Flowers to eat: Celeriac risotto with apple and rose mayonnaise
I have always loved flowers and my Celeriac risotto with apple and rose mayonnaise is my hymn to them.This love is certainly linked to the fact that I was born and raised in the countryside.
One of my fondest memories as a child is of the end of February when the cold weather began to become milder, the fields and woods behind the house began to turn an extraordinarily bright green, and the wild garden in front of the kitchen window began to reveal the first coloured dots of hundreds of violets. For me and my best friend, who lived next door, it was the signal to go to a specific part of the forest, which at that time of year was transformed into a truly incredible place.
There was in fact a corner, with fewer trees, that was full of bushes and flowers, where a huge carpet of violets, interspersed with tufts of yellow primroses, overwhelmed us with an intoxicating scent. Every year our long walk into the woods ended with the picking of a small bunch of violets to take to our mothers, and mine always had to include some white ones because they were particularly dear to my mum. The bouquet (which was always the largest we could hold in our hands!) would then end up fragrancing the kitchen, reminding us that spring had now arrived.
Other flowers, herbs and fruits came with spring and they did not only fragrance our homes, but also enriched our kitchens. We started with the liqueur made from rose petals, then came the chamomile we picked to dry for winter herbal teas, fresh walnuts in their husks were used to make nocino, lavender flowers to flavour biscuits, breadcrumbs and cupboards, nettles and dandelion were used for omelettes and the traditional stuffed pies.
The ‘Buon appetito… fiorellino!’ Contest
When I went to Sanremo in September 2018 for the final of the Ma che cipolla d’Egitto’ contest I found out that the city is the seat of Crea, the institute founded by Italo Calvino’s father, who started cultivating edible flowers in a ‘catalogue field’. A few months later, my friend Raffaella Fenoglio of the blog Tre Civette sul Comò together with Crea itself, Zem Edizioni, Italian Food Blogger Association, the Villa Ormond Foundation of Sanremo, Ravera Bio and the Associazione Ristoranti della Tavolozza launched a beautiful contest entitled “Buon appetito… fiorellino!” (Good appetite… little flower! ), which aims at highlighting the use of flowers not only as decorative elements, but also as real ingredients because they are delicious!
My search for a supplier of edible flowers, not too far from Parma and in a season when my garden and my woodland are not much help to me, began immediately, but the ‘spoils’ were a bit predictable: I only found beautiful rose buds and colourful violets! Those who know me know that I do not believe in coincidences, i.e. I am convinced that there is always a reason why events happen or paths cross, so since my flowers were delivered on a Saturday morning and Saturday lunch means risotto, my contest recipe is none other than the Risotto prepared for lunch on Saturday 12 January. I must also admit that with such a beautiful and scented risotto, we felt like VIPs at our own place!
Why a Celeriac risotto with apple and rose mayonnaise
I will explain the reason for my choices. The main ingredient of the ‘basic’ risotto is celeriac, a lumpy vegetable that, as its name suggests, is a celery-flavoured turnip: that’s why I chose it, for its seasonality and flavour.
The second ingredient is apple, which goes perfectly with both celery and roses. The third ingredient is roses, in the form of petals and rose water, which I had brought home from San Remo and which allowed me to add an extra touch of fragrance to this pampering dish.
In addition, I learnt from reading the book by Libereso Guglielmi, the botanical expert who inspired this contest, that roses are able to strengthen the nervous system and aid digestion and their essential oil reduces tension and stress…I would say perfect to prepare for a relaxing weekend!
What more can I say? Simply that if the aim of the contest was to promote the use of edible flowers in the kitchen, with me the goal has certainly been achieved and the seeds of many scented unknown flowers are already on their way to the Po Valley!
Would you like to try another recipe with roses: here is my Milk pudding with rose water.
Celeriac risotto with apple and rose mayonnaise
31.80g carbohydrates per 100g of risotto without mayonnaise
carbohydrates 7.43 per 100g of apple and rose mayonnaise
Ingredients for 4 servings
- approx. 1.5 litres of previously prepared vegetable stock
- 320g Carnaroli rice
- 90g celeriac, already trimmed and peeled
- 70g leek
- 50g sorghum beer La Gaia Ambra
- 60g Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
- 30g butter
- extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese for the crisps
Ingredients for the apple mayonnaise
- 125g apple (approx. 1 apple, cored and peeled)
- 35g grapeseed oil
- 15g orange juice
- 10g red rose petals
*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on Prontuario AIC)
Preparation of mayonnaise
- First prepare the apple mayonnaise. Peel and cut the apple into 4 pieces and place in a microwaveable container. Seal the container with cling film or its lid (if equipped with a steam valve) and cook the apple very well without letting the steam escape (in my microwave I cooked it 4 minutes at power 3). Once cooked, place the apple in the freezer for 10 minutes. Once well chilled, blend the apple and orange juice by placing them in a tall, narrow glass using an immersion blender; when you have obtained a kind of cream, add the oil in a trickle while continuing to whip. At this point, add rose petals finely chopped with a knife and rose water to taste (I put a teaspoonful).
Preparation of cheese crisps
- Prepare some cheese crisps before devoting yourself to the risotto. Form a thin disc-shaped layer of grated Pecorino romano cheese on a plate and place it in the microwave oven. Heat the cheese gradually by setting short heating times until the cheese starts to melt and become crispy on top. With the help of a metal scraper, remove the disc from the plate and set it aside.
Preparation of risotto and assembly
- Start preparing the rice. Put a little oil in a pan and very slowly sweat the thinly sliced leek and the celeriac cut into small cubes. After a few minutes, add a ladle of stock and cook the celeriac almost completely. At this point, add the rice and toast it on a high heat (it took me 3 minutes to get the grains nice and transparent with a white kernel in the centre). Pour the la Gaia beer on the rice and allow to evaporate, then start adding the boiling stock. Continue stirring and only add stock when the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid. When the rice is still al dente, remove from the heat and proceed with the creaming. Add the 30 grams of butter, stirring the rice well so that the starch is released to form a nice creamy mixture, add the grated Parmesan cheese and continue stirring until it is completely incorporated. Cover the pan with a tea towel and let it rest for 1 minute.
- Plate the risotto on hot dishes and top it with clumps of rose and apple mayonnaise, some rose petals and pieces of Parmesan crisps.
This recipe was submitted to the ‘Buon appetito…fiorellino’ contest.