Showing posts with label rose. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rose. Show all posts

Jan 22, 2018

Technical Difficulties & Some Pretty Birds

"You are, and ever shall be, a perfect reflection of Spirit." - Paramahansa Yogananda 
Having a  few computer issues so my post will be a bit short this week. Above you see a Boreal rose-ringed parakeet (P. k. borealis) whom came to visit me one bright wintry morning. Although these parakeets are native to Nepal, Bhurma, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and northern India I'd never seen one here. They have the ability to mimic human speech and are also sold as pets. One of my fondest memories of these birds is when we were newlyweds and sitting  at a rooftop restaurant in Delhi's Khan market. It was a gray, cold, foggy, dreary January day and all of the sudden an enormous flock of these brilliant green parakeets drooped in out of the fog chattering and chirping. There must have been over a hundred of these 16-inch birds covering the huge trees around the market. Everything was covered with tropical green, squawking, shrieking, birds for about 15 minutes. Then off they flew again in a giant green cloud that disappeared into the dense fog of dusty old Delhi. Surreal. I'm not sure if this bird is a lone escapee from captivity or just briefly separated from his flock. He seemed happy and looks well fed and hydrated.

"You are, and ever shall be, a perfect reflection of Spirit." - Paramahansa Yogananda

I have no idea what sort of bird this is but thought he looked perfectly suited to his surroundings. (Can anyone out there in internet-land help me out indentifying this cutie?) A lot of birds from as far as Siberia and northern Europe overwinter or stop here for a bit on their journey southward. Nepal is certainly a birder's paradise with new species arriving every week it would seem. As it gets colder we also see some of the forest birds come down from the mountains. I know the names of all the birds in my native California but no red-winged blackbirds nor Steller's jays here. I think I tested the limits of the dedicated zoom lens on my Samsung Galaxy Zoom phone camera- this was about an hour before sundown and the bird was about 150ft away.

Anywho, the Sheikh has just informed me that we're off on another road trip this week AGAIN. So's I probably won't be back until February 5th! And Baacho the macho muchacho (aka HIMself) will be having a luxurious staycation at the Cat Hotel.

Happy trails to you, 

Nov 9, 2016

Pistachio, Rose, and Cardamom Snowballs

snowball cookie pistachio rose cardamom recipe vegan christmas vegetarian eggless

A classic American Christmas cookie gets a flavor makeover with rich pistachios, delicate rose, and spicy cardamom! Buttery, tender, and eggless these snowball cookies are always a hit no matter what the occasion. These beautiful treats can easily be made vegan and would be a delicious addition to any holiday platter.

snowball cookie pistachio rose cardamom recipe vegan christmas vegetarian eggless

By now you've probably figured out that rose and cardamom are two of my favorite dessert flavors. Yes, it's true! From kulfi, to kheer, to cake, to cookies - I love this flavor combination! Throw in some pistachios or coconut and I'm in heaven. So it's probably no surprise that I took my beloved snowball cookie recipe from my old 4-H cookbook and made it with pistachios instead of walnuts or pecans. And what better flavors to compliment pistachios than rose and cardamom? You don't have to make these the festive (or lurid) green that I did. You could make them brilliant pink with a few drops of red food coloring or simply leave the coloring out altogether. These cookies can easily be made vegan by substituting a good quality margarine in place of the butter.

3/4 C pistachios/pista, coarsely chopped
1 C butter, softened to room temperature (or a good quality margarine)
3/4 C powdered sugar
2 & 1/4 C flour/maida
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp ground cardamon (or the seeds from 8 cardamom pods ground coarsely)
2 tsp rose water
1 tsp vanilla or pistachio extract
A few drops green food coloring
Extra powdered sugar for rolling the cookies in

Here's what to do:

1) In a large mixing bowl combine together pistachios, butter, powdered sugar, flour, salt, flavorings, and green food coloring. Chill dough covered with cling film for at least 4 hours.

2) When ready to bake preheat oven to 325F/165C. Roll chilled dough by tablespoonful into 1 inch balls. For a little extra flavor place a few drops of rose water on your hands before rolling the dough. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats about 2 inches apart.

3) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bottoms of cookies are browned lightly. Immediately remove with spatula and allow to cool on rack.

4) If desired, roll the cookies in powdered sugar while still warm. Makes 24 cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Helpful Hints:
Add a little extra flavor by sprinkling a few drops of rose water on your hands before rolling the dough.

Oct 18, 2016

Perfume Review: Ajmal's Ragheeb

Perfume Review Ajmal's Ragheeb attar perfume oil fragrance ajmal

With a slight nip in the air and the steamy rains of the Monsoon finally gone, Autumn has finally arrived. Now's the season to break out those warm, woodsy orientals and delectable gourmands from your fragrance wardrobe. Ajmal's 'Ragheeb' is one of my favorite oriental floral fragrances for the Fall.

