Well, here we are in the middle of winter and I’ve been asked to write a story about ice cream. Now, I know some of you are thinking: “Ice cream? Isn’t it a bit too cold this time of year for ice cream?” However, I really don’t mind because any time of the year is always a great time of year for ice cream for me. (And I’m sure many of you out there agree.)
When exactly ice cream was invented, and by whom, has been up for debate for years. Some food historians say that it goes back hundreds of years to 550 B.C. and the Persians. Others declare it was Nero who brought ice down from the Apennines to make a honey and wine sherbet. Still others say it didn’t reach Italy until much later when Marco Polo brought it back from China. Indeed, when it comes to ice cream, the answers to its invention are as varied its flavors are today.
Nevertheless, no matter where it was invented or who invented it is not the focus of today’s post. This is because today’s focus is on booza (ice cream in Arabic). So, grab a big bowl of booza and read along as we tell you about Arabic ice cream. We’ll even include an Arabic ice cream recipe so you can enjoy this creamy, chewy tasty treat at home.
During the Moorish occupation of modern-day Granada, locals used to bring ice down from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Afterward, they turned the ice into a delicacy flavored with fresh fruit juice and sweetened with honey. They called the frozen treat “sherbet” and the Islamic rulers of Arabic Andalusia absolutely loved it. To them, it was sought after as refreshment in the midst of the summer heat. Eventually, it made its way to Damascus. There, the Caliphs enjoyed a Syrian ice cream recipe made with ice the Syrians brought down from Mount Hermon.
You may find Arabic ice cream is a bit thicker and chewier than the ice cream of Europe. That’s because Arabic ice cream is made of milk, cream, sugar, sahlab and Arabic gum. It is made with these last two ingredients tends to make it more elastic than Western ice cream. Sahlab is flour made from an orchid tuber that works as both a thickening and flavoring agent. Likewise, mastic gum is a mastic tree resin.
Booza makers make traditional Boozet al Da’ by first heating milk sahlab, mastic gum and sugar together, then freezing it. Once frozen, they pound the heck out of it with a huge wooden pestle until it’s thick and elastic. Next, they add cream and pistachios to this big gooey mass, and then fold it into a Swiss roll shape. Finally, they coat it with a plentiful amount of pistachios.
Ashta is Just One of the Many Arabic Ice Cream Flavors
You just learned how they make Arabic pistachio ice cream, but like Western ice cream, booza comes in a wide range of flavors. The most common of these is ashta – clotted cream rolled in pistachios. However, you can also find chocolate rolled in hazelnuts or a variety of berry flavors depending on the season.
Arabic ice cream does, indeed, remain a delicacy of many Middle Eastern countries. Fortunately, many shops still carry on the tradition of making hand-made booza that’s likely to continue for generations to come.
Want to try your luck at making your own booza at home? Try this recipe any time of the year.
Sahtayn al wafiah!
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