At all times, we’re on the lookout for new ways to bring together our love for cooking, gardening and entertaining, and this salad is it! A scrumptious botanical treat, this salad brings vibrant color and imagination to any event whether a girls’ luncheon, baby shower, or celebratory brunch. Taken from the pages of Hattie Ellis’ stunning cookbook Honey, the sweet and striking essence of this recipe engages every sense on first bite! Here’s Hattie with a few notes on how to bring your garden right on in to your kitchen table…
The world of edible flowers was opened up to me by a visit to Maddocks Farm Organics in Devon, where Jan Billington specializes in growing organic flowers for the table. We wandered through her beds of flowers, munching away at exquisite blooms, while Jan showed me which ones the bees preferred to feast on.
Ever since, I have looked at flowers with new eyes. We eat the leaves of plants, so why not the flowers? You need to make sure you’re eating ones that taste nice and aren’t toxic, but once you’ve found a few favorites, flowers are an easy way to add fresh beauty and interest to the plate. The Scented Kitchen: Cooking with Flowers by Frances Bissell is the best book I’ve found on the subject, along with Edible Flowers by Claire Clifton.
The chives, borage and violas used here are all blue flowers to go with the blue cheese and are all easy to grow, whether you have a plot or a pot. Otherwise, you occasionally find such blooms in some green grocers and the odd supermarket, but mostly you need to get in touch with someone like Jan.
Blue Cheese, Honey Walnut and Edible Flower Salad
2 ¼ oz/60g walnut pieces
11/4 tbsp raw honey
1 lb/5oz/600g salad leaves – mostly gentle, such as butter head or cos (about 14 oz/400g), with some stronger, more herbal leaves such as arugula or mizuna (2 oz/200g)
9oz/250g blue cheese, such as stilton, roquefort or beenleigh, roughly crumbled or cut into pieces
Blue flowers – perhaps 12 borage flowers, 4 chive heads (petals pulled apart), 6-12 violas
2 tbsp raw honey (a light one such as wildflower, acacia or orange blossom is best)
1/4 garlic clove, finely chopped, plus the rest of the clove to rub on bread
1 ½ -2 tsp fruit or cider vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil, mild
To make the honeyed walnuts, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°/Gas 4.
To make the dressing, put the honey in a small bowl, add the garlic and vinegar and season with a pinch of salt (the cheese is salty, so you don’t need too much). Stir to dissolve the honey, then pour in the oil and whisk together. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Put the walnut pieces on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Toast in the oven for 5 minutes, or until lightly crisp. Drizzle over the honey and turn over using 2 teaspoons to coat the nuts in the honey. Return to the oven for 2 minutes,taking care they do not toast too much and become bitter. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Shortly before you want to eat, wash and dry the salad leaves and put in a large bowl. Re-whisk the dressing and pour it over the leaves. Mix carefully and gently with your hands. Place on 6 plates and scatter over the cheese. Arrange the flowers and honeyed walnuts on top.
Credit line: Reprinted with permission from Honey published in 2014 by Sterling Epicure. Text © 2014 by Pavilion Books. Photography by Maja Smend.