Thursday, 27 January 2011


No. 4 Orange Flower Water and Rose Water

These aromatic waters are clear, perfumed distillations of fresh bitter-orange, and rose petals respectively, and are essential ingredients in the cuisine of the south of France, the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East (rose water is in fact a by-product of the extraction of rose oil for perfume). They are readily available in the supermarket, usually to be found with other food flavourings such as almond and vanilla essence, and easy to find in specialist Middle Eastern stores. I buy mine from an Arabic supermarket on Goldborne Road, where I also buy Merguez sausage, preserved lemons (when I don't have time to make my own) and the spice Sumac.

Many Middle Eastern deserts call for rose water or orange blossom water, and both bring a wonderful 'perfumed' flavour to food. A dash of rose water over hulled and halved strawberries can enliven the fruit, giving it a whiff of Eastern exoticism, an aroma and flavour reminiscent of Turkish delight (for which rose water is used as a flavouring, of course).

In my store cupboard, I also have rose syrup, a beautiful deep pink liquid in a decorated bottle. I bought it intending to use it to make exotic Kir Royale, but so far I have only opened the bottle to enjoy its heady, perfume.

Orange flower water is, obviously, good with oranges and I quite often use it when I make my Spanish Torta di Naranja (orange and almond cake). It is also used in Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern sweetmeats such as Baklava.

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