19 October 2007

Morning of Roses

In Arabic one says good morning “sabah al khair,” and in response one says “sabah al-noor,” which literally translates as “morning of light.” You never say sabah al-kheir in response to the first greeting. Besides the standard sabah al-noor, there are many other possible responses to say good morning, including: sabah al-ward- morning of roses, sabah al noum- morning of sleep, and even sabah al ashta- morning of cream. Sometimes Arabic is so cool.

I love exchanging morning greetings with my Arabic-speaking colleagues, and of all the expressions, “morning of roses” is my favorite (it's also the title of an Egyptian short story). And if my mornings aren't always rosy (more like a hectic rush of trying to get everything organized before running out the door), they are at least full of rose petal jam. Of all the foods I’ve discovered in my travels, rose petal jam is probably the one that has captivated me the most. There is something magical about eating a mouthful of flowers, and the taste is sweet and thick with a slightly-squeaky texture of petals and a fragrance unmatched by any perfume. Rose petal jam is one of the items I always make sure to have in my pantry, as essential as bread and butter. Most often, I slather a thin piece of flatbread with some yogurt and rose jam and then roll it up for a spiraled pink breakfast on the run. But I’ve also been brainstorming ideas for desserts using rose jam:

Rose-Yogurt Mousse: rose jam + thick yogurt + whipped cream.
Rose Trifle: cake cubes + rose jam + custard
Rose Linzertorte: classic linzertorte except made with a pistachio crust and rose jam

In my experience not all rose petal jams are created equal, and their quality can vary widely. The best I’ve ever had was from Baleed, a specialty store in Damascus, while Paris’ Hediard charges $10 for one that is watery and disappointing. Most import stores carry a decent Greek or Lebanese version, and in New York Kalustyan’s house-made version is quite good. I had hoped to have a rose jam recipe for you today, but I haven’t quite perfected one yet, so in the meantime you can pick up some jam (or order it) and make these little tartlettes.

Of course, jam tarts are nothing new, but I think the rose jam gives them a special spin. I originally topped these with ‘ashta- a kind of Lebanese clotted cream. Ashta is almost always purchased from pastry shops, and though there are recipes for a homemade imitation, it doesn’t whip up like the real thing. Instead, simple whipped cream with a bit of mascarpone makes a great substitution, accented with a bit of pistachio. You could make these with any jam you like, but with rose jam you can have mornings, or evenings, of roses.

Rose Jam Tartlettes with Cream Topping

1/2 recipe Pâte Brisée or pie crust
1 cup rose petal jam
1 egg
1 tbl orange zest
for topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup mascarpone
2-3 tbl sugar
1 tsp each orange flower water and rose water
1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare the crust and fit it into mini-muffin cups or tartlette pans.
2. Stir together jam, egg, and orange zest and fill tartlettes. Bake 10-15 minutes, until set. Let cool thoroughly on a rack.
3. Meanwhile, use an electric mixer to beat together cream and mascarpone until they hold stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar, flower water, and two tablespoons of the pistachios. Before serving, dollop cream over tartlettes. Sprinkle the remaining two tablespoons pistachios over the top of the tartlettes.

* 'Ashta is a kind of clotted cream similar to the Turkish kaymak.
**Rose jam is usually made from roses like beach roses, rosa rugosa, or rosa damascena. Here's a rose jam recipe. Flower jams can also be made with other edible flowers like jasmine petals, violets, orange blossoms, or almond blossoms.


pastry studio said...

Wow, this is fascinating. Thank you for providing so much information. Your photos are lovely.

sabah al-ward!

Quinne said...

Hi Mercedes :) Thank you for another wonderfully interesting post! I learn something when I visit you, and that is such a joy :)

I have had rose petal teas and really enjoy a blend from Harney & Sons - especially quite alone with a good book, or with a friend and a chat.

Rose jam is new to me. I will try to add some to my cubbard someday soon, and please do let us know when you have your recipe for it ready! Love to you! Q

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about getting some Rose petal jam. I think most of the ones here (Amman) are from Turkey. Would those be good, or should I wait till I can (hopefully in December) visit Syria?

Mercedes said...

pastry studio- thank you, I'm glad you found it as interesting as I did!

