October oddities

Deep_pink_Nerine
Nerine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The weather has been perfect for spending time in the garden this past week. Fresh and breezy, with the sun shining most days. There are leaves everywhere, and plenty of tidying up to do before the weather changes.

This time last year, I had 3 beautiful Nerine bulbs in bloom. Sadly the snails ate the shoots from the other 2 a few weeks ago, but this beauty survived. It looks like a plant that should be out in late spring or early summer, but at this time of year, it is very welcome and a stunning splash of colour.

Another favourite with the slugs and snails is the Perennial primrose, which also looks out-of-place in Autumn. I was lucky to capture such a perfect bloom for my photograph before the beasties started their lunch.

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Autumnal Perennial Primrose. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On the whole, there is not much going on in the garden in Autumn, just leaves tumbling everywhere. However, there are a few plants having one last hoorah before the winter weather begins. All round the walls of the garden, creeping Campanula grows from spring and throughout the summer. This little patch of greenery on a sunny part of wall has just burst into flower again this past week.

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Creeping Campanula. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in July, the cotton lavender was ablaze with tufty yellow flowers. After cutting it back to remove the dead heads at the end of summer, there is still plenty of  fragrant, silvery foliage to enjoy when the sun shines on it. Here we are a few weeks later, and the plant has bloomed again, but this time, with just one solitary flower.

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Cotton Lavender bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I think I mentioned in my last garden round-up that I was hoping for more rose blooms this Autumn. The heat and the dry weather didn’t seem to suit them earlier in the year and the petals faded very quickly. I was delighted to see fresh buds on my very fragrant favourite rose, and now the blooms are fully open, the garden around them is smelling sweet and aromatic again.

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Rosa Felicia. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There are several Hebes around the garden. It was a good year for blooms, and like the cotton lavender, these 3 bushes have started flowering again this past week, each with only a few small clusters of flowers.

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Blooming again, Hebes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

These eye-catching seeds or berries are all that’s left of the native Iris (Iris foetidissima) apart from the green, spear-like foliage. I don’t recall that many flowers this year, but the seed pods develop and open out to form the exact same pattern of the Iris flower-heads. You can see that there are quite a few pods, so I must have missed a lot of flowers.

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Iris foetidissima seed pods. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To round off my post this week, something suitably spooky for the end of October. With Hallowe’en just round the corner,  this image fits the season perfectly. This small espalier Comice pear tree only produced 4 pears this year. The small ones fell off a couple of weeks ago, but the largest one has been clinging on ever since. Now all the leaves have blown away from the tree, the bare branches made an eerie shadow against the wall this sunny afternoon. Have a good week.

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One Comice pear on a pear tree. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Early autumn garden

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Still blooming, white Japanese anemones. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

When I posted my last garden round-up back on August 9th, only one or two of these beautiful white Japanese anemones were in bloom. Here we are some eight weeks later, and they are looking magnificent in the flower-beds. Having survived the storm of last week, and the breezy weather we have had recently, they continue to flower when most plants around them are dying back.

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Meadow cranesbill enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have a lot of meadow cranesbill (hardy geranium) in the garden. I love the fragrant bright green foliage which trails over just about every wall. I cut back the first flowers when they started dying back a few weeks ago, and now there are new fresh pink blooms about the flower-beds to keep summery thoughts alive.

However, it is autumn, and these lilac crocus are popping up all over the place to remind me of the change of season. I love these strange, top-heavy flowers that poke out of the bare soil with no leaves and long mauve stalks. The rich, golden stamens smell of saffron, and on a warm day, the aroma is truly delicious.

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Fragrant Autumn crocus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Old fruiting Lord Derby apple tree. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a fantastic year for fruit. The old cooking apple tree is laden. I’ve been busy cooking up the wind-falls while the main crop still remains on the tree. I have two miniature eating apple trees in another part of the garden. These rarely produce more than half a dozen apples, but this year, I have enough to fill a large fruit-bowl,

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Mini eating apple harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I am particularly pleased with the crop of Concorde pears on a small tree at the top of the garden. I have had the tree for about a decade, and it hasn’t fruited very well until this year. The pears keep very well, so I will be able to enjoy them over the next few weeks. I’m sure there will be a pear recipe posted from me in the next few weeks.

