Rosewater, a byproduct of steaming rose petals, is widely used in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking for savory and sweet dishes as well. It was the Arabs who introduced the Hindus to rosewater in about 1000 A.D. Since this blog has a historical as well as a sociocultural component to it, I would be remiss not to include that in India, in many temples rosewater is used an offering to the deity.
Although at first it sounds strange, rosewater adds a totally new dimension to the flavor of certain ethnic dishes. It imparts a subtle, yet distinct taste on recipes. Rosewater can be found in specialty markets or in the ethnic section of your grocery store (Indian or Middle Eastern).
My first brush with rosewater as a food ingredient was about 3 years ago. At the University where I work we host Fullbright students every year. That particular year, our Fullbright was from Tunisia. As gifts he brought us boxes of pastries from one of his local hometown bakeries. The pistachio cookies and baklava he offered us were infused with rosewater. I must say, I was completely blown away by the delicate and fragrant taste of these delicious sweets. I wanted more, I wanted the entire box, but was afraid to appear like a glutton.
In sweets, rosewater is sometimes used in place of vanilla due to its intense sweet properties. Rosewater can also be added to lemonade to impart a slight sweetness and fragrance to an otherwise common beverage. I recently prepared rosewater infused lemonade while teaching a class on Middle Eastern cooking. It was an instant hit. Almost everyone present said they would make it at home.
Another non-culinary use of rosewater is: as a beauty product. Really??? Yes, really. Apparently, rosewater possesses astringent properties, which leave your face refreshed and clean. My daughter and mother swear by it!
In this blog I will be posting sweet and savory recipes containing rosewater. I hope you at least try one of them. Believe me, you will not be disappointed. Once you try one, I would like to hear your opinion.