Falmouth-based food writer, Kyle Wotton, explores the myriad of ways you can use rose in cooking…
Rose is an oft-overlooked and underrated cooking ingredient with a surprising amount of uses. Whichever way you’re utilizing them, a lot can be said for the versatility of rose petals. I’m here to show you some of the ways that rose can be used to cook up some truly delicious delights.
Typically, rose petals are used to infuse flavour into dishes, and carry a floral and earthy taste with a hint of sweetness to them. Although many people aren’t too familiar with rose petals as a cooking ingredient, they’re quite common in some Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
It’s actually very easy to harvest homegrown rose petals. It’s best to pick rose petals in the morning, and you can do so by simply holding the stem with one hand and pulling the petals off together in your other hand. Be careful not to grip the petals too tightly, as this can bruise them. Also, remember to be kind to nature and leave some blooms to be propagated for next year.
To prepare your petals, simply put them in a colander or strainer and rinse them under a gentle stream of cold water. Once clean, place your petals onto a paper towel and gently dab them dry with another paper towel.
To keep your rose petals fresh for as long as possible, select a suitable container and line the bottom with a paper towel. When putting your rose petals into the container, make sure that they’re not packed in too tightly as this may cause them to bruise and break. Keep your petals in the fridge, but ensure that it is not too cold as freezing will make your petals turn mushy. Storing them this way will help them stay fresh for three to seven days.
USING YOUR ROSE PETALS
Whether you’ve grown and harvested your own rose petals at home, or bought them from your local wholefood store or online, you’ll end up with a great ingredient to start cooking with. So, what do you do with them next?
Rose water is a delicately fragranced ingredient that can be made at home by steeping, boiling, or distilling fresh petals in water. It is excellent for diffusing the flavour of rose throughout an entire dish, especially in things like cakes and custards, but can even be used in making a delicious chicken and rose water biryani.
Dried rose petals are better than fresh rose petals in terms of shelf-life and storage, and are great for bringing floral notes to sugars, and sweet or savoury spice mixes. They can be added to ras el hanout and used in making chicken and lamb tagines, or as a meat rub. Bakers also often use them as a beautiful addition to any decorated cake.
Rose simple syrup is a sweet and perfumed ingredient made by boiling rose petals and sugar in water and letting them steep. Although primarily used as a cocktail ingredient, the syrup is also delicious on ice cream, drizzled over fruit, or whipped through cream as a cake filling.
Rose harissa can be made by stirring a dash of rose water in with harissa paste. The combination is uncommon, but creates a new kind of chilli sauce with a sweet and subtle perfume to compliment the spiciness. Rose harissa is great with burgers, especially when mixed with a dollop of yoghurt or mayo.