It worries me for a couple of reasons when we approach Valentine’s Day and I see food scattered with beautiful red rose petals.
Whilst I am not a Cupid killjoy, I am concerned about the provenance of these rosy garnishes. According to recent reports 70% of roses sold on the European Continent are grown in Africa and in Kenya in particular. Whilst, on the one hand, this is undoubtably good for the Kenyan economy (flowers are their third highest export revenue), there are drawbacks. Firstly growing roses consumes masses of water and water is a scarce resource in Kenya. Intensive cultivation of roses is responsible for the gradual drying of lake Naivasha and had a catastrophic impact on the environment. Intervention as late at 2010 has started to improve the situation but there is still a long way to go.
Secondly there are absolutely no regulations regarding the industrial scale chemicals use in the cultivation of these roses. Run off has impacted significantly on the local ecology and the chemicals have also had a significant impact on the health of workers growing and picking the roses. More information is available here.
AND therefore …. (yes I am finally getting off my soap box and back to my point!) ..the roses coming into the UK at this time of year are pretty but toxic little offerings and should not be put on plates of food – let alone eaten.
If you must eat fresh rose petals in February then track down a source of imported fresh organic rose petals but if not then why not consider using dried British Organic Rose Petals? If they come from a good quality source then they retain both their fragrance and flavour. It is also very easy to dry a few of your own rose petals in the summer. The more fragrant the rose the better the flavour and perfume. Once dry keep them in an air tight container and you will have a wee time capsule of summer loveliness.
So rant over and on to the recipe……..
For these brownies I use the ‘All Time Ultimate Chocolate Brownie Recipe’ from Good Housekeeping here. There are 11 brownie recipes here and many of them sound good but it can’t get better than ‘Ultimate’ can it! I just deviated very slightly by adding a few drops of good quality rose water to the mix, using our own dried rose petals and a drizzle of good quality plain chocolate on the top instead of icing sugar.
I have reproduced the recipe here. Don’t be tempted (like I did) to ‘make sure’ that the brownie was ‘definitely’ cooked by giving it an extra 5 mins. The ‘give’ in the middle is what makes for the lovely fudgy softness that defines a fine brownie. Also for my taste the mixture could have done with less sugar. These brownies are very sweet but that was balanced slightly with the addition of the plain chocolate.
- 175g (6oz) unsalted butter, chopped, plus extra to grease
- 150g (5oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
- 3 medium eggs
- 300g (11oz) caster sugar
- 75g (3oz) plain flour
- 40g (1½oz) cocoa powder
- A couple of drops of good quality rose water.
- To garnish – 1/2 bar good quality chocolate plain chocolate – 70% cocoa plus and a small handful of dried organic edible rose petals.
- Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (make sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water).
- When the mixture is melted and smooth, lift the bowl off the pan and set aside to cool for 20min.
- Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan) mark 4 and lightly grease and line a 20.5cm (8in) square tin with baking parchment. Using a handheld electric whisk, beat the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until thick and moussey – about 5min.
- Add the melted and cooled chocolate mixture to the egg bowl and fold together with a large metal spoon. Sift over the flour, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt and fold together. Add two or three drops of rose water at this point.
- Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, level and bake for 30min or until there is no wobble left when you gently shake the tin and remove from the oven to cool.
At this point I melted the additional chocolate using exactly the same method as above for the recipe. Once the brownies were almost cold, I scattered the rose petals over them and then drizzled the chocolate on top. Set aside for the chocolate to harden.
Immediately the warm chocolate hits the rose petals you will get a waft of their perfume and their flavour is absorbed by the chocolate. Fabulous.
These can either be served cold with a cup of tea or gently warmed with a nice dollop of ice-cream – or both!
Rose Petal Chocolate Brownies