One of my more trusty restaurant companions, Amanda, has had to step down from her dining-out duties temporarily since she has more important matters to look after in the shape of her 3 month old son. Any time out together is precious, and in order to make things easier I travel across town to see her. It's hardly a chore to see a good friend, but in London traveling to different parts of town can be seen as a feat akin to traveling across the arctic with nothing but a chocolate bar and one spare pair of dry socks to keep you going.
"I'm going down to Hammersmith to see Amanda" I told one friend.
"What, tonight? You have to go to work tomorrow - are you going to stay overnight?"
Bravely, I would be returning home the same night. From east to west London and back east again, all within 24 hours. Amazing.
Matters are made more difficult by where I live, since London Transport has decided to exercise their right to disrupt your travel plans and is closing the tube line I need to get home by 10pm. Each night. Until November. Hooray.
Knowing that I was spending the evening out across town and had to get on the tube by a given time meant that we had to be efficient with our fun. We tried, and despite the two of us being the fastest takers that Mr A&N knows, fun took precedence and it was a rush to the tube. And so, with this evident pressure to get on the train and get home, what do I do? Why, my eye catches site of a small grocery store and I wander in like a loved-up fool, just to browse the shelves in case there's something marvelous in there.
And what happens but I do find a wonderful thing: essence of rose water and orange blossom water. I've had some wonderful cakes and desserts flavored with each of these things, and had intermittently tried to track some down for myself. They're both regular features of middle eastern cuisine, but cooking with floral essences was also used quite a lot in medieval european cooking. I'm intrigued by why once-common flavors fall out of fashion, and am looking forward to experimenting with them in my cooking.
One of Mr A&N's most memorable desserts was eaten at Moro, and combined rosewater and cardamom in an ice cream. Although it would be difficult to make ice cream without an ice cream maker, I turned to the Moro cookbook to see if there was any inspiration or guidance for how to use my prized flower waters. In there, I found a recipe for blood orange and rosewater sorbet, which appealed for it beautiful pink color and use of the short-seasoned blood oranges. It was a beautiful palate cleanser, hinting at spring things to come with the tang of citrus and the hint of the rose garden.
And the tube on that night? I leaped on the last train home, feeling ever so triumphant - until that tube stopped two stations away from home and declared it was going no further and we'd all have to find other ways home. Nuts.
Blood Orange and Rosewater Sorbet, from the Moro Cookbook
- 200g/7oz caster sugar
- 100-150ml/3½-5fl oz rosewater, to taste (I would tend toward the higher amount of rosewater, just so you can be sure to taste it)
- 600ml/1 pint blood orange juice
- ½ blood orange, zest only
- squeeze of lemon
- Place the sugar and rosewater in a small saucepan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for a couple of minutes until a thin syrup has formed. Allow to cool.
- Add the syrup to the orange juice along with the zest and a squeeze of lemon, to taste.
- Churn in an ice-cream machine, or place in the freezer, stirring the sorbet by hand every half-hour for the first two hours to prevent crystallisation.