Indian food is known for it’s use of heady spices and strong flavours. Along with relishing the hot curries and rich meats we do also have a taste for delicate dishes that carry subtle fragrances !
A week ago I attended a cookery session along with a few friends. As the conversation drifted to ingredients we spoke about the availability of authentic rose water in the market.
Intrigued with the idea of using home made rose water in my dishes, I decided to give it a try. The process seemed to be rather easy. The most important thing to keep in mind was where one sourced the blooms from. Organically cultivated roses are the safest choice for obvious reasons. Another factor to make good rose water depended on the variety. The most commonly used roses for rose water and rose oil are the rosa damascena. Our Indian Gulab belongs to one of the kinds under this particular variety. And lucky me the rose plants in my garden were in full bloom.
Everytime I think of rosewater,I’m immediately transported to my childhood. The earliest rose water memory is of my mother dampening cotton balls with the fragrant liquid and placing it over our eyes. Thinking back now I realize that not only was it soothing after a long day at school but also helped us get into sleep mode instantaneously! Rose milk was a favourite drink of hers which we were treated to on occasion. The cold glass of pale pink milk was just the drink to indulge in during the summer!
At home , I love making my pistachio and rosewater cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting. It’s my favourite flavor which is why I seldom make it for fear that I may eat more than I should. I also love to add rose water to my watermelon mint and feta salad. The fragrance of the rose water adds to the freshness of the salad. A rose water granita is easy to make and tastes just heavenly !
Coming back to the process,as it was my first attempt at making rose water I selected only the blooms that were starting to wither, I didn’t want to pluck the beautiful fresh ones just yet. After washing the petals they need to be added to a pan with some distilled water. There are two ways to doing it and I tried out both. The first time ,the water simmered for 20 minutes until the petals lost their colour. Once the liquid cooled ,the petals were strained. Nothing prepared me for the intense colour of the rose water. The water takes on the colour of the petals and turns a deep bright pink which is glossy and translucent. I was so delighted with the gorgeous colour,that I couldn’t stop looking at it. All these years I’ve only known rose water to be a colourless liquid .I almost thought my experiment wasn’t real !
But , it was far from perfect. Though the roses had released their aroma , the fact that I did not cover it while simmering and also that I used a metal pan brought the fragrance down drastically ! The taste however was right but the scent was clearly lacking the proper “rosy-ness”.
The next time around ,I decided to try another technique. The distilled water was heated until it just began to simmer and then was poured over the cleaned rose petals and left to steep for about 5 hours. The liquid was of the same colour and the fragrance was more discernible. Apparently , one has to choose the most fragrant blooms to make rose water. Adding a few drops of rose essential oil is yet another option.
The less aromatic rose water has been set aside for some skin toning. Rose water is touted as the best toner and it feels so good to pamper your skin just before bed time. I also made a rose syrup, with the home made rose water. The process is similar to making a sugar syrup. It can be used to drizzle on ice cream or as a glaze on a sponge cake or even to add a special touch to a rose flavoured kulfi.
Once you get the hang of making it ,there are so many options for a home cook to have fun experimenting. A rose jelly served with some fresh fruit is a great dessert option. It’s also one of those things that appeals more to women than men ! I can almost hear the boys grumbling, “Who wants to eat food made with flowers?!” Just leaves more for us,doesn’t it ?
Recipe for a home made rose water
Organic edible roses- 7-8
Distilled water- 2 Cups
Glass or ceramic bowl
Remove the petals from the stem and wash thoroughly in a cold water bath.
Place in the bowl
Heat the distilled water until it simmers gently.
Pour over the rose petals . cover and let steep for about 5 hours or overnight.
Strain and pour into a sterile glass bottle.
Thanks to the messages that I have received after this article , I am in the possession of more information that will add to this rose water recipe. It’s my pleasure to share it with you all !
Apparently the best way to get maximum fragrance is to pick the roses at dawn before sunrise. The precious oil is retained before the harsh sunlight robs it for the day. Do try it. I know I’m going to ,the next time around.
Also , the small pale pink paneer rose variety is also great for making an aromatic rose water. Do try !