Persian Carrot Jam

Carrot Jam

Carrot jam is a traditional Persian jam made for the holiday of Nowruz. I always like to find new recipes for using carrots - to me they are like magical golden roots, and their existence is surprising especially if you know the wild carrot (Daucus carrota), AKA Queen Anne's Lace. Although this is an impressive plant - its root is thin and colourless. How it became to be the plump orangey sweet thing that it is today is nothing short of amazing!

The recipe below is a spin off on Yasmin Khan's recipe from her book The Saffron Tales, with small adjustments of my own - because I can't follow a recipe straight as it is without adding my own "flavours". Also, I would advise using pectin for this jam as it is very runny and syrupy even after exceeding the cooking time. 

I intend to serve it at Vashti's High Tea this Thursday, an event I planned to coincide with the Vernal equinox. However, due to Purim happening that same night, we'll celebrate it a week early. It is not going to be as lavish as my tea parties in Vancouver, because Israelis don't understand half a thing about tea... To them "tea" means any bunch of herbs picked from the garden and thrown in a glass of water. Which is charming and delicious but not "tea" in the proper way as it is known in Asia and many other parts of the world that truly appreciate tea!

Nevertheless, it is going to be fun and flavourful. And most importantly - this is going to commemorate 18 years of my brand's existence. If you can't make it to the event can still enjoy an 18% off your online purchases with code Chai18 throughout the month of March. Chai is not so much for the type of tea but the word in Hebrew meaning life, and which is also the number 18, numerically speaking. If you're jewish you know exactly what I mean... If you're not then look it up

Now, let's cook some jam!


500g carrots, grated 

5 green cardamom pods

A few strands of saffron

Zest of one small Seville orange (you may substitute with another citrus rind to your liking, i.e. sweet orange, blood orange, lemon or lime)
500ml water
250g granulated sugar
3 Tbs Seville orange juice
1 Tbsp rosewater
- Wash and grate the carrots (peel if they are not as fresh and the skin is bruised etc.) 
- Peel the cardamom pods. Crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle.

- Add the seeds and the cardamom shells in a medium sized pot, as well as the saffron strands and citrus zest, water and sugar.

- Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, allowing the sugar to dissolve completely and the water to reduce.
- Add the grated carrots and bring to a rolling boil. Cook for 20 minutes until the carrots are soft and the water is syrupy. 
- Meanwhile, sterilize your jam jars:  Preheat the oven to 140C/ 225F, wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water and put them in the oven for about 10 minutes. When they have dried completely remove them from the oven and leave to cool.
- Once the carrots have cooked for 20 minutes, and are completely soft,  lower the heat, add the citrus  juice and rosewater and cook for another 5 minutes or more, until the syrup has thickened a bit. Remove from the heat, transfer the jam to the sterilized jars and seal.

- Leave to cool completely, store in the fridge and eat within a month.

Vetiver Racinettes Soap V.01

Vetiver Racinettes has arrived back from S.C. - my student and soap maker down in Oregon. And the timing couldn't be better for the Artisan Fragrance Salon in Los Angeles!

We had some challenges with this experimental batch as we tried a few ingredients that are not normally used in soap, so we will have to make another test batch this fall. However, it only affected the look of the soap, and not it's other important attributes: V.01 still performs wonderfully and smells incredibly true to the scent that inspired it.

This cold processed soap has amazing lather - in fact, enough to challenge most shaving creams, and can be easily use as such. It is also quite moisturizing, with castor oil added to the mix for that purpose.

The soap is scented with refreshing, invigorating and quirky notes of vetiver, cardamom, espresso and kaffir lime leaf. I'm especially grateful for this clean scent in my shower while staying in over-heated Los Angeles (highs of 32c/89F today). Makes for a very fresh start for the day and a much-needed cleansing experience in the evening. The scent lingers on the skin after the shower and even garnered some unsolicited comments from my lovely hostess Persephenie!

