From time to time I come across ingredients that are new to me. There are other ingredients too that are not usually found in UK cooking so are worth listing here. I will also add some items that I have had in my cupboard and used for a while but are still less well known. I apologise in advance as they may be very familar to some of my readers, especially those outside the UK, but I will list them here anyway as they arise. I will put in some links, where applicable, to some of the recipes I have posted in which they have been used.
LAST SITE UPDATE: October 2010
Aniseed Flavour (Star Anise/Pastis/Florence Fennel/Aniseed)
This flavour can be found in flavoured alcoholic drinks such as the French Pastis, Greek Ouzo and other similar drinks, although these are usually made from distilled Star Anise, which is an asian spice unrelated to fennel. Fennel, sometimes called Florence Fennel, has a mild aniseed flavour and is a white bulb often topped with green feathery fronds. It can be sliced or finely chopped into savoury dishes, or baked and is often used in fish dishes, although not exclusively. In the UK you can buy boiled hard sweets such as aniseed balls and aniseed cough candy or twist where the flavouring comes from oil of Aniseed, a border herb with an umbrella shaped flowerhead but also sometimes from Fennel seeds. Both types of seed can also be used as part of a spice mixture or in cooked dishes and breads. (Find more recipes and mentions of Fennel on this site.)
Fennel used in: Pot Roasted Vegetables & Pearl Barley, Fish Pie with Pesto Topping, Baked Pasta with Fennel, Cream & Ham, Smoked Salmon, Fennel & Onion Quiche, Salmon Risotto with Cucumber & Fennel, Minted Smoked Salmon & Fennel Tortilla, Fennel & Apple Chutney
Seeds used in: Crunchy Cheese Biscuits, Ras el-Hanout (spice mixture)
Flowers in Food
Waters These are not exactly a new ingredient to me as I have known about them and have had a bottle of orange flower in my cupboard for some time (bought in France as it was not available in the UK at that time). However I have just started to use both orange flower water and rosewater in dishes for the first time and wonder why it took me so long. They lend a wonderful delicate perfume to the dish whether it be sweet or savoury. Less is more so go carefully at first and I understand that you can overdo rosewater and make a dish bitter. Orange flower water is a traditional ingredient of French Brioche bread and Rosewater is well known a the scent in the pink coloured Turkish Delight (also known as Loukoumi in Greece and various names in the other countries – see link). I am still trying to find out a little more about Kewra (Pandanus/Screwpine) flower water which is used in Indian foods, especially sweetmeats. From what I read it is a bit like a cross between rose and orange.
I am searching for recipes and ideas for using Kewra flower water so please get in touch if you have any helpful comments. Also, are there any other flower flavoured waters I should know about and where in the UK are they available, please.
Orange flower water: Fragrant Marmalade Cake, Fragrant Chocolate Orange Marble Cake,
Rosewater: Cherry & Rosewater Pavlova Meringue Roulade, Fruit Compotes
Kewra flower water: recipes to follow – ideas sought, please see above.
Syrup/cordial This is worth making in spring when the Elder trees are in blossom. The syrup has to be stored in the fridge and used within a month as it will ferment quickly. It is also possible to make sparkling Elderflower champagne, which can be stored for much longer. I would be inclined to freeze small amounts of syrup for use throughout the year, but it is delicious as a drink so usually none is left. Commercially produced versions are available and have a longer shelf life. Use to flavour creams and to give a light fragrance to cakes.
Sugar Take a large spray of elderflowers, shake off any bugs and dry in the airing cupboard for about 36hrs (or at the bottom of a very low oven for a shorter time). Bury in a jar of granulated sugar and leave on the shelf to infuse. (Tie into a small net bag, such as the type that contain garlic, to stop too many bits dropping into the sugar.) Use in a similar way to Lavender or Vanilla sugar to give a fragrance to food.
This syrup I have only just discovered and would never have thought of using these wonderful yellow spring flowers for a culinary purpose. Apparently they can be eaten in salads too. When they start to bloom you know that Easter is just around the corner and there is often a sprig or two with the daffodils in the Mothering Sunday posies given out in churches on the fourth Sunday in Lent. A recipe for Forsythia syrup can be found at Local Kitchen with recipes for Honeydew Melon Jam with Forsythia & Citrus and Cranberry & Forsythia Scones (both untried by me). I will have to wait for some months until spring comes round again, but I have a large Forsythia bush just waiting to be turned into some syrup!
Syrup Lavender flowers can be used to scent cakes and biscuits, ice creams and other desserts. Also Lavender Lemonade – this is one of several recipes I have found online but I am planning to try it myself. I may make some Lavender syrup instead so I can add it to home made lemonade or other recipes as needed. (I am yet to try this as I have just bought a lavender bush and it is rather small at the moment! Comments to follow and possibly recipes too.
