Rose Through the Lens of Food

by | Mar 19, 2024 | Food, GreenStreet, Spring Issue

The rose bush outside my window was in full spring mode and I just could not resist to quickly steep my favourite rose tea. As the subtle floral flavours lingered on my lips, I wondered the eternal words by Shakespeare, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

Everyone’s delight, an expression of love, a mark of royalty, rose is one of the oldest and most loved flower known to the world. Its mesmerizing beauty has inspired artists, writers, poets, photographers, and even chefs for centuries. Once known as wild flower,  a florist’s favourite all around the globe, today it is the most popular commercial crop for its wide use in food, medicine and personal care.

A Cultural Saga from Persia

The rose has actually travelled the world from Persia to India and then towards Europe. It’s not only seen as an exotic ingredient, but a vital link between cultures and countries in many delectable manners. Rose came to the Indian soil with the Mughals. Rose flavour compliments well with Indian spices and hence enhances the flavor of biryanis, meat dishes and beverages like kahwa, thandai, lassi and sherbet.

Cultural Connect

Working in kitchens of India and UAE, it dawned on me how much different cultures share in common. From signature dishes to heart warming desserts one key ingredient that’s intertwined deeply between Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine is the beloved rose. Gulkand, the most popular preserve made from rose petals is used in popular Indian sweets like laddoo, shrikandh, phirni, rabri, modak, falooda, barfi, kulfi, gujiya and even halwa. And of course Mathura peda, kheer, moti pak and many other sweets are often garnished with rose petals.

The delicate flower delivers a distinct floral hint that is an indispensable flavour of many Arabic dishes. It adds a captivating sensory experience to desserts like umali, baklava, kanafeh, qatayef, muhalabieh and goes perfectly in chicken delicacies too.

In Arabic culture rose water around dining tables during iftaar is a ritual.

Roses on the Chef’s Table

Though all roses are considered edible, my personal favourite is the most widely used Damask (Rosa Damascena) which tops it’s preference in culinary use. Closely related variety, the Indian Rose (Rosa Indica) is more popular in India. 

The prized possession of aristocrats is seeing a revival in the modern culinary world, especially pastry. From entremets and soufflés to sorbets and namelakas, rose is adding a layer of sophistication and nuance to today’s pastry.

Culinary innovations today bring rose infusions, starters and many desserts on the table in addition to the traditional recipes. It’s added for its subtle floral and musky notes. Flavour pairing with rose is going beyond conventions. Raspberry rose pannacotta, rose and pistachio travel cake, rose cardamom tres leches or even a rose lychee cheesecake, there is no limit to creativity. Chefs today explore rose filling in their bonbons or pair it with citrus flavours, nuts and white chocolate. The rose indeed has come a long way from just being a piped ornamentation on that birthday cake you ordered. Apart from being such an exotic ingredient to fancy cooking, rose is popular for its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancerous, anti-aging, and anti-microbial properties. So it’s always a good idea to try a few plucks from those roses growing in your garden and add it to your plate. And as a tribute to the inspirational rose, I am sharing with you my favourite recipe!

Pistachio Rose Crème Brûlée


  • Milk – 900g
  • Cream – 300g
  • Rose water – 10 ml
  • Egg Yolk – 200g
  • Sugar – 200g
  • Vanilla Extract – 15 ml
  • Pistachio paste – 20g


  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
  2. Prepare a baking dish with boiling water and ramekins.
  3. In a saucepan, warm the milk and cream together, stirring continuously with a spatula as you do not want any bubbles.
  4. Turn off the heat and add rose water and pistachio paste. Mix well.
  5. Whisk the yolks and sugar together in a separate bowl. Add vanilla extract and temper the yolks. Pour in half of the egg sugar mixture to milk and cream mixture and visa versa. Mix well using a spatula. If you think your cream is too hot wait a few minutes and then temper the yolks. Tempering the yolks basically means not adding everything together to prevent coagulation. This step is really important, you DO NOT want to end up with scrambled eggs!
  6. Strain the mixture and pour in prepared ramekins. Blowtorch any bubbles appearing on the surface.
  7. Bake at 140°C for 40 mins. However, every oven is different so never follow the timing blindly, always make sure to keep checking your baked product.
  8. Rotate your baking dish halfway through to avoid overbaking. You are looking for a set exterior but a wobbly centre.
  9. For a full proof bake test, touch the crème brûlée in the centre with your fingers gently. If it doesn’t stick to your fingers, means it’s done.
  10. Chill it overnight or at least for a few hours for it to be cold. For serving, sprinkle some caster sugar on top and blowtorch it. If you do not have a blowtorch just take a sizzling hot spoon and run the back of the spoon over the sugar to caramelize it. Be careful though! The spoon will be hot to touch so take a cloth for protection.