Z'bad, Zebad or Zubad, Zabād, Sinnawr al-Zabād simply means civet in Arabic, and is the origin of this word in Western world (Civet, civette, zibet and zibetum are some of its Western spellings). In the Arab world, civet paste is still used today in its raw form, as an aphrodisiac, and a hair grooming product: to smooth and scent eyebrows, moustache and beard, as well as treatment for hair loss and various other folkloric uses. If you understand Arabic, this video explains how it is used also. But Z'bad is also a perfume type, just as "White Musk" is a type of fragrance nowadays, and not just one literal ingredient. Although civet is the key ingredient that gives it its character, it is not the only one. Z'bad was used to protect against the evil eye, so it is a magical concoction as well as an aphrodisiac.

I first heard about Z'bad from Dan Riegler (Apothecary's Garden), who have found it in an old perfumery and apothecary in the midst of a Souk in Yemen. I was both intrigued and hesitant about purchasing it because it was a bit unclear to me at the time what this was - aged civet paste or an authentic Yemeni perfume, and since I don't use the former in my creations, it seemed superfluous to make such a purchase.

When I stumbled upon this article about The Painted House and heard from Ayelet Bar-Meir that the Yemeni artist used this mysterious perfume and that it was a strong memory she left with her children and grand children, I knew I had to try it for myself. Dan has kindly gifted me with two jars, and I'm so thankful he did. The Z'bad that Dan found in Yemen is indeed not just aged civet but a full perfume, a solid paste of civet mingled with camphor, spices and that has aged and mellowed for decades.

In Dan's own words, "Z'bad is a potent traditional Yemenite Civet based perfume mix, used for hundreds of years among the Yemenite Jews, but abandoned by younger generations, Z'bad, or Zabad, doubled as a prophylactic against the evil eye, which may also be a contributing factor to its decline in popularity(...)". Which fits right in with what I read about Afia's use of it in that article, and what Ayelet has spoken about.

I received the Z'bad while I was still in Canada, and made great efforts (over the course of four weeks!), to not open the jar till I entered The Painted House. I wanted to have a very specific place association and emotional memory with it. And trying it on first at the house of a woman who lived with similar fragrances and put great care to incorporate them into her daily rituals. It was at first surprisingly fresh, and surprisingly familiar: a burst of camphor and spearmint emerges from the jar as I first uncorked it and smeared some of the dense, rich salve onto the back of my hand.  It had strong banknotes of balsams and civet, but nevertheless there was a surprisingly green, minty, camphoreous freshness to it for the first few minutes. It was a tad medicinal, but not as medicinal as Tiger Balm (which is what the uninitiated nose might dismiss it as at first sniff). There are also earthy qualities, almost musty-dusty, which makes me wonder if there isn't some patchouli oil in there as well, or more likely - a kind of infusion of the dried leaves. I have very little knowledge of how these traditional perfumes I made, but from the little I know about Arab aesthetics, just as the oud oil is used as the "base oil" for other ingredients, in this case it is not unlikely that the civet paste was infused with several resins, spices and herbs to create this rich perfume preparation. I'm also smelling cedar, which gives it a rather pervasive dryness in the opening hour of so on the skin. Perhaps even a hint of myrrh or opoponax. There are no flowers to be smelled in this, but it is unnecessary. There is so much indole in the civet that it really blooms on the skin, and develops into this luscious, purring animalic-balsamic presence for hours on end afterwards. It is not overmpoering at all, but simply becomes part of my skin.

Youth Dew & Z'bad

In both its scent and consistency, Z'bad reminds me a lot of vintage Youth Dew solid perfume in a vintage necklace I have that is probably not that different in age. It seems like Z'bad was the inspiration for Youth Dew, as well as its predecessor Tabu. Both rely heavily on civet, and have a distinctively heavy-sweet-cloying-exotic character that is heavily inspired by the Orient. To Westerners that never smelled the original, these two must have been earth-shuddering at the time, and immensely original. And they are in their own rights. But they wouldn't be around without this Arabian unguent.

Likewise, the evocative packaging and thicker liquid in the Western Orientals - Tabu, Youth Dew, Opium, Obsession and Shalimar - is created in such way as to recreate the ritual of applying a thick paste to the eyebrows, nape of the neck and perhaps other unmentionable strategic spots. The richness of materials create a heavy veil of scent that is highly intimate, personal and also precious. It does not need to be applied in great quantity, and ironically - the economy in which is can be used is part of its luxury and appeal.

Carob Blossoms

Carob in Bloom
There are two carob trees by my house, a long-married couple, male and female, probably centennials. The male lives right beside my porch and dining room windows. I built the house right next to it on purpose: It gives shade and privacy, and lowers the temperatures in the building  by almost 5 degrees. But nothing is for free in this world, as they say, and the price we pay comes when the carob trees are mating, trying to make little carob "beans", also known to some as St. John's Bread. Carobs are generally edible, but this female produces dry and bland fruit, which only grafting could fix.  

Carob Blossoms
Carob buds, red and innocent, before the open and assault the senses with their pollen and perfume. As you can see, the tree doesn't waste any space and brings flowers from every inch of its body: branches large and small, and even the trunks shoot out little tine columns covered with sulfur-yellow pollen. The female flowers are scentless and just look like clusters of tiny green carobs...

Carob Blossoms

The smell of the male flowers is a nostalgic memory from the many falls I spent as a child playing under these trees and resting in their shade. To me it's a basic childhood memory like glue, pencil shaving and your favourite ice cream bar. However, anyone who comes into contact with these trees after reaching sexual maturity, would find the aroma vulgar if not repulsive. This botanical replica of the juicy secretions of male and female copulating is bang-on. Except for one thing: this botanical orgasm will last for about a month.

P.s. There is a scientific explanation for the sexual smell of carob blossoms: They contain the polyamine Cadaverine,  which is also found in human semen (and cadavers...), which is produced by breaking down the amino acid Lysine. Of course the carob tree does that in order to attract insects that typically feed on cadavers.

This Wednesday: DIY Aphrodisiac Massage Oil Workshop with Ayala @ Giving Gifts

Treat your special someone and yourself to a custom-made aphrodisiac massage oil!

In this 2hrs workshop with master perfumer Ayala Moriel you will:
- Discover the world of natural aphrodisiac essential oils and botanical turn-ons
- Learn about the properties of sensual and nourishing plant-based massage oils
- Design your very own blend, with those special notes to inspire passion and stir up the senses!
- Take it home with you, and be ready to get pampered!

* Complementary refreshments of aphrodisiac teas & chocolates will be served.

About the instructor:
Master perfumer Ayala Moriel of Ayala Moriel Parfums has been creating seductive scents since 2001. She creates custom perfumes, body products, fragrant teas, fragrant chocolates and candles, and teaches DIY aromatic workshops.


Giving Gifts & Co.
4570 Main @ 30th Avenue, Vancouver


Wednesday, February 12th, 6:30-8:30pm 

How much:
$50 including all materials, equipment, packaging and the massage oil bottle you'll be taking home with you, of course!

Space is extremely limited!

Please register with Ayala Moriel Parfums via email or call/text (778) 863-0806. 

Rosewater Buttercream Cookies

Rosewater Buttercream by Ayala Moriel
Rosewater Buttercream, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
With Valentine's Day around the corner, and the winter greyness in full swing - there is no better timing for something bright and pink and optimistic. Rosewater buttercream, anyone?

This recipe is an improvement on another one that I've tried from Canadian Living Magazine's special baking edition that came out in the fall, especially for the holiday season 2012. I love getting those special edition magazines: some of the recipes there I swear by and they have surprisingly original combinations, and are usually quite well-tested. This was an exception - whilte the buttercream frosting and the technique was fantastic; I was not at all happy with the dough. Contrasted with the soft, yielding texture of the buttercream filling - the dough must have a more flaky, absorbent consistency. Otherwise every bite will squish out the frosting before you can even get through the (rather thin, I must add) double cookie layers.

