Provençal Stuffed Apricot & Goat’s Cheese Salad with Edible Flowers
Edible flowers seem to be the “New Black” lately, with many top chefs using them in their Michelin Star restaurants; pubs, cafés and even commercial “refectory” kitchens are adding them to dishes for staff, as my daughter confirmed recently, when she sent me a photo of her “work’s canteen” lunch at Harrods, which was grilled salmon with salad, both adorned with pansies! It’s a wonderful step forward, but it’s certainly not that modern; edible flowers have been used for thousands of years all over the world – from the Orient, where lilies were added to Imperial recipes, to Great Britain, where all dishes served in the Royal court during the Mediaeval period were adorned with flowers, as well as being used IN the recipes too. Ancient Rome used flowers in their kitchens, with mallow and rose petals being the most popular flowers that were used, along with dormice, and in the Indian sub-continent, Marigolds have been added to Indian and Pakistani cuisine for centuries.
In my own garden, I have a multitude of edible blooms, from herb flowers – such as chives, rosemary, borage, thyme, organo, dill and of course lavender, to popular bedding plants such as nasturtiums, pansies, violas, mallow, honeysuckle, daisies, roses and hollyhocks, the garden is full of edible blossoms that not only enhance many dishes in my kitchen, but in some instances are the main event. Courgette flowers are stuffed, elderflowers are made into champagne and cordials whilst honeysuckle makes a wonderfully sweet butter for toast and crumpets. With so many flowers to munch my way through on my doorstep, it’s not that surprising that I use them in lots of my baking, as well as sweet and savoury recipes. For those of you who are a little daunted about what you can and cannot eat, on the floral front, there is a FABULOUSLY informative list of edible flowers on the Thompson and Morgan site here: Edible Flowers Guide.
Today’s recipe, Provençal Stuffed Apricot & Goat’s Cheese Salad with Edible Flowers, pays homage to a recent trip I made to Provence, Gard, Vaucluse, Ardeche and the Rhone Valley – you can read all about one of my trips here: Foraging and Cooking with Les Aventurières du Goût in Provence, and here: Travel Diary Preview: Terroir & Wine in Provence, Gard, Rhone Valley and Ardeche. It was the very special foraging and cooking class in the beautiful village of Brantes, which provided the inspiration for my recipe today – although I regularly use flowers in my kitchen, I was captivated by the recipes I prepared and cooked with Odile and Jacqueline at Les Aventurières du Goût, a magical cookery school high in the mountains of Vaucluse. Based on their recipe for Délice de fromage de chèvre aux poivrons rouges et à la menthe, (stuffed apricots with cream cheese, nettles, red peppers and Picodon goat’s cheese with mint), my recipe is more of a salad, and can be enjoyed as a starter as well as a light luncheon dish in its own right.
There are no flowers in this salad that are hard to source or find, so hopefully this summery recipe will also find its way on to your kitchen tables. If you can’t find Picodon cheese, any fresh goat’s cheese will be fine, the sort that come in small discs, weighing about 70g each, are the cheeses to use. The recipe serves six as a starter, and four as a main dish, with crusty bread and wine of course! If you fancy other stone fruits, than I suggest flat peaches would be a wonderful alternative to apricots……and do adapt the herbs used in the cream cheese filling to suit. I’ll be back soon with more tales from the South of France, with some new recipes too……have a great Monday, Karen
Some other Edible Flower recipes on Lavender and Lovage: