Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cooking with Aftelier essences, part 1 - Grand Fir

Mandy Aftel does not only make top notch natural perfumes, she also has a range of cooking essences and I've been lucky enough to get to try a few of them. The ones I've been experimenting so far are Yellow Mandarin, Blood Cedar Wood, and Grand Fir. The wooden ones I choose because those flavours are unusual in cooking and I love a challenge. Sweet mandarin I chose because I LOVE the taste of mandarins. Clementins and tangerines we can get all year round here, but real mandarins with their very special happy taste are very hard to come by. They only show up for a few weeks every year in speciality food stores, so having a small bottle of essence is a real treat!

So, what have I been using these essences for? Since I haven't had any finished recipes I've started easy. Doing simple, near fool proof, dishes just to get to get the feel for each essence. Initially I thought that the Grand Fir one would be the hardest one to use, it smells very assertively and resiny. A scent that I associate with masculinity, winter, deep forests and green Wunderbaums, hanging in cars belonging to guys with shady intentions. Fortunately, I've been delighted to find several great uses for it. I've tried adding a drop to a basic balsamic vinaigrette dressing, that works great with veggie salads or Greek salads, especially with sweet ripe tomatoes and feta cheese.

Veggies with Balsamic Fir Vinaigrette

Balsamic Fir Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegraitte
1 small drop Grand Fir Essence
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything in a small bowl. Taste!

Salad to go with the dressing

Use the any ones you like of the following:
Tomatoes, the sweeter and riper the better
Red onions
Grated carrots
Feta cheese

Cut up the veggies and feta. Put everything in a salad bowl. Either pour the dressing all over the salad or serve on the side.

A well known chefs proverb is "Grows together, goes together". Here in Sweden I think the fir is the most common tree, especially up north there are vast forests of them. All over the forest floor wild lingonberries grow. Their taste reminds me a bit about cranberries, but they are smaller, harder and tarter. The most common use for them is making jam. I was very curious about how lingonberries would take to the Grand Fir Essence so I made a quick, not so sweet, version of lingonberry jam to try. It turned out great, an interesting, and somehow deeper tasting, version of a Swedish classic.

Lingonberry Forest Relish

This is somewhere between a jam and a relish. For making jam, just boil the berries a bit longer and add more sugar.

1 cup of lingonberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 drop Grand Fir Essence

Put lingonberries, sugar and water in a pot.
Boil for a few minutes until the berries start breaking up.
Add the drop of Grand Fir Essence.
Stir and serve.

Great served with Swedish meatballs.

So, this is enough cooking for today. I have several more posts coming up using the other two essences, so stay tuned :)

The essences were sent to me for trial.


  1. I love your cooking posts! :)
    I was wondering about Mandy Aftel's cooking essences and I have a strong wish to order them (but I'm on a bit of a saving time as I did way too much ordering lately). :)
    I've never heard of lingonberries before but they look like red currants to me - is that similar?

    P.S. I've told people I plan on doing your cake (I'm calling it yours as you introduced me to it) and I've already been told I'm crazy to want to do it. :)

  2. Thanks :) I'm very pleased with my essences. Experimental cooking with them makes me happy so I know I'll order more of them sooner or later.

    Lingonberries do look similar to red currants, but they are more sour and also have a bitter tint to them. I think cranberries are the best substitute, but then one should use less sugar. I haven't tried this myself though.

    Haha, when I made the cake I didn't bother to tell my husband what I was planning to do because I knew he'd say I was crazy as well. I just baked it while he was out with the kids, and everybody was very impressed in the end :)

  3. Ahh- food posts!! and with Mandy's essences! I've been curious about these essences. I have a few essential oils and absolutes from good sources but I am paranoid about using those in cooking without them being explicitly labeled as food grade. I will have to try Mandy's essences at some point- they sound wonderful!
    I think the salad dressing is a great way of testing the essence - how did the fir add to the balsamic vinaigrette?

  4. I LOVE lingonberries! Growing up, it was a treat to have real Swedish pancakes with lingonberries, and I still dream about the taste to this day. I think it's wonderful that you're playing around with Mandy's Grand Fir essence, and you give very useful (and not complicated, thankfully!) ideas on how to use it.

  5. Sigrun, I’m so pleased that you're finding good uses for the wood essences, these ideas sound terrific! Thank you for sharing some simple recipes to make classic dishes into special treats. I can’t wait to see what else you do with cedarwood and mandarin! Mandy Aftel.

  6. Lavanya, the fir essence blended in really well with the balsamic vinegar, it added depth and interest and gave it a more "adult" taste. The only catch here is not using too much. I used a metal teaspoon, dipped the "hand" end of it into the essence bottle, then let one tiny drop fall into the dressing, that's all.

  7. Carrie, I'm so glad to hear that. I was a little concerned when I posted that lingonberries only could be found around, but luckily they seem to grow all over the world.

  8. Mandy, thanks for looking in and THANKS again for the essences!!! I'm having so much fun with them, experimental cooking is my favourite way to get food on the table :)

    There will be more posts on the other ones as well, I have one especially delicious ice cream recipe coming up...

  9. The good lingonberries we get here are imported from Sweden, I don't believe they grow here in The States, but I could be wrong.