The late Mr Ajmal Ali, founder of Ajmal perfumes. 
For those of you unfamiliar with Ajmal it is a luxury perfume house started in the 1950's in India by Mr Ajmal Ali. Mr Ali was a native of Assam where some of the best agarwood or oudh is sourced. Moving to Bombay (now known as Mumbai) he began by selling Assamese oudh to Arab countries. Eventually he began mixing perfume oils into brilliant compositions and became a premier supplier of perfumes to the Middle East. In 1976 the House of Ajmal moved it's headquarters to Dubai. In 1987 Ajmal was the first company to introduce the classic Dahn-Al-Oudh (literally fat of the wood) in an eau de parfum form bringing to a to wider, global audience. (Yes, Ajmal's Dahn-Al-Oudh eau de parfum started the Western world's craze for oudh that's still raging on presently.) The fine tradition Mr Ajmal Ali started in India in the 1950's has been carried on now for 3 generations of his family. Today Ajmal is represented by over 100 boutiques and showrooms across the Gulf countries and is quite popular in Russia too.

So, in and amongst the myriad traditional Arabic oudh and rose attars on offer at a posh boutique in the Bahrain airport in 2006 I found 'Ragheeb.' Instantly, this scent brought memories I couldn't quite place. Late Summer and early Fall mornings in northern California in a traditional Arab attar? That's what it reminded me of. The 'Ragheeb' means willing or desirous in Arabic. Ajmal's description of the fragrance and notes:
"This exotic bouquet opens with the floral essence of bergamot and rose creatively infused with spicy hints of saffron, nutmeg and clove, interspersed with geranium. The fragrance highlights aromatic, warm and contemporary base woody yet sweet notes, for that long lasting trail.
Fragrance Description
Top: Floral Citrus
Heart: Spicy
Base: Woody Ambery"

Ragheeb opens with a bittersweet blast of saffron after which the nutmeg, bergamot, rose, geranium, and cloves seamlessly appear. You might look at the note pyramid and wonder where the woods and amber are. Saffron this intense takes on a woodsy, ambery effect with an almost masculine tobacco-like tone. The spiciness of the cloves bolsters the warmth of the saffron. Bergamot and nutmeg brighten the composition with their citrusy notes and keep the saffron from going completely leathery, metallic, or dark. The rose is the classic deep and intense Taif rose so prized in Arab culture. Real Taif rose oil isn't very long-lasting on the skin so typically geranium is added to prolong it's presence. The famed Taif rose has tea-like notes but can have peppery or even sharply tannic edges. To Western noses the Taif rose can often be perceived as harsh and soapy. You might think the intensity of the saffron and the harshness of the rose would make the composition come off as acrid or astringent. It doesn't. Ragheeb perfectly emulates the uniquely warm, spicy, myrrh-like fragrance of certain old rose varieties. The bergamot, nutmeg, and rose are unfortunately first to go in this scent after about two hours. The drydown is gorgeously Autumnal as the saffron mellows to an almost honeyed amber and rich aromatic cloves remain for hours.

Photo from the Taif Rose festival in Saudi Arabia
That was it! When I lived in California in the 90's I began collecting David Austin's English roses in my garden. Not only for their gorgeous forms and color but I particularly loved the strength and complexity of their warm old rose fragrance with varying touches of myrrh, clove, musk, fruit, and tea. Somehow the saffron, bergamot, cloves, rose, geranium, and nutmeg in this attar captured that old rose scent perfectly. Mr Austin's pink and apricot colored rose cultivars were particularly known for their spicy, myrrh-like notes similar to the fragrance of Ragheeb.

'Constance Spry'
This was the grande dame that started it all. David Austin's first commercially available rose, 'Constance Spry.' Mr Austin's emphasis is on breeding roses with the character and fragrance of old roses such as gallicas, damasks and alba roses but with the repeat-flowering ability, disease resistance, and wide color range of modern roses such as hybrid teas. 'Constance Spry' was the incredible twelve foot climbing rose that graced the arched trellis over my front door in California. Richly myrrh scented she was supposed to only bloom once in Spring. I found that through rigorous deadheading she would keep blooming for about 3 months. Her spicy, warm, almost resinous old rose scent would grace my doorway along with her heavily cupped blooms. I had a collection of about 20 different David Austin roses interspersed with various lavenders, lavandins, yarrow, and a few Italian cypresses in that garden.

