rose petals & pistachios

Rose field on Jebel Akhdar

Al Jabal al Akhdar (The Green Mountain) in Oman is the place known for hundreds of rose bushes grown on terraces that are cut into the steep mountain slopes.

Every year in April, this rugged landscape turns into the most beautiful pink environment as these roses bloom and the rich fragrance of roses fills the air.

The rose petals are collected by hand at dawn each day.   The harvest is collected in colorful cloth sheets, bundled together and taken to one of the many traditional extraction units set up by villagers.

Omani rose essence outshines all other brands in the quality and flavor departments.

The Omani people add rose water (rose essence becomes rose water after the distillation process) to hot and cold beverages, halva, and as flavoring in homemade sweets and food dishes.

Each rose bush produces between 15 to 20 kg of petals during the harvest season.  It takes about 2 kg of petals to produce 750 ml of rose essence which can fetch as much as $ 13.00 in the market place.

When the rose season ends, many of the farmers on Jabal Al Akhdar turn to their pomegranate and other farming activities to support their families.

 

 

Freshly harvested roses


Being on Jebel Akhdar (the Green Mountain) with the fragrance of roses all around, rose water production in full swing; the beautiful pink roses with the morning dew shining on them; I just had to come up with something sweet and delicious.  I decided to try a Panna Cotta with a twist.

 

STEP 1:  Panna Cotta recipe

(Makes 6 to 8 servings)

  •  6 to 8 Espresso paper cups (waxed inside or sprayed ramekins)

    Fresh mountain dew on the morning harvested roses

  • 1½ cups of Coconut milk
  • 3 teaspoons of powdered Gelatin
  • ¼ cup of Sugar
  • 1½ cups of Coconut cream
  • 1 teaspoon Rose water
  • 1 teaspoon of pure Vanilla extract
  • Pinch of smoked sea salt

Method

    1. Bloom the gelatin. Pour the Coconut milk into a saucepan and sprinkle the powdered Gelatin evenly over the top. Let the Gelatin soften for 5 minutes until the surface of the milk is wrinkled and the Gelatin looks wet and somewhat dissolved.
    2. Over low heat dissolve the Gelatin.
    3. Set your saucepan over low heat and warm the Coconut milk ever so gently, stirring often.

      Sorted rose petals. Only the best petals will be chosen and used.

      The Coconut milk should never boil or simmer.  When you see steam, remove the saucepan from the  stove and let it cool down.  The Coconut milk should not become too hot; you should be able to keep your finger in the warm Coconut milk a few seconds.  The Gelatin will dissolve quickly as the Coconut milk warms. Gelatin melts at body temperature so the process goes quickly.  To ensure that the Gelatin has completely dissolved; dip a teaspoon into the Coconut milk and check the back of the teaspoon for grains of Gelatin.

    4. Stir the sugar into the Coconut milk and continue warming until the sugar dissolves. It should take about 5 minutes for the sugar and Gelatin to dissolve. Don’t let your mixture boil.
    5. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Whisk in the Coconut cream, Rose water, Vanilla and a pinch of Smoked sea salt.
    6. Pour the mixture into the waxed espresso paper cups or prepared ramekins. Place in a refrigerator to set, about 4 hours should suffice. To unmold cut the paper cups along one the side and carefully remove, you will be left with the perfect panna cotta. Panna cotta can also be served in a glass without unmolding it.

 

 

 

A traditional clay oven for the rose essence process. This traditional way of making rose essence is still happening on the mountains of Jebel Akhdar.

The rose petals are boiled until it becomes a brown color (rose essence)

The rose essence is being removed from the clay pot.

The rose essence is poured into a clay pot to cool down and ready for bottling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sugar syrup, rose buds, rose water and lime

STEP 2: Rose water and lime syrup recipe

  • 1 Cup of water
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 teaspoon of Lime zest
  • 1teaspoon of Rose water
  • 1 table spoon of dried Rose petals

Cook all the ingredients together to form a reduction.  Pour the mixture it through a sieve and let it cool down in the refrigerator.  Poor the cold Rose water syrup over the Panna Cotta.

 

 

 

Pistachios, Rose petals and Cashew nuts.

STEP 3: Pralines recipe

  • ½ cup of Caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of cold water
  • ¼ cup of Pistachios
  • ¼ cup of dried Rose petals
  • ¼ cup of Cashew nuts

Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat.  Cook, while continuously stirring until the sugar has dissolved. This could take about 5 minutes.

Increase heat to high.  Bring to the boil without stirring for another 5 minutes or until the mixture turns golden.  Remove from the heat.  Set aside for two minutes to allow the bubbles to settle and subside.  Add the Pistachios, Rose petals and Cashew nuts.

 

 

 

 

STEP 4

Allow the Pralines to cool, then break it into pieces and place in a blender. Blend the Praline until powdery.

Use a small cookie cutter to pour the Praline powder on a baking tray to form little round heaps of praline powder.

In a 150° C oven melt the Praline powder until it forms round Pralines. This happens quickly; carefully watch the oven to prevent the Praline from over cooking. Remove the Praline when all the sugar has dissolved and the Pralines are a nice golden color.

Now serve the Panna cotta with Rose water syrup and Rose petal Pralines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the colour purple

I love walking through the market and seeing the variety of beautiful, purple coloured aubergines? (French for eggplant.)

I can always imagine the smell of it, when it gets roasted over an open flame and just about taste the smokiness of the eggplant.  Aubergines, apparently, originated from India and plays a leading role in the culinary world of the Middle East.

I would have thought that Aubergines were always part of the food scene, but in fact, it was only introduced in the seventh and eighth centuries.  The Arabs fell in love with

Aubergines when they conquered Iran in the seventh century. Therefore, the adopted Old Persian name, al badin-gan, pronounced al-badinjan.

Aubergines spread through the Middle East and North Africa and became a staple food, commonly referred to as the “poor man’s meat”.  In Iran it is called “poor man’s caviar”.

In Turkey, where it is considered to be the king of vegetables, it is called “patlican”.  Turkish cuisine has 200 different dishes containing aubergines.

 

 

 

I would like to share a recipe that I developed and fell in love with –

Aubergines cooked whole over an open flame! It has a sharp, smoky flavour that blends amazingly well with yogurt and olive oil.

My take on this Middle Eastern Aubergine dish…

 

 

 

 

Put the aubergine directly on the gas flame of your stove. Using tongs, turn it over until it is cooked on all sides.

When the aubergine is ready it will appear as in the picture.

Once you have taken the cooked aubergine from the stove, cut it open and remove the flesh.

You can leave a little bit of the burnt skin with the flesh. It gives the flesh a more smoky taste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To make the dish, mix the following ingredients together in a bowl:

1 large chopped smoked aubergine

3 tablespoons full fat Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon flaky smoked salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 glove finely chopped garlic

¼ teaspoon sumac – optional

Sumac is the dark red berry of the shrub “Rhus coriaria” which is dried and then called sumac. The dried berries are brick-red, tinged with purple with a lemony, woody taste. Sumac was used long before lemons arrived in the Middle East and this was used as the souring agent in their food. 

 

Serve your burnt aubergine with a combination of the seeds of half a pomegranate and thinly sliced fresh basil leaves (use extra basil leaves as garnish).

Enjoy with flatbread.

I really do believe that you will love this quick and easy dish, just as much as I do. 

 

 

 

Chef’s tip:  If you had a barbeque, and you have some aubergines, put them on the dying embers of the charcoal fire and leave to smoke overnight.  Ready to be used the next morning.