So I went off and decided to give you a tried and true cookie recipe instead, which I am sure will produce finer results: it's a classic pâte sucrée recipe, taken from Dorie Greenspan's wonderful Paris Sweets. The reason I'm telling you all this is not just because I want to give due credit to the origins of my new recipe; but also to let you in my recipe baking process. I often get complemented about my "creativity" in baking; where in fact - all I do is amalgamate components that I like from different recipes in my repertoire. It's true that I stop at nothing when it comes to flavour combinations, and these can be rather daring. But as far as consistencies go, the science of baking is something I consider myself to be a complete novice at. I keep making mistakes, learning from them, and keep trying adventurous new recipes to understand who all of this works. So don't be afraid of experimenting in the oven - baking, just like cooking - can be creative and rewarding. And once you come up with your own flavour, it's already your recipe, really. You own it - and best of all: you can share the treats with friends, family and colleagues. And that's more than half of the fun.  

Hot Hearts
For the rose-almond cookie dough:
1-1/4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup (50gr) ground blanched almonds
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 drops rose absolute (optional)
1-3/4 cups unbleached white wheat flour
2 Tbs rosewater, for brushing the cut cookies1/2 cup Coarse sugar, for decorating

- In a food processor or standup mixer, beat the butter, salt and sugar together until smooth and creamy.
- Beat in the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, and rose absolute (if using).
- Add the blanched almonds. Scrape the sides of the bowl if necessary.
- Add the flour and continue beating/blending just until the dough forms moist-looking chunks and can form a ball. Avoid overworking this dough as it will affect the crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth texture!
- Divide the dough into 2 balls, and roll each into a flat disk.
- Cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 4 hours or up to 2 days.
- When ready cut and bake the cookies, roll each disk into 5mm/1/4", between 2 layers of wax paper.
- Chill the dough for 10-20 minutes if it has become too soft and difficult to work with.
- Use heart shaped cookie cutters if you got them, a fluted round (as used for Linzer cookies), or any shape you like. Dip the cutter into flour to avoid the cut cookies from sticking to it.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Refrigerate the cut cookies for 20 minutes.
- Brush (or spray) half of the cookies with rosewater, sprinkle with coarse sugar.  The other remaining half should be left alone as they are - they will be the base or bottom of the sandwiched cookies once you assemble them.
- Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, just until the edges are slightly golden.
- Place on a wired rack to dry.

Rosewater Buttercream
For the Rosewater Butter Cream Filling:
1/3cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups icing sugar
Pinch of salt (use Hawaiian Red or Pink Himalayan salt if you want to be really fussy!)
2 Tbs whipping cream
2 Tbs rosewater
2-4 drops of red food colouring (optional)

- Beat the butter, salt and icing sugar until completely combined.
- Stir in the whipping cream and rosewater, one tablespoon at a time, beating thoroughly between additions.
- Add the red colour and blend till it is evenly distributed and the frosting is tinted a light cheerful pink!

To assemble:
Pipe the butter cream frosting on the cookies that do not have the sugar decoration. You may use a spoon or a butter knife if you don't have a piping bag/syringe: you will need about 1 teaspoon per cookie - place filling in the centre of the cookie, and press the sugared cookie on top so that the filling reaches the sides of the sandwich.

Store in an airtight container until serving. You may store them in the fridge for up to 5 days. Just remember to bring them to room temperature before serving, for the best texture and flavour.

And - voila!
Your rosewater buttercream cookies are ready to enjoy!

Rosewater Buttercream Cookies

Aphrodisiac Moroccan Afternoon Tea

Moroccan Pastries & Desserts
Le premier verre est aussi amer que la vie,
le deuxième est aussi fort que l'amour,
le troisième est aussi doux que la mort.*

*Moroccan proverb, which translates loosely to:
The first glass is as bitter as life,
the second glass is as strong as love,
the third glass is as gentle as death.

