Years ago, on my yatra of the world’s great delis and gourmet shops—in the hope of some day opening one myself in India; I eventually did, even if it was before its time—I was in Hong Kong and told to visit the Mandarin Oriental food shop for its home-made preserves and marmalades; in particular, the rose petal jam. I had just started making jams and marmalades myself from my country kitchen in Pune, and was commissioned by David Wilson at The Hyatt in New Delhi to supply the hotel. I had very little experience with jam making and had virtually no idea about how to commercially scale up. But I took on the challenge, as you do when you are young and enthusiastic.
Wilson was interested in new flavours and so, back to the story of the Mandarin Oriental jam. By the time I got there, the shop was closed; I was leaving the next morning. I caught a glimpse of the bottle in the window. Years later, we happened to be in Singapore for the World Gourmet Summit. I attended a cookery class at the Raffles Hotel and saw in the window of their little gourmet product section (now, incidentally, they have a full-fledged fantastic gourmet shop), a jar of rose petal jam. In the interest of research, I bought it at the incredible price of 20 Singapore dollars or thereabouts. I wrapped it carefully and brought it back to India and sat down with my team at the jam unit to taste it. They were all polite, but one chap, not knowing about the whole travel story behind the jam, quite cheerfully said, “This is just like gulkand”, the sugary sweet rose product they use in paan, among other things. We didn’t need an expensive market survey to tell us that this wouldn’t work as a flavour in India.
Like Indian halva: Turkish Delight
When I was in Australia a few weeks ago, I was taken to a fancy, award-winning Melbourne restaurant called Pearl. It had a small, well-defined menu with really exotic ingredients (ever heard of pearl meat? It is the flesh from the lip of the oyster, I discovered), where the origin of everything is identified—Hopkins river beef, Shaw river buffalo milk mozzarella, Hervey bay scallops and so on. What I couldn’t resist, when it came to dessert, was the Turkish Delight and rose petal ice cream with glacé ginger and Persian fairy floss. Turkish Delight is a wonderfully fairy tale name for halva, a sweet made with rose water, sugar and a gelatinous substance. In Turkey, it is apparently called rahat lokum. Persian fairy floss is candyfloss, without the awful bright pink colour. Although it was an extraordinary sensation in the mouth, I couldn’t help thinking what my chap at the factory, who called rose petal jam gulkand, would have to say about this 20 dollar dessert.
Turkish Delight and Rose Petal Ice cream with Glacé Ginger, Pomegranate Seeds and Persian Fairy Floss
125g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
50ml rose water
200g rose-flavoured Turkish Delight, diced
35g red rose petals (must be unsprayed), torn
Bring the milk and half of the sugar to a boil. Whisk egg yolks and remaining sugar until pale. Pour hot milk over the yolks while whisking. Return them to the saucepan and cook until lightly thickened. Strain it into a bowl, cool over an ice-water bath.
Whisk the cream and rose water into mixture and churn. Fold in Turkish Delight and the rose petals, and freeze.
60g vanilla Persian fairy floss
60g rose-petal flavoured Turkish Delight
60g pomegranate seeds
60g rose petals
60g glacé ginger
Make a nest with fairy floss, surround it with a circle of Turkish Delight, pomegranate seeds and glacé ginger. Place a scoop of ice cream on the “nest” and top with more fairy floss.
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