As we approach Valentine’s Day, thoughts turn to chocolates, hearts and roses. But did you know that rose petals play an important part in many Indian recipes? We’re used to other aromatic ingredients, such as cardamom, cumin and saffron, but sweet-scented, distinctive rose petals are also much loved by Indian cooks.
Many rose petal recipes have a Persian influence, reflecting the history of the great Mughal empire from modern-day Iran. Yet as always, Indian cooks find a way to develop recipes to have an unforgettable local flavour.
Let’s look at some delicious rose petal recipes you can try.
If you think rose petals are only used in sweet dishes, think again. This creamy chicken curry uses rose petals to emphasise its delicate flavours. Chicken drumsticks are marinated in ginger, garlic and white pepper. In a pan, onion, green chillies, and cream are simmered together then the chicken is added along with some fresh milk.
Next comes the aromatic phase: green cardamom, fresh ginger, coriander leaves, waxy curry leaves and saffron are added to the sauce, creating an amazing fragrance that mixes earthy curry notes with the sweeter aromas. Next a special roasted garam masala is added: rose petals, cardamom, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns, ground to make a fine powder. The creamy, floral curry is served with white rice and plenty of flaked almonds.
Roses and lamb are a winning combination in this dish, much loved by Delhi’s Muslim community. To make the dish, hot oil is infused with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves, then diced lamb is sautéed in the pan. Water is added, followed by turmeric, ginger, garlic, coriander and chillies.
When the dish is simmering, yoghurt, rosewater, garam masala, nutmeg, cinnamon and saffron are added to form a tremendously thick, fragrant sauce.
- Rose sharbat
This simple drink is the perfect pink treat on a hot summer’s day. The abundant roses that bloom in India over the summer months are collected and made into this amazing rosy beverage.
Fresh rose petals are washed then blended with water to make an amazingly bright paste. Mint and coriander are added to the blender then the mix is poured into a pan and brought to the boil with an ample amount of sugar to form a syrup. Cardamom and lime juice are added to complete the sharbat. To transform this mixture into a drink, the syrup is simply poured over ice cubes and topped up with water: a wonderful summertime refresher.
A wide range of Indian sweets are flavoured with rose, but the greatest of them all has to be gulabjamun. These sweet, sticky balls are probably the most popular dessert in India. Their name means simply ‘rose berries’, because the round sweets look like plump berries.
Gulabjamun are made by mixing milk powder, fine wheat flour, yoghurt and baking powder, then forming this sticky mixture into small balls which are fried in ghee until golden. The tasty spheres are then soaked in rosewater syrup, perhaps with an extra twist of cardamom or saffron, until they absorb the dainty flavour. Gulabjamun can be served warm or chilled.