Tea Party of Love
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

Tea Party of Love
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

At long last - photographs and stories from our latest event titled "Light, Love… Action!"
This is my 3rd annual Valentine’s Day Aphrodisiac Tea Party - which not surprisingly is always very popular and very special.

First thing - I would like to thank the wonderful friends that helped me put together this event: Miriam, Tamya and Shukoofeh for helping me prepare all the Moroccan sweets and the savoury mezze inspired tea sandwiches. Thank you to Nikki for helping me co-host the event and for her wonderful presentation about aphrodisiac candles (see more below). An extra special thank you goes to Miriam who went above and beyond - seamlessly helping me to host as well as photograph the event so those who couldn't make it can get some inspiration and food for thought!

Tea Party of Love
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

Tea Party of Love
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

Nikki will bought her aphrodisiac candles, including “Three Little Words” - a very special trio of romantic candles she created especially to put you in the mood!
"Afternoon Nap" with Black Pepper and Lavender
"Slow Dance" with Sandalwood, Clove, Patchouli
"Sweetheart" with Ylang Ylang, Geranium and Nutmeg

She shared the pure aphrodisiac essences that are used in her candles to demonstrate how they can be used to set the mood for romance. Lighting a candle is an act of inviting passion and romance into your life. It has such a beautiful soft ligth, and with a scented candle, you also get the health benefits of aromatherapy grade essences - purifying the air and also affecting the body, mind and soul in a positive way.
Nikki shared some surprising tips on burning soy wax candles, for example - light a candle before you enter the bedroom to make it smell nice, rather than keep it burning all night long. And also tips on how long a wick should be, how to trim them, and for how long it's recommended to burn each candle.

Aphrodisiac Spice Box

My presentation was about how the aphrodisiacs were incorporated in the menue (see below) and they actually "work". I demonstrated two scents for men (ArbitRary and Orcas) that contain aphrodisiacs, and two feminine perfumes (Immortelle l'Amour and Roses et Chocolat).
And here I am pouring a very special aphrodisiac that I designed especially for the party: a Darjeeling tea scented with mimosa & myrrh!

Pouring Tea
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

The menu was Moroccan inspired – colourful, spicy and flavourful from one of the world’s most sophisticated cuisines!

We all enjoyed Moroccan mint tea drizzled with orange flower water and garnished with fresh sprigs of spearmint. The orange flower water is an old Moroccan tradition, but was a refreshing and new for everyone attending and I was thrilled how much they loved it!
We created an abundance of colourful finger foods and fragrant desserts that are a feast for all of the senses – and all spiked with nature’s best aphrodisiacs, such as cardamom,

Moroccan Mezze (Hors d’Oveurs):
- Pita wedges with roasted bell pepper hummus topped with spicy Moroccan carrot salad
- Roasted eggplants sandwiches with black cardamom & pomegranate (served on Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps)
- Cumin-scented beets with chevre & black olives (on slices of PureBread’s rosemary-lavender bread)

Moroccan inspired scones flavoured with aniseed and malepi (black cherry pit - this is actually a Greek specialty spice but worked so well with the anise that I just had to include it in the menu).
We served them piping hot with clotted cream and real rose petal jam.

Petitfours & Desserts:
Masapan (Moroccan almond paste tartlets)
Stuffed Dates with Rosewater & Coconut
Gheriba (Rose Petal & Semolina shortbread cookies)
Ras El Hanout spiced brownies

There were also two types of handmade truffles for sale:
White Musk Truffles (white chocolate infused with precious ambrette seeds – a botanical musk)
Black Beauty truffles (infused with Lapsang Suchong & black cardamom and smoked salt)

The whole spread!
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

We also gave door prizes including some of our secret aphrodisiac recipes and raffle tickets for a romantic gift box of perfumes, candles and potions that Nikki & I prepared in heart-shaped cookie boxes.

And last but not least - some music from the party (we played mostly authentic Moroccan music, and also some other North African music, such as the wonderful Libyan musician Tinariwen).

This might be the first and the last tea party for 2012, but we'll look forward to hosting a tea party for next Valentine's Day!

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