Add a dash of blooms in food

Add a dash of blooms in food

With their unique beauty, enticing scents, sole flavour and riot of colours, they have become more than just dining table decorations and presentation, writes Ananya Banerjee

Sojne Phool Baati Chorchori.

Flowers are becoming one of the most modern and fast ingredients that chefs across the world are incorporating in their menus. With their unique beauty, enticing scents, sole flavour and riot of colours, they have become more than just dining table decorations and presentation.

Flowers have been incorporated in recipes since a very long time in India. If you observe the diverse ancient Indian texts like the Supa Shastra and Ni matnama, and the amount of dishes which are spread across the states, the use of edible flowers in these recipes adds a delicious flavour, like vegetables do. They are used for their medicinal properties or to add colour.

There are various kinds of flowers which are used in Indian cuisine. From the long list, the most common flowers used are the banana blossom, the papaya flower, palash flowers, neem flowers, and rose, among others. India being a diverse country, every state has its own method of using their edible flowers, be it in rasams to curry, or fritters to tea.

The Assamese often add night jasmine (xewali) to khar, a traditional alkaline-based dish of pulpy vegetables, which uses a variety of indigenous ingredients. Jasmine tea is known for lowering blood pressure and helps to boost the system. People in Tamil Nadu and few other states like to use the terribly bitter neem flower, which has excellent blood purifying properties, and the rasam made with these leaves is best served during summers.

Hibiscus flowers have a citrusy and slightly bitter flavour. They can be used to impart a fresh flavour to desserts and also features in Andhra Pradesh’s gongura pachadi. Everyone knows the use of rose petals in creating gulkand, drying them for use in mithais or creating syrups out of them; it’s not just for their flavour but also for the cooling properties that they have. Sometimes, the presence of edible flowers in a cuisine simply came to be out of a desire to not waste anything. Take an example of the Bengali cuisine. Bengalis eat the leaves, stems, barks, seeds and also the peels or flowers of a plant. Like Italian zucchini flower fritters, Bengalis use a lot of flowers to make bhaja (fritters) like the kumro phool (pumpkin flower) bhaja, bok phool (agati flower) bhaja, sojne phool or moringa bhaja (drumstick flower, known for its health benefits). Many of these flowers are seasonal. While fresh bok phool can be used as house decor, they’re simply far more wonderful when turned into a plate of bhaja. Discover the world of blooms in food, with a few recipes:

Bauk Phool Bhaja

Ingredients

Bauk phool (agati flower); besan; turmeric powder; kalonji; a pinch of baking soda; sunflower oil for deep frying; salt to taste

Method

Remove the flower tentacle that is within the bauk phool and then wash it gently. In a bowl take besan, turmeric powder, kalonji (if using), baking soda and salt. Mix well and then add water to make a thick batter. Heat oil in a pan. Coat each bauk phool with the batter and deep-fry until golden brown. Remove and drain excess oil. Serve hot.

 

Mochar Ghonto (dry spiced banana-blossoms)

Ingredients

Banana blossom (mocha) finely chopped, boiled and mashed: 1 ; mustard oil: 3 tablespoons; bay leaves: 2-3; cumin seeds: 1 teaspoon; potatoes, boiled, peeled and cut into cubes: 2 medium; red chilli powder: 1 teaspoon; cumin powder: 1 teaspoon; turmeric powder: 1 teaspoon; raisins: 1 tbs; salt to taste; sugar: 1 teaspoon; ghee: 1 tsp; garam masala powder: ¼ teaspoon; grated fresh coconut: 2 tbs  

Method

Heat mustard oil in a pan, add bay leaves and cumin seeds and sauté till fragrant. Add potatoes and sauté till light brown. Add boiled banana blossom and sauté well. Add chilli powder, cumin powder and turmeric powder and mix well. Add raisins, salt and sugar. Mix well and cook for a few minutes till everything is combined well. Add ghee, sprinkle garam masala powder and scraped coconut and mix lightly. Serve with white rice.
Ananya Banerjee

(The author is chef, owner of LAB Studio)

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