One of 2018’s really lovely trends — particularly now, in the middle of winter — is to infuse foods and beverages with florals and teas. It’s almost as though those plants are trying to pop their pretty petals out through the snow to give us hope that spring will, indeed, be coming.
Violet, geranium, rose, saffron, lavender, and elderflower are just a few of the culinary candidates, but they’re not being used merely as eye candy or garnishes. Likewise, green tea, oolong, and others will be incorporated into dishes rather than only being sipped as accompaniments.
Often employed in other cultures’ cuisines — just a few examples are Chinese tea-smoked duck, Lebanese rice pudding infused with orange blossom water, and Mexican aguas (refreshing drinks) prepared with hibiscus — these fragrant flavors lend themselves to both sweet and savory dishes and are becoming particularly popular as ingredients in mocktails as they offer their bouquets without the booze.
Today’s recipes offer a range of options for sampling these scent-sations.
Ottoman Lamb with Saffron and Rosewater Rice Pilaf is a hearty stew full of fragrance and flavor and even figs, incorporating another of the new year’s tasty trends.
Blueberry and Earl Grey Tea Cake offers a beautiful, shareable loaf loaded with fabulous fruit and just a hint of the perfume from bergamot. You’ll definitely want a complementary cuppa to enjoy with it.
Diamond-shaped graybeh served with Orange Blossom and Raw Honey Tisane offer a double dose of the aromatic in both shortbread cookies and in a toddy-like (but liquor-free) winter warmer.
And the Hibiscus and Cherry Mocktail brings some gorgeous color to a dreary gray day, as well as some sweetness and a bit of sparkle.
So there’s no need to wait for April showers to bring May flowers. You can enjoy those florals right now, in January, in dishes that will most certainly be your cup of tea.
Ottoman Lamb with Saffron and Rosewater Rice Pilaf Wednesday, December 27, 2017, in Toledo, Ohio.
Ottoman Lamb with Saffron and Rosewater Rice Pilaf
Fabulous and fragrant, this is not as perfume-y as one might presume when reading the ingredient list.
FOR THE LAMB:
1¼ ounces honey
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
7 ounces warm water
1 pound cubed lamb for stew
6 ounces lean ground lamb
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped finely
7 ounces dried figs, stems removed
7 ounces pitted prunes
6 ounces whole blanched almonds
1 apple, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
2 to 4 teaspoons rosewater, depending on taste
Freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE RICE:
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup basmati rice, washed and drained
1 cup whole almonds, blanched
A pinch of saffron, soaked in 4 teaspoons rosewater for two hours
1 ounce honey
1¾ cups chicken or vegetable stock
For the Ottoman lamb: Mix together the honey, pomegranate molasses, and warm water in a bowl.
Dry fry the lamb cubes in a large saucepan over medium heat until browned on all sides. Add the honey mixture and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook very gently until the meat is very soft and almost melting, about 45 to 60 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the ground lamb, cumin, and chopped oregano into a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and then shape into very small meatballs, about the size of hazelnuts.
When the lamb cubes have cooked, add the meatballs to the pan with the figs, prunes, and almonds. Bring to a boil, lower heat, then simmer covered for 20 minutes; season, to taste, with more salt and pepper.
Add the sliced apple and, finally, add the rosewater; stir gently to combine. Simmer as you prepare the rice.
For the rice pilaf: Add the butter to a pan and melt gently, then stir in the rice and cook for a minute or so. Add the remaining ingredients. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the rice is tender and the liquid is all absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.
To serve, pile the rice onto each plate and spoon the lamb alongside.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Source: Adapted from Silvena Rowe, bbc.co.uk
Blueberry and Earl Grey Tea Cake Wednesday, December 27 in Toledo, Ohio.
Blueberry and Earl Grey Tea Cake
This recipe was adapted from one by Australian food writer and television presenter Donna Hay. Fans of bergamot might choose to add a bit more tea, which is subtle when this is prepared as written.
