Roselle is the new black

January 29th, 2011 | Posted by greg in Off topic

Our upcoming menus are poised on featuring as much locally grown ingredients as possible and Roselle is going to be the new black!

Back home, we have hibiscus and use it as an infusion, iced tea and eventually to flavor poaching liquid for fruits or sorbet. In Hong Kong, I had a very pleasant encounter with Roselle. A close cousin of the hibiscus, but growing under different latitudes than the later. The last time we did our baking outing in Fan Ling, Teresa from eFarm opened a pot of Roselle jam to taste with our white rosemary batard. It was simple, authentic and with a very clean and crisp flavor. It definitely etched my taste buds.

After a quick note to Teresa, samples were on our pastry bench shortly after. She brought us dried flowers, preserved Roselle (obtained by submerging the fresh blossoms in sugar for a certain period of time, resulting in soft, but with a sort of crunchy texture – apparently a popular and healthy alternative to regular snacks here in Hong Kong – which I tend to agree with, very pleasant actually…) and Roselle jam, made in a traditional method with a little touch of honey.

The Roselle plants are seeded every year instead of keeping it growing into bushes. The reason, explains Teresa, is that young plants give much more flowers. The planting happens in April and around October to December, it’s the harvesting season here in Hong Kong. Once the harvest is done, flowers are processed into jams and preserve – the leftover is being dried.

While thinking about our new afternoon tea, I couldn’t contradict the popularity of macaron, yet, in themselves, they are rather bland pastries. The challenge was to have them interesting in flavor and not so sweet.

Spot on: Roselle is the new black!

The sweetness of the delicate almond shells were the perfect fit to Roselle with its floral acidity and mellow tone. I actually used a base of raspberry jam to balance all the flavors and added LOTS of chopped chunks of preserved Roselle. Very nice indeed! And to me, it’s a clear winner in desserts compared to rose flowers, the later making you feel like you drank a whole bottle of L’Occitane shampoo if badly measured in your recipe.

I am convinced we will find plenty of use for Roselle in our pastries and cakes. As a matter of fact, Roselle jam is going to be served along with pan seared foie gras in an upcoming VIP banquet very soon! :)

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11 Responses

  • gregoire says:

    For some reasons, comments were disabled… it’s now back to normal :)

    Ever tried Roselle?

  • Rachelle says:

    “making you feel like you drank a whole bottle of L’Occitane shampoo if badly measured in your recipe”- ahahah…what a great and true description!!

    i’ve never tried roselle (i believe)…but those macarons are a feast for the eyes

  • gregoire says:

    Thanks Rachelle! I saw Toggi bar (from 7-11) on your blog… it was one of my favorite chocolate bar back home in Switzerland… now they’re everywhere in HK! I think they have a new marketing strategy :)

  • Rachelle says:

    Just looked up Roselle…apparently I’ve had it as a tea! ;) Turns a beautiful dark pink.

    Toggi bars are soooooo addictive…they’re the perfect size for having one and not feeling guilty, but not feeling satisfied either, until you open up another one, and another one again, until you’ve had too many!

  • Celene Loo says:

    The Roselle pictures are sensual and absolutely tantalizing! I can’t wait to try them for high tea… hopefully during CNY holidays.

    Interesting you said that “macaron, yet, in themselves, they are rather bland pastries”… I must confess I quite like these bland little goodness as macarons come in bite-size and make me feel less guilty about indulging them. They also look like mini burgers and come in rainbow colours, which make it fun and often a game to attempt to pick the best ones from a box of assorted variety.

    Roselle, yes I have consumed in tea form ages ago, in the Middle East actually. In Asia, I now recall that some of my tai-tai friends claim they have medicinal properties.

    I think this series you are embarking on of using locally grown ingredients is exciting and fitting for this world we are living in: “localization with a global touch”.


    p.s. I will be even more curious when you start to use more adventurous ingredients like ginseng and durian…

  • gregoire says:

    Merci Celene!
    Indeed, I find macaron to be nothing special in their simple form, that is why I try the enhance them with flavors and texture that make them more interesting. :)

    While ginseng might certainly be an interesting ingredient to work on, I think I’ll skip durian =]

  • I never understood the craze for macaron…dull…egg white and ground almond…are two things that are incredibly bland. It all comes down to the filling or what flavouring you add to the shells.

    My favourite are ones that have a sharp contrast like passionfruit to counter-balance the sweetness.

    How would describe the taste of roselle to someone over here?

    • gregoire says:

      I agree with you Azelias, they are really just almond meringues, but highly fashionable :)
      Like you said about passion fruit and using it to balance the sweetness, I adopt the same approach and tend to choose counter balancing flavors.

      Roselle is a sister flower of hibiscus. While it has an elegant flower fragrance, but nothing like roses, it has a sort of powerful tart and acidic feature that I like very much to use and balance sweetness with. I am wondering if it’s available in the UK?…

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  • Hi Gregoire
    I know comments re.roselle are few years old, but FYI, have been making Roselle Jam & a Chutney here in HK for past 5yrs and selling at local markets. It’s one of my most popular items and customers eagerly await its coming each year.
    Hope you’re still using.

    • greg says:

      Bonjour Angie,
      Outside of the season, I am always keeping stock of dried roselle at home to do infusion with honey – I love it!
      Your chutney sounds wonderful! What do you serve it with for example?

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