Hartford House

The Home of Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses

Award-winning hotel and restaurant situated at Summerhill Stud on the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander, South Africa.

Floral madness, as flowers take centre stage!

Flowerscape 2012 at Hartford House / Jackie Cameron (p)

Flowerscape 2012 at Hartford House / Jackie Cameron (p)

Flowerscape"
Food and Flower Fusion"

Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

When I was in training, a few chefs in large organisations used flowers to make their food or the buffet platters look 'pretty'. I chose the word pretty because this was the only reason for the floral decorations. The practice annoyed me because it had no meaningful importance. We were always taught everything on a plate should have a reason and a purpose. Therefore, I've never understood the large rosemary sprig garnishes or the sprinkling of paprika and masala on a plate.

Like everything in life, the food industry is ever changing and one must move with the times or get left behind; better still to be ahead of the game. Today the clever and delicate use of flowers in food is a trend and can be impressively executed if constructed with care. My opinion on that practice has changed, but not my stance on the reason for the flowers being on a plate.

We have started using flowers as much as possible on our menus. They highlight and accentuate the flavours, giving a somewhat feminine personality to each dish - seems appropriate in my all-female kitchen. Before diving into using flowers, I needed to learn what the Hartford House gardens could offer. I thought this would be a lengthy process because I'm no green-fingered kind 'o gal. However, thanks to my dear friend Olivia - who introduced me to Jill Manson, a floral-communication expert - this became possible in a short period of time. Jill has indepth knowledge of flowers and after one meeting and a walk around the hotel gardens I had a clearer picture about using flowers in food.

The meeting resulted in Jill and I presenting a 'flower weekend' at Hartford House. Jill's creative floral-design workshop was the backbone of this inspirational two days where guests learnt the soulful meaning of flowers. They discovered their flower personalities and created individual floral designs which told the story of their souls - all under Jill's skilful guidance. This was truly a motivating journey of self-discovery using the colour, the beauty and the healing essence of flowers.

Calling on Irene Waller, wine maker and general manager of La Bri Wine Estate in Franschhoek, seemed a natural course. I stayed at La Bri earlier this year and was introduced to Irene's unique flower-inspired wines. Each wine has its own story and a flower (such as the amaryllis and the clivia) which are displayed on the label. I thought the triangle comprising Jill, Irene and myself would be a match made in flower heaven. And it was!

Putting this event together was such fun and below are the flower-inspired recipes I'd like to share with you.

Take these recipes and try them.

geraniums

Beetroot Macaroons
Rose Geranium Ice Cream
Doughnuts
Fancy Cucumber Sandwiches
Chocolate Fondant

The 'flower weekend' kicked off with the most delicious savoury beetroot macaroons. We topped these with beet micros for an earthy, savoury kick to tantalise the taste buds for the courses to come.

Friday night's food-and-wine pairing menu included butter-poached prawns with a pineapple-sage crème which worked so well with the La Bri Chardonnay 2011. The starter comprised KZN Quail and Croft chicken-liver parfait and included fennel as well as a viola espuma, with tiny little colourful viola flowers that picked up on the slight spiciness and liquorice undertones of the Syrah 2009. Other combinations included hearty lentil soup with nasturtium flowers and crispy capers. Belgium, dark, bitter-chocolate fondant with fresh jasmine flowers, homemade berry jam and vanilla-bean ice cream smear, completed the meal. This was the combination Irene was most concerned about. It turned out to be the dish she enjoyed the most because of its unusual pairing and complexity.

The next day belonged to Jill and from breakfast to lunch, followed by high tea, every item of food was flower infused. Rose-geranium yoghurt, borage-flavoured, creamy scrambled and crystallised-rock rose petals with crumpets were winners for breakfast. Lunch was light and was rounded off with a handmade Turkish delight; lemon verbena panna cotta; lavender sherbet; and a super-creamy, rose-geranium ice cream.

High-tea was decadent and all combinations went down a treat. Think red-velvet cupcakes with lavender cream-cheese icing, rose-geranium-infused spicy doughnuts, rose jelly with violets and vanilla-bean custard. The savoury kick of smoked-trout crepes with avocado and sunflower shoots as well as the fancy cucumber sandwiches with rocket flower looked as good as they tasted.

This was a memorable weekend - one of my favourites here at Hartford House. I wish you all could have experienced it.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook so you can keep up to date with the next food and wine experience. I'm excited to let you know that Thelema Wines will be with us on the November 9, 2012. It's one of my favourite estates.

Send comments and food-related questions to jackie@hartford.co.za. I always look forward to hearing from you.

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef
Hartford House
www.hartford.co.za
jackie@hartford.co.za
+27 33 263 2713

Assisted by Elaine Boshoff for recipe development and photography.