In the same part of the garden, the Autumn-fruiting raspberries are ripening. I never have very many at a time, but a few berries ripen every two to three days, and are just enough to occasionally scatter over my morning granola.

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Concorde pear tree laden with fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Early Autumn-fruiting raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not been a good year for the roses in the garden. Too dry I think. However, there are a few second buds forming now, so if the sunny weather continues a while longer, I may get a few more blooms like this beauty. Until next week, my best wishes to you.

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Second time around, Gertrude Jekyl rose. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

November blooms and berries

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Early November blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Last weekend in the garden, at times, it was a little hard to believe that it was actually the beginning of November. There was a biting wind to remind me, but the sun was out, the sky was blue and in just about every corner of the garden, there were flowers in bloom. The dainty, pale-pink cranesbill above with the rose-bush in the background, are plants on their second flowering of the year. The darker pink flowers are Nerines, a glamorous, lily-like autumn flowering bulb, which I planted in late spring and have been flowering since the end of September.

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Second flowering of Rosa Felicia. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
Nerines
Autumn flowering Nerines. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not only pink flowers. There are bright yellow Welsh poppies here and there, and a seasonal reality check: the first flowers of Winter Jasmine are just opening out.

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November blooming Welsh poppies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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First blooms of Winter Jasmine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Flowers aside, there are also various berries adding splashes of colour. The holly trees are stacked out with berries this year – both red and yellow berried varieties – and the native iris, Foedissima, which flowered so prolifically a few months ago has now become laden down with bright orange berries. It looks very curious indeed, the berries are bursting out of pods which open out to match the exact formation of the iris petals earlier in the year. With all the berries around, there is clearly going to be plenty of food for the birds this winter.

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Yellow and red holly berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Bright orange iris foedissima berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

And finally, one more berry to report: it looks like I may have another crop of strawberries this year. I’m not getting my hopes up on the jam-making front, but I am curious to see if they do actually ripen.

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Second strawberry crop. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rose and pistachio cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Rose and pistachio loaf cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When I lived in London, a trip to the Edgware Road meant I could get my fix of my favourite Middle Eastern pastries. Full of chopped almonds and pistachios, the crisp, buttery, layers of filo pastry soaked in rose and lemon flavoured syrup were so sweet, my whole mouth “jangled” with the sensation of a sugar-overload.

Those days are long past me now, but this cake combines the flavours and some of the textures I love so much. In my post last week Cooking with rose petals – make your own rosewater, rose petal syrup and dried rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) you’ll find all the rose-scented recipes you need if you want to make this very floral cake from scratch. However, I realise that rose isn’t to everyone’s taste so if you fancy the cake without the floral flavours, it works very well with the grated rind of a lemon added to mixture instead of vanilla, and make the icing made up with freshly squeezed lemon juice instead of rosewater. It is utterly delicious however you flavour it, I guarantee!

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

  • 150g ground almonds
  • 100g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 8g arrowroot (optional, but I add it to gluten-free cake mixes to help bind the textures together)
  • 2 level teasp gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 100g finely chopped unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 175g caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 175g silken tofu
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 2 teasp good quality vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tbsp rose petal syrup (optional)

To decorate:

  • 115g icing sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp homemade rosewater
  • A few drops natural pink food colouring
  • Dried rose petals
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre.
  2. Blend the tofu, oil and vanilla extract together in a food processor or blender for a few seconds until smooth. Spoon the mixture into the centre of the dry ingredients and gradually combine all the ingredients together until well blended.
  3. Spoon into the prepared loaf tin, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes, or until golden, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then if using rose petal syrup, skewer the top in several places and spoon over the syrup. Leave to cool completely, then remove from the tin, wrap and store for 24 hours to allow the flavours to develop.
  4. To decorate. sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add sufficient rosewater to taste (Note: if you’re using distilled or shop-bought rose water, you will need to add less than homemade) then add a few drops of warm water and pink food colouring to make a smooth, spreadable icing.
  5. Spread the icing on top of the cake and sprinkle with dried rose petals. Leave for a few minutes to allow the icing to set before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

