mastika ice cream

Falling Cloudberries is one of the most beautiful cookbooks I´ve ever seen. I love everything about it: the recipes, the photography but even the quality of the paper is first class. The moment I open the book I am transferred to the places presented in it. Needless to say, my favourites are Greece and Cyprus and I have cooked most recipes from these two chapters. I love the Moussaka, although I prefer it with a bit more cinnamon, the Spanakopita where I would use a bit more Feta, the Pork in Red Wine with Dried Coriander Seeds. Oh, and not to forget the wonderfully smooth Buttermilk Pudding with Watermelon and Rose Petal Jam, I can really recommend it with or without the jam.
A few weeks ago I made the Yoghurt & Semolina Cake and Tessa recommends to serve it with the not-too-sweet mastika ice cream. The cake was delicious without the ice cream and I don´t even think I would have liked it with something that has such a distinct flavour - as it turned out - this ice cream has.

To come across mastic wasn´t an easy task, but fortunately I could locate a Greek grocery shop in the same city my mother lives and so she picked some up for me. It came in a tiny plastic bag and looked like small crystals. According to Wikipedia, the mastika is the resin of the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus) indigenous to the Mediterranean islands.

"The mastic tree thrives especially well in the southern part of the island of Chios, due to the mild climate and characteristics of the soil. Mastic trees found elsewhere, even in other parts of Chios, do not produce mastic gum. The plant itself is known for its lemony balsam-like smell, which can permeate the air of the 'Mastichochoria', the villages on Chios that produce mastic gum. Interestingly, the ancient Egyptians used mastic gum, imported from Chios, in the incense they burned as a tonic for exhaustion and to restore mental clarity. Many modern researchers have confirmed some of the traditional uses of mastic gum, including its roles in oral health and healthy digestive functioning."

This is a very simple ice cream recipe, no custard making involved. The recipe calls for mastic, milk, sugar and pouring cream. In Sweden we have coffee cream, cooking cream, "in-between-cream" or whipping cream with fat contents of 12%, 15%, 27% and 40% respectively. I figured pouring cream would be one of the low-fat ones but I decided to go with whipping cream. I don´t have an ice cream machine and very often the sorbets turn out as granitas, even though I´m whisking vigorously with an electric handwhisker. (I found this new brand of cream the other day and as I´m crazy about nice labels and packaging, I just had to buy it. This is soooo cute!)
After mixing all the ingredients I had to have a taste! Well, how should I put this? It was a very unfamiliar flavour to me so I couldn´t really decide how I liked it. I let it cool slightly and then tried again. Umm, still that hmm... interesting taste. After several spoonfuls I decided to divide the mixture, keep one part as it was and add some flavour to the other. Tessa suggests the addition of a few drops of rose water or liqueur, so I went with the rose water. I added 1 tsp to half the mixture, tried it but there was still something missing. I remembered seeing a mastika ice cream recipe by another chef but I just couldn´t recall who or where it was. What I think I remembered was that the flavouring there was rose water and cardamom, so I went with it. To be able to tell the difference between the two flavours easier, I added some purple food colouring to the rose water one. I would have preferred a pink one but I didn´t have any. I put it in the freezer and whisked it every hour, but it took three hours until it started freezing.
Finally the big moment came (drumrolls, please) it was time to try it. The verdict of the jury is as follows:
The mastika ice cream might be very good but I just couldn´t get used to the taste. The rose water flavoured was a much nicer. It was milder and a lot more enjoyable.
The texture however was nice, not too fat, not too icy, so what I would definitely try next time is something I read about on Ilana´s blog I love risotto, namely the coconut ice cream. Mmmm, looking forward to it and in the mean time, I´ll just have one more bowl of my very nice (not) mastika ice cream.

Some leftover mastic, anyone?

Edit: OK, now (a week later) I have finished this batch of ice cream and I´ve changed my mind. When I finally got used to the taste, I actually started enjoying the flavour.
Edit again: after beeing in Greece this summer, I had mastic ice cream again and I must say that now I love the flavour. Definitely worth making it and being more open when first tasting it than I was...
For those of you who asked for the recipe, here it comes:

Mastica Ice Cream
serves 8
1 flat tsp mastic granules
1 cup superfine sugar
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Put the mastic with a tsp of the sugar into a grinder and grind to a fine powder. Heat the milk with the remaining sugar and powdered mastic, stirring until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat, let cool a bit whisking now and then, and mix in the cream. Transfer to a bowl, cover and put in the freezer. After an hour remove the bowl from the freezer, give it a whisk and put it back in the freezer again. Whisk again after another couple of hours. When it's nearly firm, give it one last whisk and let it set until it's firm.


Anna said…
i love this cookbook too!!!

mastic has such a wonderful flavour. beautiful.
Freya and Paul said…
I have been intruiged by using mastika. What flavour does it resemble? It looks a wonderful colour though!
pistachio said…
I found mastic here yesterday, yay! Have never used it though so need to do a little research.

pi xxx
vonsachsen said…
Freya and Paul, I´m not as poetic as you are, so I´m finding it difficult to describe the flavour :) I´ll try again soon and come back to you if I find a good comparition:)
Good on you, Pi! I always get so excited when I find some odd ingredient.
I just did as Tessa "instructed", combined the mastic crystals with caster sugar and used a coffee grinder.

vs xx
Lisa said…
Very interesting! I'd never heard of mastika before, thanks for the introduction.
Raju'O said…
Please could you give the Recipe for this Mastic Ice cream.
vonsachsen said…
Sorry, raju´o, didn´t see your request until now :( I clicked on your username but that didn´t lead anywhere. If you are still interested, please email me.
athena910 said…
So... What IS the recipe for mastika ice cream? Do tell...
Anonymous said…
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