Just a little something for Valentine's Day

Valentine card from the 19th centuryValentine's day is not a well known feast in The Netherlands, but it is being increasingly commercially exploited by florists and confectioners. Who would blame them. However, at the beginning of February I am still recovering from the commercial violence of the December month and would rather not be forced into following the suggestions of the shopkeepers. Therefore, this little something for your loved one.

Who was Saint Valentine?
For those of you who wonder who Saint Valentine was: we do not know exactly. There are no less than fourteen saintly Valentines, because the name, which means something like Valiant, was popular during Late Antiquity. However, it is known that there already was a Saint Valentine-cult in the fourth century. Several hagiographies have been written about Valentine. According to the Passio (passion) of a certain Valentine of Rome this was a priest who was decapitated by order of emperor Claudius Goticus (or Claudius II, 214-270). Another Passio describes the life of Valentine of Terni (no known dates), a bishop who came to Rome to cure a sick person. He had such a succes converting people that the senators ordered him to sacrifice to Roman gods. He refused, was decapitated, and his body was brought back to Terni by three of his followers. The head of Valentine (wich one is not known) is a relic in the abbey of Jumièges in Normandy in the eleventh century. The two Passiones mentioned above have been written after the sixth century, there are no contemporary sources. Whether these describe two separate saints or the same one, can not be determined.
In the Middle Ages, Saint Valentine was especially popular in England and France as patron saint of betrothed people. Maybe that is simply because 14 February is traditionally the start of the mating season of birds. Valentine is also invoked as patron saint of epilepsy, because of confusion with another Valentine who was bishop of Passau in the fifth century. (Source of all this is the Lexicon des Mittelalters, but can be found on the internet too). Wikipedia also has an excellent lemma on Valentine's Day.

Edible flowers
If you want to present your loved one with something less obvious than a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolate, consider this present below. You can eat flowers. Just think of cauliflower, broccoli, artichokes and zucchini flowers. There are more edible flowers: roses, violets, gillyflowers (Matthiola incana), nasturtium (Tropaeolum), marigolds, some orchids, dandelions, et cetera.
ATTENTION - Do NOT use flowers from a florist. These flowers are often saturated with pesticides and other chemicals, and are not to be eaten! Buy only flowers which you're sure are unsprayed. Some greengrocers can deliver them. Or you can grow them in your own garden (but be sure not to use pesticides and such!).

The taste of flowers is not up to their looks. Whatever form or colour they have, they taste mainly like cress. Sugared flower leaves of violets and roses are delicious and decorative. The fresh flowers in the gelatine pudding on this page look beautiful, but have little taste. If you serve this jelly, be sure to serve a second dessert, for example a pink pudding made in the same jelly mould (strawberry pudding for example), or  use the flower jelly for decorative purposes only. If you do that, you can use any flowers you want to, even those bought at the florist.

Flowery tributeWhat you need
a metal mould (conducts heat better, which makes the de-moulding easier) - for Valentine's day a haert shaped mould would be best, but you can use any shape you want. I used a fish mould.
for a mould with a content of 5 deilitre (500 millilitres, 12% less than an imperial pint, 5% more than a US pint. When using a mould with a different content you must adapt all the quantities) you need:
6 leaves of gelatine (about 12 gram, 1/2 ounce) or use powdered gelatine
4 decilitre water and 1 decilitre red fruit syrup (to make red lemonade) OR
4 decilitre water and 1 decilitre rose water, 2 table spoons sugar and some drops of red food colouring
edible fowers (in the jelly on the picture are gillyflowers)

Steep the gelatine leaves for ten minutes in cold water. Add the leaves one by one, to prevent them forming one big gelatine lump, which will be difficolt to dissolve. Meanwhile bring twe decilitre water to the boil. Squeeze the gelatine leaves one by one and add the now limp leaves -again one by one- to the hot water. Stirr each time until the gelatine has dissolved completely. Then add twe decilitres cold water and the fruit syrup or rose water with colouring agent. If you use rose water, you should add the sugar to the two decilitres boiling water.
Cover the bottom of the jelly mould with some of the gelatined fluid. Put in the refrigerator until it has set. Then lay the first layer of flowers on the bottom. Be sure that the decorative side of the flowers is arranged outwards and downwards. Pour some of the remaining fluid over the flowers (reheat gently if the fluid has already cooled to jelly). Make sure the flowers are not floating, push them gently under. Place the mould back in the refrigerator until this has also set. Then add the remaining flowers and fluid and put the mould back again in the refrigerator. After a couple of hours the jelly is ready to be demoulded (is this an existing verb?).

To take the jelly out of the mould: steep the mould shortly (a couple of seconds is enough) in hot water. Straight away place the dish on which you want to serve the jelly on the mould, and turn dish and mould in one move. Shake a little whilst pressing the mould to the dish. Then lift the mould carefully and ... voilà!