    Rose_and_pistachio_cake_sliced_and_ready_to_serve
    Sliced and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Cooking with rose petals – make your own rosewater, rose petal syrup and dried rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

 

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Trug of freshly picked fragrant rose heads. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It is pleasantly fragrant in the garden at the moment, thanks mostly to two highly scented rose bushes. One variety is very old, a Felicia rose, with gnarled, stooped stems. However old it is, the foliage is vibrant green and  healthy-looking  and the bush produces an abundant supply of pale pink, Turkish Delight-scented flowers from late spring through to late summer. The other, a Gertrude Jekyll, I planted last year. The flowers are larger, deeper pink in colour and the fragrance slightly sweeter and more aromatic. Both roses have lots of petals per head, and are perfect for use in the kitchen.

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Pale pink, Felicia rose, and the deeper pink, Gertrude Jekyll rose. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The preparation for any recipe using rose petals is the same. Choose fragrant roses with undamaged petals; they need to be free from pests and chemical sprays. Rose heads are best picked when almost fully open and still fresh. Cut the stems in the morning before the sun becomes too hot – this helps preserve colour and fragrance. Carefully pull the petals from the head, keeping them as whole as possible, weigh them, and then place in a colander or strainer. Fill a bowl with cold water and dip the colander in the water to submerge the petals. Swirl gently the colander and then lift out. Shake gently to drain and shake further to remove the excess water.

The petals are fine to use damp for rosewater, syrup and any recipe where they are cooked in liquid, but if you want to dry them, spread them out carefully on sheets of absorbent kitchen paper or a clean tea towel and pat them dry with more paper or  clean cloth. Leave to dry naturally, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour or until they feel dry to the touch.

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Making homemade rosewater. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rosewater – makes approx. 250ml

  • 25g fragrant rose petals – approx. 4 full heads of rose petals
  • 250ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp vodka (optional) – this helps preserve the rosewater for slightly longer
  1. Prepare and rinse the rose petals as described above. Place in a sterilised, clean preserving jar or heatproof jug, and pour over the boiling water.
  2. Cover the top with a piece of muslin or kitchen paper and leave to steep until completely cold.
  3. Strain through muslin into a sterilised, clean jug and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible. Mix in the vodka if using.
  4. Decant into a sterilised, screw-top bottle or jam jar. Seal, label and store in the fridge. Use within 4 to 6 weeks.

Note: homemade rosewater is weaker in dilution that the distilled rosewater you can buy ready-made, so you will probably need to use more in your recipes.

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How to make homemade rose petal syrup. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rose petal syrup – makes 350ml

  • 85g fragrant rose petals – approx. 9 full heads of rose petals
  • 450ml cold water
  • 265g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  1. Prepare and rinse rose petals as above, then place in a clean, large stainless steel saucepan. Pour over the cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 20 minutes – all the colour will come out of the petals. Strain through muslin into a jug, and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible.
  3. Return the liquid to the saucepan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir well over a low heat to dissolve the sugar – the liquid should now be, magically, very pink.
  4. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until lightly syrupy. Pour into sterilised bottles or jars and seal well. Label and cool. The syrup will keep unopened for 6 months, once opened keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Rose petal syrup is perfect for fruit salads; adding to cocktails; diluting with sparkling water for a refreshing summer cooler; for pouring over pancakes or for drizzling over freshly baked cakes.

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Drying rose petals. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Dried rose petals – prepare rose petals as described above and dry thoroughly. Spread out across the layers of a dehydrator, making sure they are well spaced out, keeping them in as much of a single layer as possible. Cover and dry at 40°C for 1 ½ to 2 hours, swapping the trays around every 30 minutes, until the petals are dry and parched. Leave to cool then place in a clear screw-top jar and store in a dark, dry place. Petals will fade after a few months, and are best used within 4 to 6 weeks. Sprinkle over salads, fruit desserts or use as a natural cake decoration.

