Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hibiscus, reconsidered.

I think that the foodie blues visits all bloggers in some form, from time to time. Sometimes, no matter what you do, they stubbornly refuse to be cured, neither by eating food high-falutin', nor home-spun and comforting.

That's where my boy Kevin comes in.

When that cheeky impresario of Acme Instant Food recently revealed himself to be in the thralls of such a malaise, he immediately took action.

Thus sprang forth...
Acme Instant Ingredients!

This one-off event had random bloggers exchanging a unique ingredient. The recipient cooks, photographs and blogs the resulting dish.

My partner was Kevin, and that's how a packet of
Trader Joe's Dried Sweetened Hibiscus Flowers became my new culinary muse.

(I photographed these unique little buds, but lost them somewhere in my computer.

Luckily, Gastrokid let me borrow this image from
his own experience . )

They reminded me of something, and I struggled to think of what... what could it be?

An ... octopus, maybe ?

Nah, that's just silly. More of a Davy Jones, that one.
Hmmmm.... I'm still not feelin' it. Zoidberg, perhaps?

No, wait- I've got it! Success at last:
Baby octy, I could just eat you up!

Oh- eating. Yes, let's get on with it.

The strange-looking, but engaging, candied hibiscus blossom. Miss Mary (her photo is above) has yet another fantastic picture of these strange looking things. I tasted one, and it was like an odd fruit leather: sharp, intense, sour and fruity. I've never been one for fruit roll-ups, so it didn't really appeal to me. I wondered what I could do with them.

Google searches revealed mostly tea-type drinks.

I'm not big on tea, so kept looking. One day, at
work, someone donated a book that contained the recipe for something dubbed a cassata.
This wasn't a true cassata, merely an ice cream-flavoured salute to this traditional Italian dessert. It sounded good, and was easy enough to make. The flowers were soaked in rum, then added to thickly whipped cream. In layers, raspberry sorbet, the cream and vanilla ice cream are tucked into a loaf pan until frozen. I sliced, then spinkled with a little dark chocolate and some toasted pecans.
It looks like Neapolitan, but tastes like a candy-coated fairy dream.

I'd rather thought that I wouldn't like the cream layer, that the chopped hibiscus bites would make for an unwelcome texture. However, it was surprisingly good.

I never would have plucked that package from the shelves, so this was truly a fun- and tasty- experiment. So long, and thanks for all the fish!


note: I substituted the candied hibiscus for the angelica & cherries.
Serves 8

1 ounce (30g) candied angelica, rinsed, dried and chopped
2 tablespoons (30g) candied cherries, rinsed, dried and chopped
2 tablespoons (30g) chopped mixed candied peel
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 1/2 cups (600ml) raspberry sorbet
2/3 cup (150ml) heavy cream, whipped until thick
2 1/2 cups (600ml) vanilla ice cream
3 3/4 cup (900ml) terrine

Chill the terrine. Put the angelica, candied cherries, and candied peel in a bowl.
Add the rum and stir well, then leave to soak while preparing the ice cream layers.
Allow the sorbet to soften, then spread it evenly over the bottom of the chilled terrine. Chill in the freezer until solid.
Fold the fruit and rum mixture into the whipped cream. Spoon into the terrine and level the surface. Return to freezer rand freeze until firm.
Allow the vanilla ice cream to soften, then spread it evenly over the fruit layer. Cover and freeze for 8 hours.
To turn out, dip the terrine into warm water and invert the cassata onto a large serving plate. Slice and serve at once.

"this is not a true cassata, but a layered ice cream 'sandwich" that has borrowed its name. A true sicilian cassata is a bombe of liquer-soaked sponge cake filled with ricotta cheese studded with candied fruits and grated chocolate. It is often served at wedding feasts and other celebrations.
-Classic Home Cooking, by Mary Berry & Marlena Spieler


Blogger Acme Instant Food said...

They do resemble little alien squid creatures! This post is hysterical! Thanks S'kat for for lending your sharp culinary skills to the task. I may seriously make this next time I have company for dinner.

9:14 AM  
Blogger christianne said...

that's beautiful! Though if you're in the mood, hibiscus flowers also make great cocktail garnishes - they expand in champagne and turn it a light pink color - just gorgeous!

10:32 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

wow this would get 10/10 for presentation.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Hillary said...

Whoa, what an interesting and gorgeous creation! I've never eaten anything with hibiscus before but I'd definitely give this a try. Do you serve it with some hibiscus iced tea? That's my favorite! :)

1:19 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

I live in the middle of nowhere here at the ends of the earth and we don't have a Trader Joes. Is there anywhere on line I can buy these?

12:49 PM  
Blogger s'kat said...

Katie, I'm terribly sorry... I've taken a quick look online, but don't see a vendor.

If you like, I'd be happy to mail some to you!

12:58 PM  
Blogger nina corbett said...

I love your pictures and your blog they made me smile! I am going to try your cassata. Check out my use of the same ingredient on my canning blog love your blog!

5:37 PM  

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