The bare bones of the plants we eat

Tag Archive: Beverages

Fragrant florals – Orange Blossom and Rose Water

Posted by 5zen Leave a Comment

No compromises here – it’s authentic or nothing. Middle Eastern brands are not widely available outside big cities in the UK but they’re worth seeking out and stockpiling if necessary. The supermarket versions lack potency while being horribly over-priced. Frankly, they’re so insipid they make me angry. A sniff of the good stuff meanwhile will make English winters just about bearable.

There are many traditional recipes for using rose water and orange blossom water in cookbooks and online, but once you’ve got the ingredients right do stray from the orthodox paths and see what you find. I added a few teaspoons of orange blossom water to a baked cheesecake recipe (from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook) and the result was divine. The rich, smooth texture of the cheesecake was given a delicate floral lift, adding flavour without over-complicating the classic dessert.

Both orange blossom and rose water work well in the traditional English sponge cake and to flavour the icing. I like these combinations:
Lavender cake with orange blossom icing (blitz fresh lavender flowers with the sugar to flavour the sponge cake, then mix orange blossom water with icing sugar and a little water)
Geranium cake with rose water icing (lay some geranium leaves at the bottom of the cake tin to perfume the sponge, make icing as above)

Morning sunshine drink

  • Juice of a pink grapefruit
  • Juice of an orange
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • Generous splash of orange blossom water

Grilled Grapefruit

  1. Cut a grapefruit in half, use a knife to score around the segments for easier eating later
  2. Sprinkle with rose or orange blossom water
  3. Add a little agave syrup or brown sugar if you like it sweet
  4. Grill until bubbling

Vegan dessert

  • A scoop of vanilla Swedish Glace vegan ice cream
  • A scattering of pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios
  • A sprinkling of orange blossom water

Looks messy but colourful, tastes divine.

Ah! Chocolate – food of the gods

Posted by vilb Leave a Comment

You just missed the talks I gave on chocolate two days ago but I am giving another two on the 29th of this month, so if you are around… Now to my favourite part, the difference between the best and the not so good chocolate depends on the variety of cocoa beans used and two main groups are recognised, the “fine or flavour” cocoa beans, and “bulk or ordinary” beans. Generally fine or flavour cocoa beans are produced from Criollo or Trinitario cocoa-tree varieties, with the criollo, the prima donna of the lot, producing the highest quality chocolate. The bulk or ordinary cocoa beans come from the Forastero trees and go into making our mass-produced chocolate. Only 20% are produced from the Criollo and the Trinitario varieties as these plants are not as strong nor do they produce as many beans in each pod as the Forastero.

I am including this image that was sent by Darin Sukha from the cocoa research institute at the University of the West Indies and this shows the variation of the cacao varieties.

Cacao bean varieties from the white or ivory Criollo to the variably coloured Trinitario and the pale or deep purple Forastero.

Peru is recognised by the International Cocoa organisation as one of the 14 countries exporting “fine or flavour” cocoa beans so the country does produce the good variety. But as they sell for a higher price they are most likely exported and the chocolate made for the home market probably produced from the bitter-tasting forastero beans which needs more sugar and other ingredients to disguise this.