Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Dried Rose Petals... and the time I plucked all the roses in my garden.

What is in the soil here?? This rose was the size of my hand!!

So... I've been known to do some pretty out there things in the name of food. I once went to Dundee with John only to have his eyes bug out at the 1kg of fresh garlic I was bringing back from the Asian supermarket to make my own garlic paste. I haven't done that in a while, there were days when my fellow biology classmates could smell me coming from a mile away so it seemed like a good idea to stop.

Since buying the Honey & Co.Baking book I have been obsessed. I've gone through it atleast once a day,lovingly stroking the pages in a mildly disturbing yet eerily accurate Gollum-esq manner. I've been a kid in a candy store, scrambling to figure out what to try first. There aren't too many crazy ingredients featured in the book, yet living on a student budget you have to be prudent about spending on exotic ingredients. I shopped around for ages before buying some rose water and orange blossom water, scouring the internet to save as much as I could. I've just finished shelling a bag of pistachios by hand cause it worked out a little cheaper than ready shelled nuts (next time I won't bother, turns out the shells make up half the weight of the bag so you get a lot less anyways =.=;). In a mildly thrifty haze I was looking up the price of rose petals online when it suddenly hit me... YOU have roses in the garden, Mallini.

Ok...so I didn't actually plant them. But it seems a shame to waste if all they're going to do is look pretty till they fall off and die, no? Might as well put them to good use!

So I plucked 3 of the largest blooms there were, and got to drying them. I have to say it is a mildly tedious process to save £1.99, but if you have a bit of time and Mock the Week playing in the background it can be a pleasant experience.

Rose petals laid out to dry.

A couple of tips, don't use any petals that have turned/ are turning brown because that will cause your final product to be completely brown as well. If it just has one or two brown spots, it is worth just tearing those bits off. You want to submerge the petals in a tray of water, just to clean off any nasties that may be on them. Even after doing that you'll still have to pay attention and look out for the tiny mites that wander around. You don't want those ending up in your cooking. Finally, dry the petals by patting them with some kitchen towel first before laying them out to dry. If you lay them out damp, there's a good chance they won't dry out properly and will just go moldy. Lay the petals out on clingfilm covered trays so that they have some space between them, and leave them in an airy place that has plenty of indirect sunlight. I put the trays in our conservatory and turned on the dehumidifier to help dry them out faster.

My petals took about 2 days to dry completely, thanks to the dehumidifier. Don't be tempted to store them away before they're completely dried out and crispy, or else the petals will just go moldy later on.

And that's it! It really was amazing that these shrank to about 1/4 of their original size. They smell quite faint...not so much like roses but like grass. :-/ I don't know if that's because they had to dry for such a long time, or if the commercially dried ones are further perfumed as part of the process. The colour of the petals do intensify upon drying, and they're going to add lovely pops of colour to whatever you put them in. So now I've now got a small jar full of dried rose petals to play around with! Stay tuned, it won't be long till they're used!

All those petals into one wee jar...

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Honey & Co. Baking Book launch

So I went for something fantastic that I can't wait to tell you all about. 
After spending a really great week in Newcastle with Sulekha (who I am missing already :( ) I got back into the bubble yesterday just in time to freshen up and head to an event hosted by Toppings book shop on Bell street. 

Toppings has a whole host of events going on in conjunction with the Open, a massive golf tournament that's being held in St. Andrews right now. Last night, they were hosting Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich the power couple behind Honey & Co. a middle eastern inspired restaurant in London. Sarit and Itamar came up by train to hold a live cooking demo centered around their newly released cook book, 'Honey & Co. The Baking Book'

Chilled orange blossom and earl grey tea

Arriving just before the event was about to start, I was greeted at the door with a glass of chilled orange blossom and earl grey tea (which I would like to drink for the rest of my life thank you very much). The shop was already fairly full, and I would've had to take a seat at the back if one of the owners hadn't taken pity on my tiny Asian stature and ushered me up front. A massive tray filled with bites of buttered fruit tea loaf was already floating around the store, hinting at the many tidbits we were to be treated to that night. 

Sarit and Itamar were absolutely adorable. Clearly very much in love with their work, they showed us a few quick things they make in store; an herb frittata, sesame halva, and a fresh kanafeh. 
Cutie patooties Sarit and Itamar

Guys I got SO excited. This is a beautiful middle eastern dessert made by sandwiching a mix of cheeses (Sarit used feta, goats cheese and cream cheese) with two butter coated layers of a nest like phyllo dough called kadaif. You then soak the whole thing in orange blossom syrup and top it with pistachios and rose petals. It's an incredibly lush and fragrant dessert that presents so many wonderful tastes and textures to enjoy. Crispy, creamy, nutty, salty, sweet, perfumey...just AAAHHHH!!!!!! Having seen it being made I am now SO determined to whip it up myself at home.  Anyone know where I can get a hold of kadaif pastry in Scotland?

Clockwise from top right; herb frittata, chickpea shortbread, carrot walnut cake, knafe.

Throughout the night they kept bringing out trays of baked goodies that had been featured in the book. There was an incredibly moist carrot walnut cake, some really fudgy chocolate pistachio cookies, and my personal favourite a gluten free chickpea shortbread.

I bought the book the minute the cooking demo was over and got it signed by Sarit and Itamar. We had a little chat about what halva referred to in our respective cultures (When you say halva in Malaysia you're usually referring to a firm jelly-like sweet made with semolina, as opposed to the sesame fudge we were served last night). I know it sounds obvious, I mean they are chefs and all, but their love for good food was palpable and rolled off the couple in waves. This infectious enthusiasm glows from the pages of The Baking Book, with each recipe accompanied by it's own little anecdote.

When you leave home to start somewhere new, you very quickly identify pockets of familiarity to take refuge in when the 'newness' becomes too much to handle. While reading Sarit and Itamar's writing, I had the overwhelming feeling of being back in my grandmother's kitchen where she tried to teach me how to make my favourite vadai. This book, with it's bright yellow cover and beautiful photography beckons to you. It invites you to look inside, to thumb through the pages, to laugh at the stories and try the recipes within. I have never been anywhere in the middle east (YET) and I can't say I share the same cultural identity as Sarit and Itamar, but for some reason having this book feels like holding a part of home in my hands.

It won't be long before I have a crack at the recipes in this book, and I can't wait to visit Honey&Co. with my parents when we're down in London this year.

To see more about what Toppings bookstore has on, go to their events page here.

And while you're at it, you might as well check out Honey&Co. online ;)