Quinne- oh, you're so sweet. You're right, there are so many lovely rose products: rose water, rose tea, rose hip preserves. Rose petals are great in spice blends too. Thanks!

Musical chef- I'm sure you can find good rose petal jam in Amman! Do you know of any good local confectionaries- the kinds of places that sell nougat and malban candies usually also sell preserves. However, I think many of the brands available in the grocery there should be fine (I know Amman, but not well enough to recommend a specific store). And they won't set you back much money, so go ahead and try one.

If/when you go to Damascus and want to go to Balad, here's how to find them:
In the old city souk, you walk up from the Ummayyad mosque through the spice area, the road will then split, to the left towards the candy souq and Azem palace. Instead, veer to the right and Balad will be right in front of you. It's little store front (no sign) with candies and such, but they have gorgeous jams and preserves lining the back walls. A bit pricey but totally worth it.

urbanite jewelry said...

ever since my habiby brought back rose-water flavored turkish delights from istanbul, i have been obsessed with the idea of rose-flavored things. i absolutely can't wait for the recipe to pop up. madha taamleen (for work)? (assifah for my bad transliteration min arabiya eela engliziya!) mesah al khair!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I love the lesson in Arabic you gave us. Of all the possible responses, "Morning of Roses" would be my favorite too because my middle name is Rose and I think roses are beautiful! I have never tried rose petal jam though and now feel I must. Thank you for this gorgeous recipe.

Hilda said...

Hey Mercedes, these look wonderful, it's a combination of flavors that I love. Just fyi, you're still not updating on bloglines.

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

How stunning, and what a beautiful way to wish people good morning! So poetic. Love the new header, by the way!

Mercedes said...

inmorocco- Yes rose water is lovely (esp. in turkish delight), but what I love about rose petal jam is that it sort of goes beyond the usual rose-water flavor.
I can't say what I do due to professional reasons and security concerns but suffice it to say it involves working with and traveling in the Middle East. I have a degree in Middle Eastern studies with a focus on women's empowerment in the Levant.

Hillary- how perfect! This recipe's got your name on it!

Hilda- thanks. I know, I've been back and forth with bloglines multiple times and they claim to fix it, only to have it not work. It's driving me nuts, and if anyone knows how to fix it please offer your advice!

Amanda- thanks! A friend asked me the other day how to say "desert candy" in Arabic, and I thought it would be nice to add it to the site.

saint said...

Hi Mercedes, I wished you have responded to my previous post, however you still bringing the best of things from the Levant. The rose petal jam more famous in Alepo than Damascus, and there you still will be for better treat which is the Lemon Flower Jam.
You are absolutely the best in your introduction and your pick of wonderful terms from Arabic. One correction, Sabah al ful, meaning morning of the Jasminum Sambac Arabic, it called Ful, (Oleaceae). And when you get to know this flower, you are for new discovery, this is the most sensitive flower ever, and the most beautiful scent you will encounter. It is so sensitive that anyone touches it, it burns brown. http://www.jasmineandful.com/jasmine.html
Also, I still have the invitation for you to visit my mom and have the dish I mentioned before: Mojaderah.

Lisa Johnson said...

I love this saying! I've been thinking that I haven't bought any roses for myself for a while and planned to look for a small bouquet. I want to try the jam too! What a beautiful post! Now I'm curious about the short story too! ; )

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the directions; I'll look for it.

I know I'm in trouble when I smell a rose and it makes me hungry!

Kimmie said...

Hi Mercedes;

Quinne tipped me off to your posting...very cool, makes me realize how very little I know about the big planet we live on.

Thank you so much for sharing Arabic with us, the beautiful photos and this wonderful recipe.
I have never had rose jam, it looks delicious for certain.

mama to 6
one homemade and 5 adopted

KitteeBee said...

i love rose petal jam too. i usually spread it between cake layers, but i want to make some rugella with it soon.


Maryam said...

I had always known of Rose Petal Jam, but a couple years ago ran into some Orange Blossom Jam....
it is absolutely delicious and I think would be a really interesting substitute.

I think it may be more of a Persian thing than an Arab thing though I'm not sure...?