• These "very Moroccan" cookies are dead-easy to make, but still special with the addition of orange blossom water. (Alan Benson)Source: Alan Benson
Distilled from the petals of the orange tree, this ingredient adds a romantic springtime aroma.
By
The Roo Sisters

5 Sep 2013 - 2:12 PM  UPDATED 23 May 2017 - 10:26 AM

Origins

Like its fragrant counterpart rosewater, orange blossom (or flower) water is distilled from petals, imparting a romantic springtime aroma and subtle flavour to sweets, desserts and some savoury dishes. It’s so closely associated with Middle Eastern and North African cuisines that just a couple of drops can lift a simple dish – say, whipped cream on fresh berries – from the lovely to the exotic.

This fragrant essence is widely used in Iran, where Persian tastebuds enjoy the pairing of fruits with savoury foods (think lamb and apricots). It perfumes many sweet treats such as ice-cream, pastries and biscuits, in which it’s often matched with nuts and honey, and also gives extra dimension to meat dishes such as khoresh: stews containing various combinations of meat or poultry, vegetables, herbs, fresh or dried fruits, beans, grains and nuts.

In Morocco, chicken b'stilla pie has a crunchy topping of fried almonds flavoured with orange blossom water (ma' el zhar), while a classic salad features grated carrots, toasted pine nuts and orange segments moistened with olive oil and lemon juice, then sprinkled with orange blossom water.

Source good-quality orange blossom water (such as Cortas brand from Lebanon) from a Middle Eastern grocer, and beware imitation essences: they are made from artificial ingredients and therefore probably as tasty as cologne.

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It’s time to get your orange blossom on
This sweet, citrusy nectar might smell like your grandma’s perfume, but don’t be put off by fragrant associations. Orange blossom water is the essence of many Middle Eastern dishes, particularly desserts, so grab yourself a bottle and blossom away!

Use orange blossom water in ...

rice pudding, panna cotta, fruit compote or fruit salad, whipped cream, ice-cream, sweet yoghurt, pastriesbiscuitscakesconfectionery, icing, lamb or chicken tagines, lemonade, mint tea and almond milkshakes. Add a few drops to gin and vermouth to make a Victorian martini, or use to create a trendy Ramos Gin Fizz. Orange blossom water should be added a drop at a time, as subtlety is the key. It’s sold in glass bottles, which should be stored in the fridge once opened.

  

Orange blossom water goes with ...

almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pine nuts, honey, pastry, rice, milk, cream, yoghurt, oranges, dates, figs, sultanas, stone fruits, summer berries, cranberries, lamb, vanilla, cardamom, lemon myrtle, mint, saffron.

For more orange blossom recipes, head here.

 

Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? It’s all about Lebanese cuisine on The Chefs' Line airing weeknights at 6pm. Check out the program page for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more. 

 

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