Green & Black: Cardamom's Aphrodisiac Properties & Uses Explored

Cardamom is one of my favourite spices ever, being one that I’ve been exposed to from a tender age, under the name “hel” – and in this regard I’m not different than any other Middle Eastern kid who’ve been indulging in baklava in special occasions, or been tempted to take a sip of the grown-ups’ dark roasted coffee fragrant with cardamom.

What I love so much about cardamom is its complexity and versatility as it so readily lends itself to both savoury dishes, beverages, confections and desserts. My first times using it on my own initiative have been as part of my version of an aromatic vegetable stew for couscous, along with coriander seeds, cinnamon and cloves. And later on I learned how wonderful it can work in basmati rice, not to mention myriads of aromatic curries, masalas and other spice blends, and countless desserts – Oriental sweets are the obvious ones (Baclava, sahleb, sheera, gulab jamun, rice puddings and more), but also in European pastries and baked goods (carrot cake, banana bread, gingerbread, and many Scandinavian pastries, surprisingly).

So it is both with amusement and excitement when I learned that cardamom is also considered to be a “stimulating” aphrodisiac. Green cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is the fruit of a tropical plant related to ginger (Zingiberaceae) is picked when unripe and dried. White cardamom is simply green cardamom that have been bleached, so do avoid buying this “spice”. Black (aka wild) cardamom (Amomum costatum) and has some common traits in its aroma profile – with the camphoreous component amplified, but also with an unusual smoky and earthy note that is absent in the green variety

It is also quite different in how it can be employed in dishes, lending itself much more freely to savoury dishes such as hearty curries, soups and stews and as a component in garam masala.

Green cardamom is perfect in Middle Eastern and East Indian desserts – often paired with the flavours of rosewater, saffron, cinnamon, coconut and other nuts (Gulab jamun, Indian Halvas, Baclava, Harissa), or to top off puddings and steamed milk beverages (Sahleb, Banana Sheera). It also works wonders with ginger, nutmeg and mace in warming European pastries (gingerbread, carrot cake, banana bread, pfeffernusse and more).

And of course – it is used to flavour Turkish coffee (usually it is the only spice added) and Masala Chai, where it is blended with fresh ginger root, aniseed, fennel or star anise, black pepper and allspice berries along with Assam tea leaves.

In savoury dishes, cardamom is an essential in many spice blends, such as the Indian garam masala, and is put to use in countless Indian curries. Morocco’s famous Ras el Hanout and in the Arabic Hawayej blends. It’s best friends in savoury spice blends are coriander and cumin seeds.

Romantic Aromatic Bath with Cardamom & Rose

Transport yourself to the orient with this simple bath-time treat that is equally majestic to enjoy alone or with your lover:

Fill your bathtub with warm water, and sprinkle with one cup of epsom salts (you may also add 1/4-1/2 cup sea salt or dead sea salts if you wish). Epsom salts relax the muscles. Sea and Dead Sea salts purify and cleanse the skin.
When the bath is full, put one drop of each pure Bulgarian Rose Otto and cardamom oil or CO2 into the tub. Soak and enjoy the sweet and exotic aromas mingle and fill the air. It feels to me like a thousand petals of roses unfold and above it, the sweet exotic aroma of cardamom reminds me of eating Rahat Loukum in a Hammam (something I'm yet to experience...).

If you don't have pure rose otto or can't afford it, rose geranium oil would be a good enough substitute, although it's aroma is ever so slightly more citrusy and herbaceous. It still gets that Oriental sweets aroma when combined with cardamom though :-)

Basmati rice with cardamom & carrots
(adapted from "Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites" - there is it called "Golden Basmati Rice" p. 185, which includes grated carrots, orange zest and 1/2 tsp each cinnamon and turmeric).