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Homemade rosewater, dried rose petals and rose petal syrup. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My next post will be very rosy and will use all 3 rose recipes. See you in a few days!

For other recipes using rose petals see my previous posts Rose and raspberry vodka (gluten-free, dairy-free) and Sugared rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free

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Rose marshmallow (gluten-free, dairy-free)

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Homemade rose marshmallow. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

One of my favourite flavours married with a much loved sweetie are a match made in heaven in this recipe. Some shop-bought marshmallow can be a bit on the chewy side to my taste, so my version may be a bit different to what you’ve come to expect. This recipe makes a lighter, fluffier marshmallow, but if you want a firmer texture, it is worth experimenting by adding more gelatine.

If you can make meringue, then marshmallow is just one step on. You will need a sugar thermometer to take away the guesswork when making a sugar syrup. Other than that, the most important thing I can say before you get started, is to get yourself organised and have everything lined up and ready to go.

Makes 1 x 18cm square of marshmallow which cuts into 9 chunky pieces

  • 5 leaves good quality gelatine
  • 2 medium egg whites or 2 single egg sachets dried egg white powder
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 50g liquid glucose
  • Pink food colour gel
  • Good quality rose water (I use Nielsen Massey)
  • 25g cornflour
  • Sugared rose petals to decorate
  1. Line a deepish 18cm  square cake tin with baking parchment. Cut up the gelatine into small pieces and place in a small heatproof bowl. Add 75ml cold water and leave to soak for 5 minutes, then place in the microwave and cook on High for 30-40 seconds until dissolved – microwave in 10 second blasts to avoid overheating, and do not boil. Leave aside.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites or powder in a large, grease-free, heatproof bowl until very stiff.
  3. Put the sugar in a small saucepan with the glucose and 50ml cold water. Heat gently, stirring, until melted, then raise the heat and let the mixture bubble until it becomes clear and syrupy and reaches 118ºC on a sugar thermometer.
  4. Remove the syrup from the heat. Start whisking the egg whites again and gently pour over the hot syrup in a slow and steady stream. Keep whisking as you pour in the liquid gelatine.
  5. Continue to whisk to form a thick and glossy meringue-like mixture – this may take up to 5 minutes depending on how much heat I retained.
  6. Working quickly before the mixture begins to set add sufficient food colour gel and rose water to taste.
  7. Scrape the marshmallow into the lined tin and smooth over the top as best you can. Leave to cool, then put in a cool place (not the fridge) for 3-4 hours until completely set and firm to the touch.
  8. To finish, dust a tray with the cornflour and turn the marshmallow on to it. Peel away the parchment. Using a large bladed knife, cut into 9 squares and toss in the cornflour to coat lightly. The marshmallow is ready to eat, or it will store, layered on pieces of baking parchment in an airtight container, in a cool place for up to 2 weeks. Note: homemade marshmallow does not like the fridge and will start to dissolve in damp conditions.

For an extra rose flavour, top each piece with a sugared rose petal – I gave a recipe for these in my July 19th 2016 post.

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Homemade rose marshmallow. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Rose and raspberry vodka (gluten-free, dairy-free)

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Home-grown Scottish raspberries. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Raspberries grow very well here in central Scotland. They love all the rain we have! Unlike other species of berries I grow, raspberries seem to ripen without the sunshine, and I am always taken aback to see how quickly they turn from pale pink to rich pinkish red, even during the dullest days of the Summer.

The first plants I bought for the garden when I moved here were 6 raspberry canes. That was Autumn 2004, and here we are some 11 ½ years later, still enjoying their produce. The variety is Glen Ample; I chose this raspberry because the fruits are large and juicy, perfect for jam making. I have been picking the berries for about 3 weeks now, and already, I have packed away over 5kg in the freezer. I rarely have time to make jam in the summer, so I do my preserving from the frozen berries later in the year. Raspberries are one of the most successful frozen fruits for jam making, they lose little of their flavour or setting properties through freezing.

