Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Day 175! Syria - Éma’a Syrian Ice Cream - Up Next, Tajikistan


If you live in the Boston Area and you haven't been to Arax Market in Watertown, you don't know what you're missing. Located at 585 Mount Auburn Street, this Armenian market is filled with every kind of Middle Eastern fruits, vegetables, nuts, pastries, cheese, spices, olives and supplies one could imagine. Oh, and the most ornate selection of hookas I've ever seen - just in case you need one. So today when I went in with my recipe for Syrian Ice Cream which included 2 ingredients I was completely unfamiliar with: Mastic Gum and Salep,  the awesome guys who run the place couldn't have been more helpful. Within minutes, I had everything I needed, plus a few extra treats I couldn't resist. Many, many thanks to Arax for hooking me up! Be sure to check them out on Facebook.

About the size of North Dakota (U.S.), Syria is a narrow coastal plain with a double mountain belt in the west, and a large semi-arid and desert plateau.  Mostly desert land, the country is hot, dry and sunny in the summer and mild and rainy winter. Ethnic Syrians come from Semitic stock, with 90% being Muslim, 74% Suni and the other 16% a mixture Shia Muslim, Christian and Jews. Most people live in the Euphrates River Valley and along the coastal plain, the fertile strip between the coastal mountains and the desert. An ancient and rich culture whose history dates back to 2500 BC, the city of Elba was home to one of the most brilliant civilizations in the world. Currently, this beautiful country is in the throws of a violent, internal conflict, with protesters demanding the regisnation of President Bashar al-Assad, along with the overthrow of his government. To date 5000 deaths have been reported.  For up-date information on the country's turmoil, readers are referred to facebook.com/syrianuprising.

Agriculture in Syria includes wheat, barley, cotton , lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugarbeets, fruits, nuts, vegetables, beef, mutton, eggs, poultry and dairy. Aleppian culinary influences, along with Arab, Persian and Turkish traditions make for a wonderful variety of dishes such as humus, tabbouleh, fattoush, labneh, shawarma, mujaddara, and meze to name just a few. Middle Eastern food is without a doubt on my top 5 list of favorite foods - and now this ice cream...well, read on.

Rose Water - Scents the custard with a delicate, exotic aroma. I dabbed a little behind my ear because really, what's better than smelling like a sweet rose? Mastic Gum thickens the custard, but also lends a very subtle pine pitch flavor and scent, like pine nuts; Finally, Salep flavors and thickens the ice cream custard with a lovely vanilla and cinnamon taste.

 Gum Mastic - I chewed it plain and it really is like gum, with a pine pitch taste - I loved it!
 Crushed up between two sheets of parchment paper - no crystal meth jokes, please
 Salep added to milk turns thick and smooth with a wonderful vanilla/cinnamon smell and taste
 Add 9 cups of whole milk to a large pot
 Heat to a boil over medium heat
 Gradually add 2-1/2 cups of sugar. Yes, it's a lot of sugar, but it's a lot of milk too - I feel absolutely zero guilt - is that bad? Return mixture to a rolling boil for 5 minutes.
 Just 3/4 of a teaspoon of rose water is added once custard is cooked - a heavenly, delicate scent!
Top with plenty of chopped, shelled, unsalted pistachios - how deluxe can you get?

Be still my heart

Syrian Ice Cream (Éma’a) - Recipe Courtesy of foodbuzz
(Yield:  About 10 cups)

9 cups plus 1/4 cup whole milk, divided
1 cup heavy cream
4 medium pieces (about 1/4 tsp) Chios gum mastic
2 -1/2 cups sugar
5 tsp sahlab
3/4 tsp rose water
Chopped pistachios (for serving)

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 c milk with the sahlab; set aside.

Grind the mastic into a powder; the best way to do this is to put the mastic between 2 pieces of parchment paper or inside a plastic bag and pound it with a heavy object, such as a rolling pin.

In a medium-large pot over medium heat, combine 9 cups milk, the cream, and the mastic; bring to a boil (stirring frequently).  Slowly whisk in the sugar and bring back up to a boil, stirring constantly.  Whisk in the sahlab mixture and boil vigorously 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the rose water.  Cool to room temperature, lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the mixture (to prevent a film from forming), then refrigerate until well chilled (about 4 hours).

Transfer the chilled mixture to an ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer’s directions.  Once processed, put the ice cream in a freezer-safe bowl and transfer to the freezer to set.  Scoop out the ice cream and roll generously in chopped pistachios before serving.

Final Assessment: Whoa! This might be the best ice cream I've EVER had - and trust me, I've had a lot. It tastes like a combination of vanilla, cinnamon and pine. It's creamy and sweet and the pistachios on top give it texture, crunch and a wonderful nutty flavor that compliments it beautifully. Add to that the ever so slight scent of roses and it's a full on heavenly sensory experience - sexy, right?!

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

6 comments:

SimplyMe said...

That looks delicious!

Guess what I am munching on as I type?:D!!!!

sadie said...

Thank you! I wonder....they make a great ice cream topping too! :)

OysterCulture said...

Wow, this just sounds so yummy, and I am just intrigued by the recipe. I cannot wait to give it a try.

sadie said...

Thank you, Ms. Oyster Culture :) I hope you will try it. If you have any trouble getting the ingredients, let me know! Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Hm, facebook for info about the problems in Syria? Yeah, I'll pass.

Thanks for the recipe and photos, though. Mmm.. brings back great memories. Maybe one day I'll be able to taste the real thing again. I pray for peace and prosperity for all of us.

sadie said...

Glad you like the photos and recipe. It was the best ice cream I've ever had.

As for the info. on what I think is your country of origin? It's only meant to be a snapshot and could never capture the true history, or present. But hopefully, people who might otherwise never care to read or know a thing about the world outside the confines of... facebook, for example, will get a little taste what's out there. Thanks so much for stopping by