1 cup white basmati rice, soaked for 20-30 minutes, than rinsed and drained

1 onion, diced

1 Tbs. ghee (clarified butter) or grapeseed oil

Generous pinch of saffron, soaked in 1 Tbs. boiling water for 30 minutes

2 whole cardamoms, peeled and ground with mortar & pestle (they certainly taste much better when freshly ground - totally worth the extra effort - not mention, it's so much fun to pound them and inhale the fresh aroma of the seeds released into the kitchen's air!)

1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste - I recommend not using more than 1tsp per cup of rice)

1-3/4 cup boiling water

1/4 cup sliced almonds, slightly roasted on a dry cast iron pan (for about 2-3 minutes)

- Begin by soaking the rice in cold water, and the saffron in boiling water. While they are soaking, prepare the cardamom, cut the onion and have all your other ingredients handy.

- On medium heat, warm the ghee in a small (about a quart size) pot.

- Sautee the onions until golden.

- Add the rice and the cardamom, and sautee while stirring for another 2-3 minutes.

- Add boiling water, salt and the saffron (with the water!), and bring to a boil again, without the lid. Reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

- Remove from heat, and keep the lid on for another 10 minutes. Be sure to keep the lid closed! This is the final stage of cooking, that will ensure your rice is well cooked, but nice and fluffy (rather than sticky...).

- While the rice is steaming quietly in the pot, prepare your almonds by roasting them gently in a cast iron pan. Be sure to stir and attend to them fully, so they don't get burnt! This will take about 2-3 minutes.

- When the rice is ready, fluff it with a fork, and transfer to a serving dish. Top with the roasted sliced or slivered almonds, and enjoy with your choice of curry, dal or Middle Eastern style casserole (such as eggplants, zucchinis or ladyfingers in tomato & pepper sauce).

SmellyBlog recipes with green cardamom:
Chai No. 1

Chai No. 2

SmellyBlog recipes with black cardamom:
Babaghanoush with Black Cardamom & Pomegranate

Spiced Italian Plum Cake

Black Beauty Chocolate Truffle (infused with Lapsang Suchong and Black Cardamom)

Perfumes with Cardamom:

Épice Sauvage



Vetiver Racinettes

And my two One of a Kind current offerings:

Incense & Chocolate

Sandal Tree

Milk & Honey

what is kheer, you ask?, originally uploaded by jamiers!.

Another special treats for Rosh HaShanah (and year around) is my newly found body lotion love: Juliet's Room Milk & Honey series of hand & body lotions. They come in various scents, but I fell instantly in love with the Vanilla Cardamom...

Besides the light texture, the scent is so yummy you feel like you are smearing yourself with a cardamom-scented milk custard, or even better - sipping a steamed milk chai with vanilla and cardamom... It's sooo delicious!

Other "flavours" include Vanilla-Lavender, Vanilla-Caramel, and my daughter's obvious favourite: Coconut-Pineapple!

And if the scent alone was not enough to entice you, you can rest assured that the ingredients are the best as well, and they are listed fully on the website for every single product. They use no synthetic fragrance and no parabens, and apart from the emulsifying wax (which I believe is synthetic) the ingredients are all natural, and 88% of the product is actually organic. For this particular treat, they are:
Organic Aloe Juice, Milk, Rose Distillate, Organic Coconut Oil, Kosher Vegetable Glycerin, Emulsifying Wax NF, Palm Stearic Acid, Witch Hazel, Vitamin E, Grapeseed Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Organic Honey, Pure Essential Oils, Xanthan Gum, Mannan, Organic Black Willowbark Extract, Neem Oil, Rosemary Oleoresin, Phenoxyethanol, Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric Acid

I love so many of the products I tried from this newly found local skin care line, and I will be posting more reviews of the other products here soon.

Coffee Break

Coffee Time, originally uploaded by NuraNAlbayraK.

"Coffee should be black as Hell, strong as death, and sweet as love".

