Rose Water Caviar

Eat at any top fine dining restaurant these days and you'll experience some of the products of molecular gastronomy - foams, gels, crumbs and spheres. Most people assume that only trained chefs with complicated equipment can produce these new culinary products, whereas the truth is that just about anyone can do it.


A commercial spherification kit, comprising: alginic acid, calcium chloride, spherical spoons, syringe, slotted spoon.
1 large bag dehydrated rose petals
white sugar


All you need are a few simple tools and some chemicals. And it's easier than that, because there are ready-made kits available at a price that most home cooks can afford. My own preference is for the Texturas, developed by Ferran Adrià at the El Bulli laboratory and marketed through a variety of suppliers that can be found through a simple internet search.

'Caviar' is the result of the spherification process, sealing a flavoured liquid into small droplets designed to imitate the famous sturgeon roe. In this recipe, I demonstrate how, in your own kitchen, you can make rose water caviar - tiny edible spheres of sweet and fragrant rose water that make the perfect accompaniment for strawberries and ice cream.
A Texturas kit and a few kitchen tools

Infusing rose petals in hot waterThese days you can buy rose water from supermarkets, Asian food stores and health food shops, but it's better to make your own. Start with a large bag of good quality dehydrated rose petals that can be purchased from Indian and Chinese food distributors. From these you can make rose water through the process of infusion.

Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the dehydrated rose petals and wait until the water comes back to the boil, remove from the heat, cover and set aside for ten minutes to infuse. After ten or so minutes are up, pass the infusion through a fine sieve and taste for sweetness. You'll probably find that the rose water requires a little sugar to accentuate the delicate floral aroma.

Once you are happy with the rose water, set it aside to cool while you prepare the chemicals which will turn this simple liquid into little perfumed balls of delight.

The next step is to measure out the alginic acid according to the mixing instructions on the pack, add it to the cold rose water and then use a stick blender to agitate the two together. This stage needs to be done as soon as possible (preferably even ahead of time), because the mixture needs to be left to settle for a good while so the air that was incorporated into the liquid by the blending can disperse naturally. This is very important because if there are any air bubbles in the mixture when you come to make the spheres you'll be left with holes in the spheres.

While waiting for the rose/alginic acid mixture to settle, measure out calcium chloride for the sperification bath. This is a much easier preparation and simply involves blending 2.5g of calcium chloride into 500ml of water. In the demonstration picture here, I worked on a very small scale which didn't need anything like a half litre water bath, so I scaled down the measures accordingly.
Rose water and alginic acid mixture

Adjacent to the water bath, you need to lay down a bath of pure cold water which will be used to wash the spheres of any excess calcium chloride once they've formed and are ready to be removed. If like me you purchase a Texturas kit, the spherification tools come as part of the kit. The Catalan word for 'tools' is 'eines', and the eines canister which comes with the kit contains all of the equipment necessary for making various spherical sizes.

Syringe into the bath and, hey presto, rose water caviarIt's a good idea to start small, and work your way up to larger spheres once you've mastered the somewhat easier technique of caviar-making. For this you need the syringe provided with the eines, loaded with the rose water/alginic acid mixture. Holding the syringe over the calcium chloride bath, quite close to the surface, very gently squeeze down on the plunger so that tiny droplets of the mixture fall into the bath. The liquid quickly gelifies on the outside as the alginic acid in the mixture reacts with the calcium chloride in the water, forming spheres with thin membranes just like an egg yolk.

You need to leave the "caviar" in the calcium chloride bath for a few minutes until their membranes are sturdy enough to touch. Now you use the special slotted spoon provided to transfer the caviar into the clean water bath. They're now ready to eat.

You can employ the exact same process to make larger spheres, this time using a larger member of the set of spherical spoons. Serve your rose caviar on their own as an amuse bouche or incorporate them into a suitable dish. I like to eat mine for dessert, accompanied by fresh strawberries and some really good quality vanilla ice cream.

It's hard to get the full effect from still pictures, so we shot a couple of short video clips to demonstrate the spherification process. Have a look for yourself. The first video shows how to use the syringe to drop the rose water in tiny pearls for the caviar. The second shows me rupturing one of the rose spheres to show that the inside of the sphere is still completely liquid. The textural sensation of a sphere bursting inside your mouth is an experience in itself, but then as the stream of flavour-packed aromatic liquid flows out and fills the mouth it truly leaves you in a state of amazement.
Now for some large rose spheres