From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...One of the unusual sights in the markets and bazaars of Turkey is the side show that accompanies the sale of salep dondurma, or orchid ice cream. The ice cream is made from milk, mastic resin and salep. The mastic comes from an evergreen tree that's a member of the pistachio family and salep is a powder made from wild orchid tubers that are believed to have aphrodisiac powers. Needless to say, that makes it a popular treat, but that popularity has also made it impossible to find the ice cream outside of Turkey. Mass production of dondurma has depleted the country's supply of wild orchids and caused the government to ban their export. The ice cream, which is served cold but not frozen, is dense and chewable and has amazing elastic powers. Its consistency is a bit like taffy and it bears bears no relationship to the ice cream we normally eat. The show that is used to drum up business is choreographed and resembles the vaudeville version of a shell game designed to prove the hand is quicker than the untrained eye. It begins with a rhythmic beating as the vendor bangs his 3 foot spatula against the ice cream bins. The ice cream in the vats is then stabbed, lifted from the bin in a solid mass and stretched like taffy or pizza dough. If there is an unwitting participant, the games begin. Ice cream is scraped into a cone in leaf-like layers and it is offered to the customer who suddenly finds his cone is empty. The vendor repeats the performance several times before the cone is surrendered and finally enjoyed. Fortunately, the ice cream is thick and will not melt and the show is funny, at least the first time you see it. Those of you who are interested can watch a version of the performance here. I am going to include a recipe for the classic version of the ice cream so you can see how it is made. The ingredients are difficult to come by, so that I suspect few of you will view the recipe as anything other than an interesting curiosity. Here's the recipe.
Turkish Orchid Ice Cream - Dondurma...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Nancy Gaifyllia
3 cups of double cream or whipping cream
3 cups of full fat milk
1 1/8 cups of sugar
3 teaspoons of salep (level)
7/8 - 1 teaspoon of golden gum mastic, ground (see below)
1) Grind the mastic: Mastic is usually sold in drops of resin which can stick to the mortar and pestle during grinding. To avoid, freeze mastic for 15 minutes before using and place it along with 1-2 tablespoons of the sugar in the mortar. Grind with the pestle.
2) In a mixing bowl, beat 1/2 cup of the milk with the ground mastic (and sugar used to grind) until completely blended. Dissolve the salep in 1/2 cup of cold milk. Warm the remaining milk in a saucepan over low heat. Beating the mastic mixture at high speed, add the warm milk, then the dissolved salep. Add remaining sugar and cream.
3) Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and boil over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and clumping. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
4) When cooled, transfer to ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving.
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Dondurma photos courtesy of Bambi Vincent