This is the time of the year I begin to release my stingy hold over my stores of dried roses. I know as the shimmering vibrant green of first growth spreads across the landscape - that new season of fresh blooms is just around the corner! I've got quite the stash, wild roses, rugosa roses (whose vibrant pinky purple hue give these dishes their colour) and peachy scented yellow roses to name a few.
And so I begin to allow myself to enjoy their enchanting presence more liberally in teas, in cooking and in treats. But for Valentines Day I decided to ceremonially crack open my stores and create a fragrant rosy dessert that would embody her sensual, loving, nurturing and magical nature.
So I made two Valentines treats, Coco-Rose Balls (basically dried coconut, dried rose petals and honey) which were very rosy and pretty and then the pièce de résistance Rose-Honey Rice Pudding. Fragrant, creamy and so very nurturing, this is sensualized comfort food at it’s best.
Rose's legendary scent contains chemical compounds that release “feel good” endorphins while reducing cortisol and blood pressure, causing the brain to enter the deep calm, dreamy states. Long praised for its anti-anxiety and antidepressant qualities rose has been used across the world to soothe stress, raise the spirits, heal broken hearts, and of course, as an aphrodisiac.
Ruled by the planet Venus, rose was sacred to Goddesses everywhere. For Isis, she symbolized the secrets of regeneration and immortality. In India, Lakshmi goddess of beauty and prosperity, was said to have been created with rose petals. Hecate goddess of witchcraft,wore a crown of roses and in Rome the temples of Aphrodite were piled high with roses and floors strewn with petals.
She is also a gentle healer, a cooling anti-inflammatory, packed with antioxidants soothing to irritated skin and good for achy bones, creaky joints and arthritic conditions. Pliny the Elder, the Roman natural philosopher described 32 different medicinal uses for the rose and physicians in ancient Persia, India and China used the rose medicinally as well.
And because these rosy Valentine treats have the dried petals blended right in, it makes them both deliriously romantic and good for you! To begin you'll need to find some dried rose petals- if you don't have any handy they can usually be purchased through your local herb store. These you'll grind up in a coffee grinder and use a base for both desserts.
Now because this my "gathering diary" and not a gather blog post, I'm not going to be able to provide a finished recipe (that requires time for resting!) This is where I experiment and let you see what I'm working on in the kitchen - plus I just made these yesterday! So you'll have to improvise on your own, but I'll give some basic direction.
You'll take about 2 cup of petals and whir them up in a coffee grinder until they form a fine powder. You'll add this rose powder right into the balls and the rice pudding, and you'll also mix it with regular granulated sugar for a sparkling rose sugar topping.
For the Coconut Balls I started with blending up my dried rose petals and dried coconut up in the coffee grinder. For a cup of dried coconut I used about 3/4 cup of petals. I did a few batches and soon I had enough for a dozen balls. I took this put in a blow and mixed with honey, dash of cardamom, splash of rosewater ( I used my rose tincture) and pinch of salt.
It turned out pretty purple but as I added to the honey it turned more pinky again. So add enough honey to make it easy to form into balls - watch out too much will make it sticky & unworkable! Then I rolled liberally in my rose sugar. Pretty easy. If I made them again I would take some time to infuse the petals in warm honey as well.
Rose Honey Rice Pudding
This was my favourite, the combination of rose, cream and fragrant rice was unbelievably rich and delicious. I started again with whirring up my rose petals in the coffee grinder. I made about a cup of dried rose powder. I cooked my brown short grain rice (about 3 cups) first, and then while still warm, tossed in 1/2 cup of ground petals, gave a stir and let sit for an hour. I took the other half of the rose petals and added to cup of honey and warmed on the stove (lowest heat).
After an hour I combined both the warmed honey and the rice in a bowl. I then whisked together three eggs and a cup of cream, and then poured into my rice mixture in a greased baking dish. This I baked in the oven for about 35 minutes at 350. Once completely cool I turned over and released from my cooking pan into a kind of a "cake" that I again liberally covered in rose sugar. This I served up with warm cream. And I truly, truly, think it says I love you.