As you can see in the above photos Ragheeb comes in an opulent glass bottle with gold ornamentation and a scattering of sparkling white stones. (This is rather modest as Ajmal bottles go, some are like miniature fairy palaces or daring pieces of modern sculpture.) The bottle has some considerable heft as well as a delicate glass applicator. To use attars or fragrance oils like this you simply dab a few drops to the inside of each wrist. Then dab a little behind each ear with the inside of your wrists before it absorbs. You may also apply to the back of the knees so the fragrance envelops you. Attars and fragrance oils take a bit longer to develop on the skin than alcohol based perfumes. Wait at least an hour for the fragrance to develop before reapplying if necessary. I find Ragheeb lasts about six to eight hours with moderate sillage. Although I bought this bottle about ten years ago I believe this fragrance is still available for purchase as I've seen it on Russian websites. These Arab attars last for years and are not nearly as prone to degradation due to heat or light as alcohol based perfumes. As you can see in the above photo I probably have another ten years of use out of this bottle even though I wear it at least once weekly in the Fall and Winter. A little dab will definitely do with this type of fragrance.

I think I need a pink burqa like that.
And a hammam. Definitely a hammam.

Ragheeb makes me desirous of the late Summer days in northern California. The leaves were starting to fall, the grapes in the vineyards being harvested, the roses and other scented plants in my garden were at their most fragrant. I don't really miss California except for the gorgeous weather. The foggy days of Autumn would soon start and the holiday season would begin with all the festivals, food, and fun. Ragheeb is the last bloom of my old rose collection in the Fall before being tidied up and tucked in with a blanket of mulch for the coming Winter.

Do you have any favorite fragrances that remind you of certain times of the year?

Jun 1, 2016

Easy Rose, Coconut, and Cardamom Laddoos

cardamom, cardamom. Rooh Afza, coconut, condensed, Desi, dessert, easy, Indian, laddoos, milk, mithai, Recipe, rose, simple, sweetened,

These delicately flavored laddoos are elegant enough to serve as a dessert at a posh dinner party or holiday gathering yet easy enough to make for an after school treat. The classic Indian pairing of light rose, aromatic cardamom, and rich coconut is combined with milky sweetness in this dainty treat!

sweetened condensed milk mithai Desi sweet diwali eid

I first saw this recipe on a Nestle website featuring recipes for kids. It looked so easy I doubted it would really taste like mithai or the traditional milk-based sweets of South Asia. Was I ever pleasantly surprised! The can of sweetened condensed milk makes these taste just like the traditional laddoos made by the time-consuming process of reducing milk. This is such a great recipe to make with children, depending on age they can help with the brief cooking and mixing steps as well as have tons of fun rolling the mixture into balls and dredging them with coconut.

1 can sweetened condensed milk (390g)
3 C desiccated coconut
1 tsp butter or ghee
2 TBS rose syrup (or Rooh Afza)*
seeds of 9-10 green cardamoms, ground coarsely
1 drop coconut flavor (optional)
1 drop red food coloring (optional)
extra desiccated coconut to roll laddoos in

Here's what to do:
1) Combine 3 C desiccated coconut, can of sweetened condensed milk, rose syrup, ground cardamom seeds, coconut flavor, and butter or ghee in large heavy-bottomed skillet or kadhai and mix well.

2) Heat pan with mixture over a low flame stirring continuously. Keep stirring until mixture pulls away from the pan and forms a mass clinging to itself. This should take about 7-8 minutes at the most.

3) Remove pan from heat and transfer mixture to a heat proof bowl. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature or place in airtight container in the refrigerator for an hour. (I usually put it in the fridge as my family tends to "sample" whatever's out on the counter. I am told it is for "quality control" purposes. :::eye roll:::)

4) When cooled form tablespoonfuls into balls. I use a cookie scoop to get uniform amounts. Coat your palms with butter, ghee or coconut oil if mixture sticks to your hands.

5) Roll laddoos in desiccated coconut if desired. Refrigerate finished laddoos in an airtight container for 30 minutes before serving to set. These will keep for up to a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This recipe made 20 tablespoonful sized laddoos.

mithai traditional dessert sweetened condensed milk desiccated coconut

Helpful hints:
*If you don't have rose syrup or Rooh Afza you could use 1-2 drops of rose essence or 1 teaspoon of rose water plus 1 drop red food coloring for flavor. If you're not familiar with the iconic Desi sharbat syrup of Rooh Afza there's a post on my blog about it here.

If using freshly grated coconut increase amount to 4 cups and omit ghee or butter.
You can make many variations in flavors and colors with this recipe. I've made them with pistachios and saffron threads soaked in 1 TBS water for 20 minutes which came out a brilliant yellow. I've made them pure white by adding no flavor except for coconut essence. I've even made blue laddoos by adding curacao syrup.

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