Scented waters such as rose water, or orange blossom water are such a subtle but wonderful way of adding a new dimension to everything from cakes to salad dressings. You’ll find orange blossom water (also known as orange flower water) used in Mediterranean desserts, Middle Eastern influenced salads, cocktails, desserts and baking. The water is distilled from the flowers of bitter orange trees and is appearing more frequently in Western cooking.

If you feel like experimenting in the kitchen, start by adding it to creamy dishes, such as rice pudding, ice cream or light mousses; and orange is always happy alongside chocolate, so the addition of a curl or two of chocolate is a delicious contrast.

The slightly bitter taste of orange blossom water makes it important to exercise caution with quantities, but it also means it cuts through syrupy sweet dishes with tasty results. You’ll find it is often used for baklava, so try adding it to similar sweet pastry dishes.

And don’t restrict yourself to desserts; use orange blossom water in dressings with agave or honey, vinegar, salt and oil (quantities to taste) and serve it with bitter salad greens, orange slices, dates and slivered red onion for a taste of Morocco.

Even if you don’t feel like adding it to your cooking – you’ll still be able to use this aromatic ingredient: for a touch of luxury, try diluting it in water and presenting it in pretty bowls for guests to clean their hands after finger food.

This originally appeared in Vegetarian Living NZ, which is NZ Vegetarian Society’s seasonal magazine.