There are some tricks in cooking that are so simple, yet so effective, you almost need to patent them. If you’ve ever added a drop of rosewater to a bowl of whipped cream sweetened with a little confectioner’s sugar, you’ll know what I mean. Served with plump, red, sweet strawberries, it’s heaven on earth.
It’s a specific kind of heaven, though. A heaven some way to the East, in a sunny courtyard decorated with cool blue-and-white mosaics, with trickling water from a fountain as the soundtrack. Rosewater gives a subtle sweetness that tastes of the residual heat trapped in a rose garden on a summer’s evening – a warmth that’s exquisitely perfumed and languid.
Enough flowery prose. The facts: rosewater comes mainly from Iran and Lebanon. It’s a by-product of rose oil, which is used to make perfume. Besides having religious significance – rosewater is added to the water used to clean Islam’s holiest shrine, the Kaaba – it has a long and distinguished history in Middle Eastern and Asian cooking. It’s used to flavour sweet drinks, such as the Indian milk drink, lassi, as well as teas, jams and sweets.
Rosewater is a wonderful way to add an exotic dimension to your cooking. A few drops in a marinade for lamb will bring out the tender sweetness of the meat. Sprinkle some in the cooking water for a fragrant rice pudding, together with a splash of orange flower water. The combination is divine.
Rosewater can take the place of vanilla extract in recipes for shortbread, plain sponge cake, or all manner of buttery baked goods. Break with tradition and add a splash to your apple pie filling, or sprinkle over pomegranate seeds or raspberries, before scattering the fruit over a large meringue topped with pillows of whipped cream.
A fragrant cream for serving with strawberry cake or any red summer fruits.
- lightly whipped, heavy cream - 300ml/1 1/4 cups
- confectioner's (icing) sugar - 1 tbsp
- rosewater - 1-2 tsp