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon heaped Earl Grey tea leaves
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
½ cup thick Greek-style yogurt or sour cream
1⅔ cups plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, plus extra for garnish
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 8-by-4-inch loaf tin; line it with parchment paper and grease the paper.
Place the butter and tea leaves into a small saucepan over a medium-low heat and stir until melted. Set aside for 20 minutes to infuse. Strain the butter through a fine mesh sieve and discard the tea leaves.
Place all the ingredients except the blueberries in a bowl and stir well to combine. Add the blueberries and mix through carefully. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and sprinkle with a bit of sugar on the top.
Bake for 1 hour, or until the cake is cooked and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out cleanly. Let the cake rest for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin using the parchment paper. Let cool on a rack.
Dust with powdered sugar and top with extra blueberries to serve.
Yield: 1 loaf
Source: Adapted from Jennifer Schmidt, deliciouseveryday.com
Graybeh (Shortbread Cookies) with Orange Blossom and Raw Honey Tisane Wednesday, December 27, 2017, in Toledo, Ohio.
Graybeh (Shortbread Cookies) with Orange Blossom and Raw Honey Tisane
Classic cookies pair beautifully with a simple sipper for a sweet snack.
¾ cup clarified butter or ghee, at room temperature
1¼ cups powdered sugar, divided
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1¾ cups plus up to 3 tablespoons flour
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Line two heavy sheet pans (not dark metal) with parchment paper.
In an electric mixer, beat the butter on high speed until it is very light and fluffy, like a lovely whipped cream. Add 3/4 cup of the powdered sugar and the salt; beat on high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy again, another 2 minutes. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
With the mixer on low speed, add the orange blossom water. Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, watching for the dough to become crumbly and a bit dry, but still to hold together when squeezed. Add the additional flour, if needed. If the dough is too soft, it will not hold its shape well when baked, so better to err on the side of drier, somewhat crumbly dough. (Note: The dough will feel a bit like Play-Doh.)
Working with the dough immediately (do not chill it, as counterintuitive as that may seem when working with butter dough), shape a quarter of the dough at a time into a compact, very narrow, flat-topped log about 1 inch wide and 1 inch tall; the dough, because of its dryness, needs to be pressed, inch by inch, into the log shape rather than rolled. It’s helpful to keep one hand pressing down on the log as you press the dough into the log with the other. Cut the log with a sharp knife on the diagonal to make 1-inch diamonds. The diamonds need to be this size in order to bake properly.
Use a spatula to transfer the diamonds to one of the prepared sheet pans and space them about 2 inches apart. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through, until the cookies are very pale golden brown. Let the cookies rest for 2 minutes, then carefully use a spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack. Fill the second sheet pan with the remaining diamonds and bake those when the first batch is done.
Sift half of the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar over the cookies while they are still warm, and then again once they’ve cooled. Or leave the cookies bare without the powdered sugar; they’re just as delicious. These are very delicate, so let them cool and set completely before serving.
Make the tisane: Pour 1 cup boiling water into each of 4 teacups or mugs. Stir 1 teaspoon of creamed raw honey and 1/8 teaspoon of orange blossom water into each cup. Serve hot.
Yield: 2 dozen cookies
Source: Adapted from Maureen Abood, Rose Water and Orange Blossoms
Hibiscus and Cherry Mocktail Wednesday, December 27 in Toledo, Ohio.
Hibiscus and Cherry Mocktail
Fun and festive, this could also become a cocktail with a splash of something stronger than the tea.
1 cup very strong hibiscus tea, chilled
1 cup frozen cherries
⅓ cup cane sugar
3 to 4 cups sparkling water
1 lime, thinly sliced
Place the tea, the frozen cherries, and sugar into a blender. Blend until smooth, taste for sweetness, and adjust if necessary.
Fill six glasses with ice. Fill one third of the glass with the mixture of hibiscus, cherries, and sugar.
Finish each cocktail by adding sparkling water to the top of each glass and a slice of lime.
Yield: 6 servings
Source: Adapted from Alejandra Graf, hiplatina.com
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