“The combination of nutty, sweet, floral and salty flavours waltzed merrily on the tastebuds as if they were long lost lovers reunited on a parquet ballroom floor”
Last year I spent some time wandering through Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, stopping at almost every stall to dig my hands into piles upon piles of exotic dried foods, herbs, flowers and nuts. I sampled a morsel of something hungrily at each stop, purposely pointing an excited finger at the most unfamiliar thing I could find. Dried persimmons, an array of floral teas, colourful spices and one hundred different flavours of soft, powdery, buttery turkish delights. I bargained for these sweets by the kilo. I didn’t know how I was supposed to take them home with me, or how long they would last, but I had to have them all. Every flavour. Every stall. Turkish delights. Give me all of them.
The strangest thing of all is that I am not a sweet tooth. I can’t even eat milk chocolate without gagging after a few bites. I love fruit – especially the sour varieties – but cakes, candy and chocolate? Not really my thing. The turkish delights of Istanbul were something else. I can’t quite place it…they were definitely sweet, but not sickly sweet. My favourite memory of these magical snowy cubes is of the first time I bit into a pistachio Turkish delight. It was so delicately flavoured with a hint of rose water. The consistency was dense and chewy, with pockets of crumbly, slightly salty pistachios throughout. The combination of nutty, sweet, floral and salty flavours waltzed merrily on the tastebuds as if they were long lost lovers reunited on a parquet ballroom floor.
So of course, it is only natural that every time I encounter these flavours again – a wave of sweet nostalgia hits me and I am transported back to the bustling corridors of the Grand Bazaar.
Today I’m being visited by my friend Liz, whose places of residence alternate between Melbourne, Sydney and Shanghai. She arrives at my door offering strategically hand-picked gifts, for you see Liz has a particular palate for fine things. On the outside, she is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan: running in and out of stately homes around the world in couture, a hopeless romantic who is raised in a champagne tinted crystal bubble – so far removed from the rest of us. But it isn’t always fine china and caviar with Liz. I would say she is more of a truffle cheese toastie, or rose-petals-on-fried-bread kind of girl. She likes simple, but her simple is dusted with some of the finer things in life.
*Laughs bitterly at the thought of her being able to casually shave black truffles on a 12am grilled cheese sandwich after a night out.*
We obviously grew up in completely different worlds, but Liz and I bonded over art in high school – the type of art that sits in galleries but is actually owned by one of her relatives – and food. Memories include: picking apart Las Meninas and arguing over Velazquez’s painting within the painting (I still think it is the King and Queen), and stumbling out of Vue de Monde blind drunk after a 10 course wine matching degustation lunch for her 19th.
Today we spontaneously plan to have a picnic brunch out in the yard, given that the weather has taken a turn for the better after a rather dreadful week. She presents me with a series of lux ingredients that I personally would not have bought for myself: Fragrant dried rose petals, Mediterranean black salt, and Persian fairy floss. The rose petals catch my eye in an instant.
“I think we should make a desserty brunch!” Liz pipes up cheerfully as I examine her gifts. “Pancakes, crepes, french toast – oooh also, you have to try the fairy floss, I can’t get over the texture.”
Ugh dessert. Do we have to? But at the same time an idea is forming in my mind. As I sample a mouthful of the fairy floss – which is rose flavoured and has an incredible texture of silk strands that instantly dissolve into a lingering sweetness – I remember the Turkish delights from Istanbul. Yes, I can do something with this…it has the same oddly satisfying sweetness: the kind that does not make you feel ill after a few bites. I’m out of flour for pancakes and crepes, but I can definitely do some thinking around french toast…
Vanilla French Toast with Rose Petal Compote and Black Salt
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Assembly: 5 minutes
Rose Petal Compote
- 1 cup dried rose petals
- 1 and 1/2 cup of coconut blossom sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp vanilla bean extract
Vanilla French Toasts
- 4 slices of white bread, thickly sliced
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 cup of milk
- 1 tsp vanilla bean extract
- 50 grams butter (to fry)
- Pinch of black salt flakes
- 2 heaped handfuls of rose flavoured fairy floss
- dried rose petals
- Start making the rose petal compote by combining the water, sugar and petals in a small saucepan on high heat, bringing it to a boil
- It should take around 5 minutes to start boiling. Once bubbling, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer down until the sugar dissolves and the syrup reduces down to a thicker consistency – about 15-20 minutes.
- Whilst you are preparing the syrup, begin to make your toast batter. Combine eggs, milk, and vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour batter into a shallow dish large enough to sit the toast slices in, and let the bread soak up the batter for at least 4 minutes on each side.
- Check the rose petal compote. If it has reduced to a thicker, syrupy consistency and the colour of the petals have completely dissolved into the liquid, remove from heat and transfer into a jar to cool.
- Heat a large frying pan on medium heat and melt butter to coat. Place the battered toast on the pan and fry on both sides until golden brown.
- To serve, stack two slices of french toast on top of each other and pour the rose compote generously over them. Place a handful of the fairy floss on top, and sprinkle over some left over rose petals and the black salt flakes.
- Sugar is a natural preservative, so you can store the compote for a while in the refrigerator. Stir in a tablespoon of corn syrup mixture to help the compote stay a smooth consistency.
- I use Coconut blossom sugar to replace white sugar because it is unrefined, organically grown and sustainably farmed in Java, Indonesia (represent!). It has the most amazing flavour – think caramel and bittersweet dark chocolate – and it is lower in GI than other raw sugars. It is also a good source of calcium and iron.