A friend recently recommended I watch Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), what turned out to be for me an incredibly inspiring visual set in Mexico around the time of 1910. Originally a popular novel by Laura Esquivel, the movie tells the story of a young Tita, a boy named Pedro and their forbidden love. With Tita's impeccable palate and wisdom in the kitchen, she is able to devise dishes that evoke emotions of passion, romance, lust and some other not so nice emotions to make her guests feel every frustration of longing her one true love.
There is a memorable scene in the film where Tita cooks a banquet in celebration of her sisters engagement to Pedro (I'm trying not to give too much away!). Using the roses Pedro had given her, she conjures up a concoction of quails in a rose petal sauce. Honey, rosewater, salt and anise were described in the scene also and with just one spoonful of the rose petal sauce, every guest was sent into heights of lust! If you don't want to watch the entire film even though I feel you should, you can watch Tita preparing the quails here. As soon as I saw this scene, I knew I wanted to cook with red.
This dish by far was the most testing for me to make. I tried a lot of different variations of rose petals and with the addition of a local favourite, dried hibiscus, I was able to get a really smooth balance of floral, sweet and sour. Quails were hard to find so I went with beef short ribs, adding a delicious savoury punch to the florals. I toasted almonds, sesame and peanuts to add to the gravy for creamy taste and texture. And then after 5 hours of simmering, I stirred in a slug of Malbec and 2 cubes of dark 90% chocolate. Finally, pickled rose petals were my choice to accent the rich gravy and keep that plump red in the petals.