender in two batches – until completely smooth. This part of the soup can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and kept chilled until needed.
To make the butter, lightly crush the saffron stamens in a pestle and mortar. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with 2 tablespoons boiling water. Set aside for 5 minutes then melt the butter in a small saucepan set over a low heat, add the soaked saffron and warm through gently for 10 minutes. Season to taste and keep warm.
Reheat the soup to just below boiling point and pour the yoghurt into a bowl. Whisk a ladleful of hot soup into the yoghurt, stirring constantly to temper it and repeat with a couple more ladles of hot soup. Then tip the yoghurt mix back into the soup and whisk in until smooth. Season to taste. Ladle into warmed bowls (or serve cool in cold bowls). Spoon the butter over and finish with extra herb leaves and the borage flowers.
Caesar-style salad of baby kale, spring herbs and flowers with lacy pecorino crisps
Kale leaves are robust enough to carry a strong dressing. I would use baby or young kale leaves for preference here as they’re more tender, but larger leaves can be de-stalked and shredded finely for a similar effect. Be careful with vegetarians: the dressing contains a couple of anchovies for depth and the pecorino is made with rennet. Use vegetarian, parmesan-style cheese and 4 stoned and chopped black olives in place of the anchovies to make the salad truly vegetarian.
Ingredients (Serves 6 as a side salad)
For the salad:
100g pecorino cheese, finely grated
75g pecans, chopped
150g baby kale leaves, any coarse stems trimmed
a handful chervil, roughly chopped
a handful basil leaves, torn
1 handful edible flowers, such as pea flowers, violas, cornflowers, chive flowers
For the dressing:
2 anchovy fillets
½ [half] garlic clove, roughly crushed
1 egg yolk
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
1 scant tsp Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5. Line a baking sheet with non-stick paper and, using half the pecorino, space little piles of grated cheese out. Each pile should be about 3cm diameter and half a centimeter thick. Scatter a pinch of chopped pecans onto each one and season with black pepper.
Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the cheese has melted into a lacy discand is beginning to turn golden at the edges. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper. These crisps can be made up to 4 days in advance and kept in an airtight container in a cool place.
Put the milk in a small bowl and add the anchovy fillets. Set aside for 10 minutes to make the anchovies less salty, then drain and discard the milk.
Crush the fillets and garlic to a paste in a pestle and mortar. Stir in the egg yolk, gradually adding the oil as you continue to mix. Stir in the remaining ingredients (adding more lemon juice, if desired) with 2 tablespoons water to make a dressing. Season generously with black pepper.
Put the kale leaves in a bowl and pour two-thirds of the dressing over. Using clean hands or salad servers, mix the kale and dressing, being quite forceful (this tenderizes the kale). Set aside for a few minutes then toss with the herbs and the remaining pecorino and pecans.
Scatter with the flowers and crumble the pecorino crisps over to finish.
Lilac flower sodas
A delicate and delicious syrup made with fresh lilac blossom and blueberries (the berries give the syrup’s subtle, purple hue a little more oomph). Whether you add a slosh of vodka – or gin – to each glass is up to you.
Ingredients (makes about 10 drinks, when diluted as below)
For the syrup:
200g caster sugar
a cupful of fragrant lilac blossoms, plus extra to serve
150g fresh or frozen blueberries
crushed ice, to fill each serving glass
25ml lilac syrup, above
25ml vodka, optional
soda water, to top up
a squeeze of lime juice
2 lime wedges
Start with the lilac syrup. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan. Warm through gently until the sugar dissolves then bring to the boil and simmer for a minute. Add the flowers and 100gblueberries, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve. Cool the syrup completely then cover and chill for up to 5 days, until needed.
Fill as many serving glasses as needed with crushed ice. Add a25ml measure of syrup (and an optional 25ml measure of vodka), diluting the syrup to the ratio 1:4 or 1:5 with soda water. Add a good squeeze of lime juice, a couple of lime wedges, a sprig of lilac and a few extra blueberries to each glass before serving.
Recipes Alice Hart Photograph Emma Lee Props Stylist Karen Akhtar Flowers courtesy of Scarlet & Violet.Tweet