rosewater: 22 posts

Rosewater is a by-product of rose oil distillation, but many brands on the market are simply the reconstitutions that feature rose oil or rose synthetics. I prefer the former. My favorite rosewater brands are Mymouné, Heritage Products (can be found at Whole Foods and other natural food stores), and Cortas. Mymouné and Heritage Products are especially beautiful. Cortas is sharper and zestier, but it’s very good for baking or cooking. You can find rosewater from gourmet markets, Middle Eastern and Indian stores, natural food stores and online from Kalustyan’s and Amazon.com. In Europe, check pharmacies for the floral waters, including lavender and orange blossom and verify that it is food grade.

Persian Flower Delights

In time for Nowruz, which falls on March 20 or 21 in 2019, depending on where in the world you are, I wanted to share with you my favorite Persian floral delights. Flowers don’t only bloom in Persian gardens and adorn Qajar art and textiles, they’re also used in cuisine. Rosewater adds a bright note to savory and sweet dishes. Willow flowers flavor sugar and candy. Orange blossom accents tea blends. As good as flowers smell, their flavors are equally beautiful.

So I took a walk through my local Iranian store and came home with a whole treasure trove of floral delicacies.

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Fennel Cardamom Sherbet (Saunf ka Sharbat)

La canicule, the heatwave, has reached Brussels, with temperatures in the city these days exceeding those of Delhi. Unlike in India, life in Belgium is not designed for a hot climate. Air conditioners are a rare item in most households. The buildings trap heat. The large windows turn apartments into greenhouses. Last night I was dreaming that I was sleeping on the edge of an exploding volcano. It might as well have been our bedroom.

Trying to retain sanity in this heat, I turned to classical Delhi remedies. Since escaping to the cool mountain resorts in Darjeeling wasn’t in the cards, I made a refreshing fennel seed sherbet, saunf ka sharbat.

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Culinary and Aromatic Journey Across the Islamic World

“My most vivid scent from Beirut was that of gardenias. Our neighbor’s garden was full of gardenia trees and when they flowered, the smell was so heady and divine that I would stay outside just to enjoy it,” recalls Lebanese-born Anissa Helou. As a journalist, chef and prolific cookbook author, she has traveled the world collecting recipes and learning how different nationalities prepare their food. Yet when I ask her for a favorite scent memory, it’s the perfume of Lebanese gardenias that she describes.

I was inspired to reach out to Helou after I spent a few weeks in a haze of coriander, rosewater and saffron, thanks to her magnum opus, Feast: Food of the Islamic World. Published this spring after many years of extensive research, it’s a fascinating compendium of recipes from countries united by their Islamic heritage. As I describe in my article for FT Magazine, A Cultural And Aromatic Journey Across the Islamic World, another common link among the diverse cuisines Helou describes is their attention to aromatics.

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In The Rose Capital of Iran

“The ancient Iranian city of Kashan is sometimes eclipsed by its more famous neighbour, Isfahan, but as I wander around Bagh-e Fin – a vast garden turned into an architectural jewel by the 16th-century Shah Abbas I – I fall under a spell that only Kashan could conjure, with its sandy beige Agha Bozorg mosque, winding streets and remarkable rose plantations. Indeed, roses are the main reason for my trip.” The rose capital of Iran, Kashan, inspired the latest article for my FT column, Radiant Rose Perfumes.

I visited Kashan during the off season for flowers, but nevertheless I had a chance to meet rose distillers and sample perfumes and fragrant waters. The aroma is sweeter, fruitier and warmer than that of Bulgarian or Turkish essences with which I usually work. I’m not the only one who found Iranian rose essence extraordinary, and I discovered that Émilie Coppermann and Francis Kurkdjian were among the perfumers who were fascinated by this material.

In my article, I describe the roses of Kashan and fragrances that remind me of my visit. To read the full piece, please click here.

If you were to do a scent trip anywhere in the world, which places would you have liked to visit? (Let’s dream and pretend that neither time, money nor visas are an issue in our trip planning.)

Photography via FT, a rose distillery in Kashan

My Skincare Routine and Layering Technique

Many of you have asked me about my skincare routine, and of course, I’m happy to share it. Skincare is my favorite part of my beauty routine, and while it may sound like blasphemy for someone who works in fragrance, I’d rather imagine going without perfume than without sunscreen. I also enjoy researching the best products, reading studies in dermatology and comparing active ingredients, and skincare offers plenty of such geeky delights. At the same time, I don’t want to spend an hour each morning and evening doing my skincare treatments, and I’ve worked out a routine that takes me a maximum of 10 minutes from start to finish–and it can be compressed even further, as I will explain below.

skincare routine2

The main principles of my skincare are cleansing, hydrating and sun protection. I don’t use particularly expensive products, apart from the eye cream, and I prefer to layer products. In other words, instead of using one moisturizer, I use several layers of moisturizing products. My skin is combination, and layering helps me to keep my skin hydrated and soft, without a risk of blemishes.

Such layering skincare routines are usually described as “Asian,” but of course, you don’t have to use Japanese or Korean brands. In fact, most of my favorites come from North American and French lines. The only exception is sunscreen, since no other country makes more effective and cosmetically elegant products than Japan. The main principle of layering to keep in mind is to start with the thinnest products and finish with the heavier creams.

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