Friday, June 1, 2012

Day 195! Yemen~Ghraybeh (Shortbread and Pistachio Cookies) with Homemade Rose Water - Up Next, Zambia

 Maybe it's because of my Irish heritage, or perhaps it's the neighborhood I live in that was settled by the Irish in the 1800's, but when the opportunity came along to make a homemade still, I simply couldn't resist. But don't get too excited. I'm not making hootch, rather, I'm distilling rose petals from my garden to make rose water. Aside from the thrill of making this heavenly scented concoction, most Middle Eastern and Arabic cooking uses some form of rose water, orange blossom or jasmine water in all kinds of cooking. Seeing as roses are in bloom, and I'm cooking in Yemen, I had to give this a shot. The end product is not as "rosy" as commercially sold rose water, but pretty close! As for the cookies, imagine rich, crumbly shortbread, scented with roses and spiced with exotic cardamom ~ lovely. Lastly, a big shout-out to my friend, Lee at Cambridge Cooks for the kitchen visit and Sofra snacks!

Map Courtesy of Lonely Planet
Located in western Asia, Yemen occupies the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula and is bordered by Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea and Oman. Although Yemen is said to be one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, it is also home to some of the most beautiful architecture. The country's rich culture, once known as the "land of milk and honey", also claims the oldest city in the world in its capital city, San'a. Yemen is the only state in the Arabian Peninsula to have a completely republican government. Slightly over half of the country's population is Sunni, with the remainder being Shia.

Cuisine in Yemin is different from typical Middle Eastern cooking as it has Ottoman and Turkish influences, as well as Afghan, Moroccan, African and Arabian traditions. Chicken and lamb are the primary source of protein, with fish being eaten in the coastal region. Cheese, butter and dairy are eaten in moderation, but buttermilk, vegetable oil, ghee and clarified butter are used in cooking daily. Spices and seasonings often used include (but are not limited to)anise seed, fennel, ginger, honey, garlic, onions, chilies,rose and orange blossom water, sesame and poppy seeds. Tea and very strong coffee are enjoyed in restaurants and in homes.
I picked a variety of roses from my backyard
Some are domestic and some wild tea roses
I took the petals off the stems

All you need to make a still: fire place brick, metal or glass bowl and a large pot with a domed lid

Once water comes to a boil, dump a bunch of ice on the lid. The ice melts and condensation drips down into the bowl.

For the cookies: semolina, powdered sugar, flour, canola oil and pistachios
...and cardamom and roses <3
Pine nuts and almonds can be used as well as pistachios
Shape the dough into an "s", diamonds or wreaths

The first batch did not hold its shape, so I added a little more flour (indicated in recipe below)

These delicate cookies are heavenly scented and flavored with rose water and cardamom

Ghraybeh (Shortbread Cookies) Adapted from The Spice House

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
1 cup clarified butter (ghee), softened or canola oil
2 teaspoons rose water
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup (approximately) shelled pistachios
1/4 teaspoon fine-grained salt
Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix together the butter, sugar, and rose water until light and creamy. Sift together flours, salt and cardamom and stir into butter mixture until well combined. Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Form dough into grape-sized balls, then shape balls into wreaths, diamonds, "s" shapes, etc. (or leave round). Place a pistachio on each cookie.

Arrange cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 18-20 minutes, until cookies are dry to the touch and just starting to change color. Transfer cookies to a rack and immediately dust heavily with powdered sugar.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Blanched almond or pine nuts can be used in place of pistachios. Rose Water can be substituted with orange flower water or with whiskey or other flavors.


Homemade Rose Water - Adapted from care2com

Be sure you have a brick and heat-safe stainless steel or glass quart bowl ready before you begin.

2-3 quarts fresh roses or rose petals
Ice cubes or crushed ice

1. In the center of a large pot (the speckled blue canning pots are ideal) with an inverted lid (a rounded lid), place a fireplace brick. On top of the brick place the bowl. Put the roses in the pot; add enough flowers to reach the top of the brick. Pour in just enough water to cover the roses. The water should be just above the top of the brick.

2. Place the lid upside down on the pot. Turn on the stove and bring the water to a rolling boil, then lower heat to a slow steady simmer. As soon as the water begins to boil, toss two or three trays of ice cubes (or a bag of ice) on top of the lid.

3. You’ve now created a home still! As the water boils the steam rises, hits the top of the cold lid, and condenses. As it condenses it flows to the center of the lid and drops into the bowl. Every 20 minutes, quickly lift the lid and take out a tablespoon or two of the rose water. It’s time to stop when you have between a pint and a quart of water that smells and tastes strongly like roses.

© 2010-2012, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved


Young Werther said...

Quite a conundrum, shortbread from Africa.

The rosewater should give it an interesting aroma!

sadie said...

Yes! And in combination with cardamom, they were amazing. Unfortunately, they didn't hold their shape, but they were still delicious.