I absolutely love cooking with my friend Kris. Not only is she one of my dearest friends and amongst the most generous people I know; she is a phenomenal cook. Kris and I met when we were in a play together for Ranters Theatre over 13 years ago, and we have been breaking bread with love ever since. Beth and Zoe were also in the play, and we have all been kindred spirits ever since, having regular lunches and dinners throughout the year as a group. One of the most wonderful things about our friendships is that we are all obsessed foodies; and all three of these ladies are absolutely wonderful cooks. So, needless to say, there is always something delicious on the table. I will celebrate Zoe later this year when I post some of her unbelievable cake recipes. Bethy has had a few mentions with the lemon asparagus soup and the roasted sweet potato macadamia soup. But today it is all about Kris.
Kris is now a Shiatsu practitioner, and has taught me so much about Chinese holistic principles. Her passion for cooking with whole foods is a constant source of inspiration to me. I am always calling to get her opinion on a trial recipe idea, and she always comes to the party with fantastic suggestions that never fail to impress. She introduced me to the wonderful world of coconut sugar, and rose water -- which is what we will be celebrating today.
Kris made this incredible date and walnut loaf for a lunch with Beth and Zoe some time ago that she had clipped from the from the November 2007 edition of the fabulous Australian Magazine “Delicious”. We polishing off the whole loaf in one sitting! We were all devastated when Kris mislaid her beloved photocopy of the treasured recipe. Thankfully, the folks at Delicious Magazine were only too happy to search through their archives and send her another copy; which she promptly forwarded onto me. Now I can share this unbelievable recipe with you, so that you might have a taste of our girly lunch. In true “Kris style” (she is not fond of following recipes) she has made this recipe her own, and added in a generous drop or two of rose water, which turns this already spectacular sweet bread into a sublime creation just begging to be devoured.
Those of you unfamiliar with rose water -- it is the liquid that is left when roses and water are distilled to make rose oil. Most of us are familiar with rose oil as a welcome ingredient in fragrances, bath, and skin care products. Try using rose water mixed with filtered water for a fantastic natural toner. It is amazing!
For culinary purposes, rose water has been used in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines with spectacular results for many years. Whenever I smell rose water, I immediately start salivating for traditional Turkish Delight. Oh Yum! Rose water can be found at health food stores, Middle Eastern grocers, and exotic food shops. Try to find 100% pure rose water. Some are blends of 80% rose water, 20% water and natural flavoring. Do not buy rose syrup, which is loaded with refined sugar, citric acid, coloring and flavoring. Rose water is so wonderfully fragrant, that Kris wisely encouraged me to add it into baked goods, puddings and other sweet treats as an ingenious way to reduce the sweetener required. I have to say, it is a top tip, and I have been grabbing for the rose water ever since.
Kris and I whipped up this recipe last week and took some around to Beth and Zoe for lunch. We all unanimously approved -- once again, polishing off the whole loaf in one sitting. The recipe calls for you to grease your baking tin with walnut oil. Whilst this does add an incredible flavor to the loaf, it is not absolutely essential if you don’t want to fork out the rather hefty price for walnut oil just for this recipe. I have also listed the rose water as optional. The original recipe didn't have it, and the loaf tastes wonderful without it. But I really think Kris is onto something and it adds a touch of magic to this.
Rice flour makes the gluten free incantation of this sweet bread really light, which is wonderful. But I have added an additional buckwheat mix that works well if you want a gluten free bread that has a bit more nutritional value. This version is a little bit more dense and browns on the top more quickly. You might have to cover with foil for the last fifteen minutes cooking time.
You can reduce the sweetener and make it more savory. It does not have to be as decadent as we have made it here. I prefer it sweet served with a slather of butter. But this date and walnut loaf is incredibly versatile. Kris serves it up as a wonderful accompaniment with cheese and fruit paste.
Either way, this loaf is absolutely incredible and not to be missed.
Thanks Kris – I love you!