Thursday 17 July 2014

Chicken in a Rose Petal Sauce

This month's Food n Flix movie selection is Like Water For Chocolate, chosen by Elizabeth at the Law Student's Cookbook.

I knew nothing about this film and didn't even realise it was in Spanish until I started watching. It's a story of love and families with an element of magic. Tita, the main character, is the youngest daughter of a Spanish family who is born in the kitchen, brought up mainly by the housekeeper and learns to cook from a young age. She falls in love with a boy named Pedro and says she understands how raw dough must feel when it comes into contact with boiling oil - the food imagery in this film is rife (and I gather that each chapter of the book it is based on begins with a recipe). Unfortunately Tita is told that as the youngest daughter, traditionally it is her responsibility to take care of her mother into her old age and so is not allowed to marry.

With a comment about exchanging tacos for enchiladas, Pedro decides instead to marry Tita's sister as the only way to be near the woman he truly loves. Tita is put in charge of the wedding banquet and cries as she makes the wedding cake; her tears fall into the batter and somehow when the wedding guests eat the cake, they all cry tears of a broken heart mourning a lost love - then they all throw up into the river.

This is the first time that Tita's 'powers' become apparent; later when Pedro - who is still in love with Tita- gives her a bunch of flowers, pretending they are to celebrate her first anniversary as the chief cook on the ranch after the housekeeper died. Tita's mother suggests she uses the flowers to make quail in a rose petal sauce, which she does - but this time her attraction for Pedro seeps into the food and everyone who eats it, and her other sister Gertrudis practically has an orgasm at the dinner table. Gertrudis later runs off stark naked with a federal soldier and isn't seen again until the end of the film.

I won't give away the rest of the story other than to say the passion between Tita and Pedro continues, but the story for them doesn't end in perhaps the way you would expect. At the very end of the film, Gertrudis has returned, not as a brothel whore as her family believes but as a general in the army she ran away with, and there is the implication that her daughter is the next generation of the family to have the same powers as Tita.

I was blown away by the story and now the book is high on my list of ones to read. The story is gripping and emotional and I love the way that food takes such a centre stage. I recommend the film but I am definitely looking forward to reading the book now.

When it came to deciding what to make for Food 'n' Flix, the quail in rose petal sauce stood out. I found a few websites giving the actual recipe from the book, but unfortunately it needs dragon fruit, which isn't in season. But to use rose petals from my garden I had to make the dish now - the petals are already falling off the flowers and I don't know when they will bloom again. I also hit a snag when I couldn't actually get hold of any quail or even poussin which had been my second choice!

Nonetheless I decided to push ahead and make a version of this dish. I found one recipe online that suggested you could use plums instead of dragon fruit so I did that; you also need chestnuts but again these are not in season (and in this part of the world I don't think they are in season at the same time as dragon fruit so you basically have three main ingredients but can't get all three of them at the same time!).

Here's what I did. To serve one, you need:
1 chicken leg
Fry Light
50ml chicken stock
50ml white wine
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 plums, chopped
petals from 2 roses (make sure they are edible ie have not been sprayed with pesticide)
1 tbsp runny honey

roses from my garden

Bake the chicken in the oven. When it is almost ready, spray some Fry Light in a small sauce pan, fry the garlic then add the plums. Pour in the stock and wine and simmer until reduced. Add the honey and rose petals.

I decided to try hassleback potatoes to go with this dish. Choose a large or a couple of large-ish potatoes and make several slices into them with a sharp knife, going about three quarters of the way through the potato.

Rub with oil or spray with Fry Light for a low fat option, sprinkle with salt and bake in the oven for an hour - I did these at the same time as the chicken.

Serve the chicken with the sauce and potatoes. I love the way the potatoes open up and go crispy on the outside and soft on the inside! The sauce was very nice with the chicken, it was a little bit sweet, a little bit fruity and the rose petals didn't really taste of anything (and as they cook down, you don't feel as if you are eating flowers). An unusual recipe and I would be keen to try the proper one from the book if I could get the ingredients!

I'm sending this to Elizabeth at the Law Student's Cookbook for Food 'n' Flix.


  1. i like the bit about them eating the cake ,and then throwing up in the river.

  2. Your dish looks beautiful! I was considering making this too, but I Was intimated about cooking with flowers so I went another way!

  3. This sounds lovely, and it's on my list of things to try. I have the book, so I definitely referenced it when making my dish, as well This sauce is definitely seductive, with or without chestnuts and dragon fruit ;) !

  4. Funny, the recipe I found called for prickly pears...and when I couldn't find any, I subbed plums, too. Neat that you used rose petals from your garden. I had to beg friends for some.

  5. Glad you liked the movie so much and your recipe is beautiful. I like floral notes like this in food. Great job.

  6. One of the characteristics of a good cook is being able to adapt the recipe to what is available...Great job!

  7. G'day! Lovely recipe and wish i could come through the screen and try today!
    Cheers! Joanne

  8. Can't wait for your impressions after you read the book. Like the adaptations you made to the recipe---makes it a little more accessible.

  9. Plums are a wonderful substitution. Such a perfect dish and I am always a fan of Hassleback potatoes.

    I think you will love the book too. ;-)


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