- Turkish Proverb

Yesterday I served Turkish coffee for my students, and one of them urged me to blog about it. Coffee is not much of a topic for me, but seeing how long ago was my last post (teaching really does require my full attention this week), I thought I'd give it a shot. As it turns out, you don't need to drink coffee to stay up all night... Writing about it can serve the same purpose.

Turkish coffee is very popular all throughout Arabia, and is nothing like any other type of coffee Westerners are familiar with. This is a very dark roasted coffee, finely ground, that is prepared by cooking and is not filtered whatsoever. It is often flavoured with cardamom, and usually sweetened with a very generous dose of sugar, during the cooking process. Milk is never added to Turkish coffee.

I'm probably the wrong person to discuss coffee, being a devoted tea lover and being very easily affected by caffeine... But this stuff is very potent in that regard. Coffee is the minimum expected of hospitality in the Middle East (after offering a glass of water, of course). This is what we always received when we were guests at Arabic and Druze homes in the Western Galilee where I grew up; and we always made sure we had some at home for coffee-loving guests (my parents were firm believers in herbal teas otherwise...), and mostly for construction workers whenever something had to be built around the property.

Even though I was never into drinking it, I knew how to make it from the tender age of ten or so. I never felt comfortable making it though, I have to say. Because I mostly had to serve it to strangers - the men who were working on my parents' property, during their coffee breaks. And I was extremely shy. With every move I took walking with the tray with tiny porcelain coffee shooters on it, putting it down and pouring the coffee - I felt as if a hundred eyes are following me from every direction. It was the worst feeling and I hated doing it but I could not refuse when my mom asked for help. As an aside note though: I'm pretty sure it is a role reserved for men to serve the coffee in the Arabic communities. And the Bedouin men make a point of freshly grinding the coffee beans for the guests before brewing it. It's part of the ritual, building the anticipation for the dark beverage, besides the brewing, triple-boiling and pouring...

But now I'm thankful that she taught me how to make it, because I can serve it whenever I want to and it never fails to amuse, impress and bring pleasure to my coffee-deprived guests (I serve them more than herbal tea, but some people really need their coffee and don't feel that tea has enough caffeine - poor things!).

It's really simple, and it always turns out perfect even without tasting if you do this:
Blend together equal amounts of sugar and coffee - 1 tablespoons each of Turkish coffee and sugar for every cup of water.
The Turkish coffee I buy is already flavoured with cardamom (ground along with the coffee, and surprisingly still smells fresh even though to the best of my knowledge I had that coffee, in a sealed jar, for some 6 years. Shhh...). But cardamom pods can be added while cooking (or omitted altogether if you prefer your coffee without it).
First put the coffee and sugar in the finjan ( a little saucepan with a spout, designed especially for that purpose - you can find similar ones but less picturesque, in most homeware stores), mix well, than add the water, and cook until boiling.
The key to making the coffee work though is bringing it to a boil 3 times. This is really what brings out the flavour. So remove from the heat after 1st boiling, set aside for a few seconds, return to the stove or flame, boil again, and so on for 3 times in total.
Every time it boils, it will almost spill over the finjan. Wait until that very moment... And only than remove from the heat. It's a little like playing with fire. And if you don't move the put fast enough - you'll have a living proof of your coffee making efforts all over the stove.
In other words: pay attention to your coffee when you brew it, or else you'll get a mess as reward for your multi-tasking tendencies (you may *think* you have waited too long and the coffee will wait for you while you check if the laundry machine has finished its cycle; but it won't: it will spill over just when you're about to return to it. Trust me).

My brother likes to add a couple of geranium leaves to the coffee, and it's another heavenly fragrant addition that goes well with both the coffee, cardamom and the sugary sweetness. And also with the rosewater-drenched baklawa, if you happen to have that luxury. Here are some photos of the coffee he prepared for us in the desert!

So that's that for the Turkish coffee. And you may want to serve it with sweets on the side (baklawa), but if you put that much sugar it's not mandatory at all. So perhaps love is just one tablespoon of sugar?

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