Herb/Spice mixtures Dried ground Lavender leaves can be added to spice mixes, in particular the Moroccan mixture Ras el-Hanout (my own mixture) and Herbes de Provence.
Sugar Take several sprays of Lavender, shake off any bugs and dry in the airing cupboard for about 36hrs. Bury in a jar of granulated sugar and leave on the shelf to infuse. (Tie into a small net bag, such as the type that contain garlic, to stop too many bits dropping into the sugar.) Use in a similar way to Elderflower or Vanilla sugar to give a fragrance to food.
WARNING: Lavender is said to induce labour and therefore should not be served to anyone who is, or may be, pregnant.
Syrup I have just bought a bottle of this, which I will be experimenting with used as a pouring sauce over ice cream and yoghurt type desserts. I understand it is lovely with raspberries.
Syrup A sharp tasting syrup which so far I have used solely drizzled over desserts. Any other suggestions gratefully received.
Used in: Eton Mess
Dried orange peel
Recommended for use to enhance the flavour of Mediterranean dishes such as Ratatouille. Originally discovered in Cooking in Provence by Alexander MacKay & Peter Knab, where it is used in their version of Ratatouille. I found it really does adds a ’sunshine’ flavour and smell of the Mediterranean. Keep a jar of crushed dried peel in the cupboard: just remove the zest, but not the pith, with a peeler and dry in the airing cupboard (takes about 3 days) or in a very low oven (takes about 6 hours). Search for recipes using Dried Orange Peel.
Used in: Cassoulet ‘Franglais’, Ratatouille Niçoise/Provençale, North African Style Fish Fillets (on bed of Ratatouille)
Dulce de Leche
A pouring toffee or caramel made from reduced sweetened milk, often made by gently heating a tin of condensed milk for a prolonged period (sometimes known as ‘tin’). Meaning literally ’sweet of milk’ in Spanish. In France it is known as Confiture du Lait (literally ‘milk jam’). Instructions for making Dulce de Leche can be found in various places online: there are detailed instructions from purplefoodie and also at gastronomydomine.
Used in: Toffee Apple Croissant (Bread & Butter) Pudding
Leaves are used as a flavouring for soups and stews, known as Maggiplant in the Netherlands, as they have a similar taste to Maggi Soup seasoning. I used the seed and it certainly gave a distinctive and unusual taste. As an alternative, celery leaves could be used.
Used in: Erwtensoep – Dutch Pea Soup
Muhammara (A Syrian red pepper spread)
½ cup finely chopped drained roasted red peppers from jar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons (or more) pomegranate molasses**
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Add roasted peppers to frying pan; stir 1 minute. Add ½ cup water and 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses. Bring to simmer, scraping up browned bits. Cook until reduced to
⅔ cup, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Mix in parsley. Season to taste with salt, pepper and more pomegranate molasses, if desired. Transfer to small bowl. (Recipe: bon appetit)
A very recent discovery: more research needed. Not yet used so no recipes.
Very small quick cooking pasta shapes used around the Mediterranean. Originally from Italy but easily found in Greek and Turkish supermarkets. Resembles large flattened grains of rice or barley.
No recipes available at present.
Have seen in various placed recently including Muhammara, above. A very recent discovery: more research needed. Not used and no recipes.
I usually buy this ready made in a tube from our local Turkish shop. It is not very expensive. However it is not difficult to make at home. This harissa recipe is untried.
A spice mixture used in North African cooking. This is my own mixture culled from various sources online.
Used in: Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad, Moroccan Style Beef Stew with Oranges & Beetroot, Moroccan Style Lamb & Rice Pilaf, North African Style Fish Fillets
A Middle Eastern herb, spice & sesame seed mixture used as an all purpose condiment. It can be sprinkled on bread, vegetables or yogurt, stirred into olive oil to use as a spread or rubbed onto meat, poultry or fish before cooking.
¼cup Ground sumac berries (available from in ethnic & mediterranean shops)
¼cup Toasted sesame seeds
2tbsp Dried thyme
2tbsp Dried oregano
Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly. Seal well and store in a cool, dark place.
Used in: Za’atar Chicken
A spice powder used in Turkish and Middle Eastern Cooking. A culinary variety of the common Sumac, a garden tree.
Used in: Grilled Chicken with Sumac & Roasted Banana, North African Style Fish Fillets
Search for Sumac on this site
Coming soon …
Raspberry Vinegar – other fruit vinegars too?
Kalonji – Black Onion Seed
(not particularly new to me but I think it deserves a mention!)
Mahlep/Mahleb – bitter cherry seeds to flavour dishes – good with apricots