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Rose and raspberry vodka ingredients. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from enjoying the raspberries fresh and in jam, I do like to put some in sweet vinegar for salad dressings, and I also make flavoured tipples for a festive drink. This is one of my favourites.

Makes: 70cl

  • 4 small fragrant rose heads
  • A large handful of fresh raspberries
  • 70cl bottle gluten-free vodka (such as Smirnoff – look for a vodka that is made distilled from corn, potatoes or grapes)
  1. Carefully rinse and pat dry the rose petals and raspberries, taking care not to bruise or crush them.
  2. Break up the petals and put them in the bottom of a large sterilised, sealable glass jar along with the raspberries.
  3. Pour over the vodka, seal and label. Gently swirl the contents every day for 2 weeks.
  4. After 3 weeks or so, taste the vodka and see whether it is to your taste. If the vodka is flavoured sufficiently, strain completely and rebottle in a clean, sterilised bottle. For more flavour, strain and add fresh petals and/or raspberries, then continue to store as above. Store in a cool, cupboard to preserve the flavour and colour. You’ll notice that after a few days, the colour quickly fades from the petals and berries and begins to colour and flavour the vodka.
  5. Enjoy the vodka chilled over ice, or use as a base for punches and longer drinks. For a sweeter drink, add 25-50g caster sugar to the mix along with the petals and fruit.
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Rose petals and fresh raspberries in preserving jar. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins
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Rose and raspberry vodka. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Sugared rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free)

One of my favourite culinary flavours is rose but it is a flavour that can easily overpower other ingredients, so you do have to use just the right amount in your cooking. One of the best ways to achieve this is to use the petals.

I couldn’t believe my luck when I realised that the  beautiful rose pictured above, Rosa Felicia, well established in the garden when I moved in, was not only abundant with flowers, but the fragrance and flavour is sublime.

Whilst I haven’t managed to make my own rose water with any success, I have put some in white balsamic vinegar to use as a dressing, and I usually steep some in vodka, ready for a festive tipple – post to follow soon. Most often, I use dried and fresh rose petals to decorate cakes and fruit dishes, and I coat some with sugar to keep as an out of season decoration.

To make sugared rose petals, always choose a rose with a scent otherwise there will be no flavour, and  choose smaller, softer petals as these will be nicer to eat. Choose rose heads higher off the ground so there is no danger of animal “spoiling”, and pick the rose once it has just opened – if it is too tightly in bud the petals will be difficult to break open; a rose that is too open will have lost colour and fragrance.

Gently wash the petals – I put them in a sieve or colander and dip them in a bowl of water to remove any dust – then lay them out on kitchen paper to dry. It is better to leave them to air-dry if it is warm, but if time is short, gently pat them dry using kitchen paper, taking care not to bruise them. All you need then is egg white, caster sugar, plus a bit of time and patience.

My preference is to use powdered egg white – a one egg sachet is more than sufficient to cover lots of petals. Alternatively, you can use a small fresh egg white, just beat it until it is fluid and frothy. Put the egg white on to one saucer or small plate, and sprinkle a shallow depth of caster sugar on another.

Using tweezers, dip a petal in egg white and then brush off the excess white using a small paint brush. For best results, brush off all bubbles or pools of egg white to achieve a smooth, thin coating. Gently push the lightly dipped petal into the sugar and sprinkle over a little more to coat the top. Lift out with tweezers, gently shake off the excess sugar and place on a board lined with baking parchment. Continue the process to coat as many petals you need.

Once you have coated a few petals, you will need to remove clumps of sugary egg white from the sugar, and replace it with fresh. Leave the petals to dry at room temperature, covered loosely with another sheet of baking parchment, for 24 to 48 hours until dry and crisp. The sugared petals can be stored in between sheets of parchment in an airtight tin for several weeks. After about 3 months, rather disappointingly, the colour will fade and the flavour will be lost, so make sure you use them up in time – they do make a lovely sugary, floral snack as well!