Good Food Blog
Roses in the kitchenPosted at 1:50PM, 23 June 2009 by Carol Wilson - Food writer
I love the beauty and fragrance of English summer roses, not only in the garden, but also in the kitchen.
Using roses as a culinary ingredient is nothing new. Powdered red rose petals were a favourite method of colouring and flavouring savoury and sweet foods at medieval feasts and fragrant petals were often scattered over cherries in pies before the top crust was added. Red rose petals were preferred as they have a more intense bouquet, especially when dried.
Elizabethan ladies steeped heavily scented rose petals in boiled water to make delightfully scented rosewater; mixed with sugar, it made a fragrant icing for sweet pies and was used to bind cake mixtures, since it was more reliable than the dubious water supply of the time. Rosewater was always included whenever almonds were 'pounded', or ground, as it prevented the almonds from 'oiling'.
Rose petals and dried powdered rosebuds are a significant ingredient in Middle Eastern cookery today, where they are used to flavour honey and sweetmeats and also add an intriguing flavour to meat, poultry and rice dishes.
Rose petal jam, once very popular in Britain in the past, is a favourite in Eastern European countries. A delicious Polish specialty is paczki, sugar glazed doughnuts traditionally filled with rose petal jam.
Rose flower wines were popular in 17th century England. I recently tried a fabulous English Rose Petal wine made from hand picked roses, especially grown by the Royal National Rose Society . Perfect for sipping on a sunny afternoon!
Crystallised rose petals and leaves make pretty decorations for cakes and trifles. Paint the petals and leaves with lightly beaten egg white, then roll in sugar and leave to set. Eat the same day. I sprinkle a little rosewater over a bowl of strawberries or raspberries, cover and leave to stand for a couple of hours before serving. Rose flavoured honey is delicious - heat about 450g clear mild flavoured honey and add about 600ml petals and a few rose leaves. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then cover and leave to stand overnight. Bring to the boil and strain into clean jars. Store in the fridge.
It's best to use heavily scented red or pink petals that are free from chemicals and pesticides - roses bought from a florist aren't suitable. The best are from Rosa gallica or Rosa damascena. Remove the heel - the white part at the base (this has a bitter flavour) and wash the flowers gently before use.