Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lychee, lime and rose water sparkle

Imagine yourself in a lush, shady, green, Persian garden. A fountain is softly bubbling with cool, clear water. Birds are singing. Sunlight is flickering through the leaves of the trees and bees are humming amongst the myriad blossoms. A faintly sweet, almost undetectable fragrance of roses is lingering in the air.

That is the taste of rose water.

In Ancient Persia, gardens were seen as a metaphor for paradise on earth - the archetypal Garden of Eden.

The rose, claimed by some to have originated in Persia, became a sacred symbol found throughout the mystical writings and poetry of Judaism, Islam and the esoteric Christian traditions. It is a symbol of the soul that has awakened to divine love.

The Sufi mystic Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, who lived in Persia from 1207-1273, wrote:
That which God said to the rose,
and caused it to laugh in full blown beauty,
He said to my heart,
and made it a hundred times more beautiful

Rose petals and rose water have thus long been a feature of the cuisine of Persia and the Middle East.

The flowers are consumed as a medicinal tea and used to garnish meat and vegetable dishes.

Rose water is a by-product of the process of steam-distillation of crushed rose petals, originally developed in Persia to make perfume.

Traditionally, rose water has been used in sweets like nougat, raahat, baklava and Turkish delight and added to drinks like lemonade.

In the 13th century it was common for tired travellers to be offered rose-scented water to wash their hands and feet.

Rose water is said to be good for the skin and is sometimes used as a toner and astringent.

The delicate and unusual flavour of rose water combines well with many fruits, drawing out their gentle aromas. Try adding a little to a bowl of strawberries, or sprinkling sliced melon, plums or peaches with rose water mixed with a little orange juice.

And if you add a tiny amount of rose water to vinaigrette you can transform a salad of bitter greens.

In this recipe, rose water is added to the juice of lychees (litchis) and limes to create a simple, refreshing summer drink with a delicate and exotic taste.

Even though I live in the depths of the English countryside, I managed to buy a bottle of rose water in the nearby town of Yeovil. Those who know Yeovil will testify that if you can buy rose water there you can probably buy it almost anywhere.

The supermarkets Sainsbury's and Waitrose in the UK both stock rose water; it is usually in the section with cake baking products.

Please click here to read more about the use of edible flowers in cooking and their nutritional benefits.


  • 1  can (425 g, 15 oz) lychees (litchis) in light syrup or juice
  • 1 dessert spoon (10-15 ml, 1/4 - 1/3 fl oz) rose water
  • 1 dessertspoon (10-15 ml, 1/4-1/3 fl oz) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup sparkling water
  • Ice
  • Rose petals to garnish


  1. Open can of lychees and drain, reserving syrup. Put fruit to one side for use as a garnish or in a fruit salad.
  2. Add ice to a cocktail shaker, pour in 1 cup lychee juice together with the rose water and lime juice. Shake for 20 seconds.
  3. Pour into two or three glasses and top up with sparking water
  4. Garnish with rose petals and/or a slice of lime and/or a lychee

Then sit in the shade of a beautiful garden and enjoy.  Ummmm.

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