Just add flower: Skye Gyngell's summer dishes with the delicate flavour of roses

One flower captures the scent of the season better than any other – and for Skye Gyngell, roses are also perfect for delicately flavouring summer drinks and dishes

May and June are when roses are at their most glorious – they herald the beginning of summer. Old-fashioned roses that have a sweet perfume and large blousy petals are my favourite – not only are they beautiful to behold, they can also be used in the kitchen.

I suppose the use of roses in cooking is very female and this is the time of year when my cooking appears at its most feminine – to me they are irresistible, and I can spend any amount of time staring at the uniqueness of their petals which capture nature's perfect colour scheme.

Not only delicious in desserts, rose petals also work well in salads, or dried and pounded with spices to created the unique flavours found in Middle Eastern cooking. Rose water and rose syrup can be found in shops that sell Middle Eastern goods, and are also often stocked in local chemists.

If using roses directly from your garden, it is important to ensure they have not been sprayed with any insecticides. Use roses now, for it is not long before they disappear for another year.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, www.petershamnurseries.com

Rose syrup Prosecco

This is a lovely summer aperitif – it looks elegant, tastes delicate and is a lovely way to begin a meal. Prosecco is a great alternative to champagne – inexpensive, it lends itself to gentle flavourings such as rose, strawberry, melon or raspberry. This drink is best served well chilled.

Allow 375ml/13fl oz of Prosecco per glass
1 tsp rose syrup
A small crystallised rose petal

Start by chilling the champagne flutes thoroughly in the freezer – if you don't have space there, place them in your refrigerator instead, but leave them for a while longer. Just before serving, place the rose petal in the bottom of the glass, pour over the rose syrup, very lightly stir and, slowly tilting the glass slightly, pour over the Prosecco. Serve at once, the sugar content in the rose petal will cause the bubbles to rise prettily in the glass.

Raspberry ripple ice-cream with rose syrup

I love ice-creams that contain a fruit ripple, it is old-fashioned and nostalgic to me. To ensure an ice-cream that really ripples, make sure that both the custard and raspberry purée are well chilled.

450ml/16 fl oz double cream
150ml/1/4 pint of whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthwise
6 organic free range eggs
120g/4oz caster sugar
2 punnets of English raspberries
120g/4oz caster sugar
A small pinch of salt
2 tbsp rose syrup

Place the cream and milk into a heavy-based pan and set over a low heat. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add them to the pan. Slowly bring to just under a boil, remove from the stove and allow to infuse for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together really well, then pour over the warm cream, whisk again and return to the stove on the lowest possible heat. Stir in a figure-of- eight motion with a wooden spoon until the custard begins to thicken (this will take about 10 minutes), then immediately pour into a cool bowl. When it's cooled completely, put it into an ice-cream maker and follow the instructions.

Place the raspberries, sugar and salt into a pan over a medium heat. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the raspberries begin to ooze their juice. Then add the rose syrup. Allow to cool, then transfer your ice-cream into a bowl and put in the fridge. Wash your ice-cream maker well, then churn the purée in it until it is well chilled and has thickened substantially. This will take around 20 minutes. Very lightly fold the chilled sorbet into the ice-cream, then keep in the freezer until ready to use – ideally the day you make it.

Cooked cream with cherries poached in rose syrup

This cooked cream is essentially panna cotta; cool and fresh, it slips down the back of the throat in the most comforting fashion. Cherries are at their best right now and work well lightly poached and served with ice-cream or in the dessert below. Cherries are also one of the very few fruits that work well with dark, bitter chocolate... Think black-forest gateau.

185ml/6fl oz of full-fat milk
250ml/8fl oz of double cream
100g/31/2 oz of caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthwise
2 sheets of leaf gelatine or 1. tsp of powdered gelatine
200g/7oz ripe, plump cherries
60g/21/2 oz of sugar
The peel of half a lemon
A small pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp of rose syrup

Place the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla pod over a low heat and bring to a simmer, stirring once or twice to ensure that the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the stove and allow to infuse for 20 minutes.

Immerse the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water and leave to soften for five minutes. Return the cream to a very low heat and bring to just under a boil, then remove from the heat. Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatine and add to the warm cream mixture. Stir well to ensure that the gelatine has dissolved and pour into a shallow baking dish. Once it has cooled to room temperature, place in the fridge and allow to chill for two hours.

Remove the stones from the cherries and place the fruit in a small saucepan along with the sugar, lemon peel and salt. Bring slowly to a gentle simmer, reduce and poach the cherries until just soft. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then add the rose syrup. Place in the fridge and chill well.

To serve, scoop the cream out into individual dishes and spoon the fruit on top. Serve at once.

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