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Roses and sesame seeds

It's a very dull day, I'm fasting and I woke up feeling particularly tired today. I never feel good in the morning - I'm a night owl not an early bird, and therefore, I think, somewhat misunderstood. Night owls are somehow considered to be inferior to early birds. I went for a walk escaping the rain that was due to fall, and have dealt with all the email and stuff - now what to write in my blog? Completely out of ideas.

So I am turning to one of my waiting writer's block tricks. This one is one of the old magazines that I am going to throw away project and this photograph, which I thought was particularly stunning.

Initially it was going to be the reason for an article on sesame seeds but that's really a big topic and I'm not up to a big topic today. I mean - tahini, black, white, sesame oil, sesame paste. They all deserve a post of their own really. So I started to wonder what I could do with that particular photographic starting point.

First of all I began looking for an online version of that photograph because my scanner software, which is relatively new, seems to put a sort of haze over everything which I cannot find how to remove. Alas I could not find an online version, so apologies for the hazy look. However I did find the recipe for those beautifully thin looking Sesame seed and rose petal wafers. The magazine by the way is Gourmet Traveller, March 2001 (20 years ago!) and the recipe is by Jody Vassallo, who, as I have never heard of her, did not go on to make a big name for herself.

So here's a mini digression about Jody Vassallo. It seems that she probably should have more fame than she does. She has worked in recipe creation and food styling for over twenty years, with some of the greats - Donna Hay, Jamie Oliver and Bill Granger were mentioned. She also worked as an editor and also a creator of cookbooks - lots of them - increasingly, it seems health related, including a stint with Jamie Oliver and his Ministry of Food. She still writes on health matters on his website now and then. She has also worked with the Heart Foundation and the Australian Institute of Sport. Whilst continuing with the styling and writing, she now lives in Tilba NSW and runs cooking and yoga classes as well. That's quite a resumé for somebody who is not well-known outside of her peers. Why one wonders? At least she looks happy.

But back to roses and sesame seeds. Inspired by that beautiful picture, though knowing deep down that I would never make those crispy thin wafers, I started looking for companion recipes - those that had some sort of sesame and rose content and found an astonishing number, although none from Yotam Ottolenghi whom you would have thought to be fully into this combination.

For it's a Middle-Eastern combination is it not? Well yes mostly, but the Indians and the Chinese too, have recipes, although the only one I am including here are these Black sesame sticky rice balls from a website called Hello My Dumpling. The author gives a nice rundown of how to make them:

"The luscious filling of these little balls is made from super fragrant sesame seeds, sugar, bitter tangerine peels, savory animal fat and finally the gentle perfume of rose petals. All this is wrapped within a simple glutinous rice flour dough and then boiled in a rose tea to make the perfect little bouncy bundles that fairly burst with flavor in your mouth."

Mmm, not for me I think.

Again they look gorgeous, and again I am unlikely to ever make them, but I have to say that beauty was a common feature of the recipes I found. Perhaps it's the inherent beauty of the ingredients, and also the romanticism of anything to do with the rose that is the secret ingredient that draws you in. The rose element, by the way was usually in the form of rosewater although occasionally actual rose petals were used as well. You need to be careful with rosewater I have found. It can be overpowering.

As I said, I have not included the Indian example I found - a kind of fudge because it included an ingredient - mawr - which I think would be very difficult to find unless you live in Dandenong. It's a bit like dulce de leche I think.

Let's begin with the biscuit and snack kind of things. Ayurvedic sesame rose bliss balls from Areyouvedic; Pastelli - apparently a traditional Greek kind of cookie from Mediterranean Living; Black sesame, rose and orange honey treats from Wildcrafted Acupuncture and Rose sesame waffles from Sunset. I believe these are gluten free - so this particular set of recipes seem to be firmly hooked into the spiritual health scene. Sesame and roses, it seems are good for your soul.

But then we get to be rather more indulgent with two ice creams, two tarts and some meringues.

Jamie Oliver offers up a delicious sounding Rich coffee ice cream with rose and sesame ripple which uses bought sesame snap bars, rather than actual sesame seeds; Georgina Hayden at The Guardian makes Pomegranate and rose sorbet with sesame brittle. Alas there is no picture of Greg Malouf's Sesame tart with berry rose mousse but it's Greg Malouf so is bound to be exquisite, and the Twigg Studios Black sesame cherry rose pie possibly gives a hint of what his pastry might look like. Finally there are the gorgeous looking Sesame rose pistachio meringues from Alice Medrich on Food52.

Last but not least is a very Ottolenghi sounding Labneh with rose petals, sesame and honey from Sarah Britton on a website called Body + Soul. There's that spiritual thing again. This one is ridiculously simple - if you can find some rose petals that is. But so, so stylish.

So there you have it. Something pretty, even beautiful to restore the soul on a dull day, and make you dream of all the oh so stylish food you could produce if ever the opportunity arose or if you felt adventurous. I fear that less and less often for me.


I think for the first time ever one of my recent posts Pasta - a small word for a universe of shapes has had no readers at all, so I'm wondering if somehow it escaped your email reminders. Not that it was particularly brilliant, or that you have to read it, but just in case ...

And why did 20 people look at my post on Pithiviers? I'm not really sure what kind of post you all like the most. If you want to let me know please do.


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