When one thinks of Middle Eastern desserts, ice cream is not the first thing that comes to mind. Buza al-halib (Sahlab ice cream) aka buza bi mistiki (mastic ice cream) is just one of many iced desserts available throughout this region. Buza al-halib is a snowy white ice cream that is thickened with sahlab, powdered orchid root and flavored with mastic, not to be confused with gum arabic, a resin taken from the lentisk tree which is native to the Mediterranean.
Mastic gives this iced dessert a consistency that is smooth, elastic, while at the same time chewy.Mastic is usually available from middle eastern grocers or you if you can’t find it, you can try substituting cornstarch. Mastic looks like small, hard translucent crystal-like lumps that must be ground to a fine powder before using.Here’s a recipe for this authentic arab iced dessert, buza al-halib, if you cannot find mastic, don’t worry about it, the ice cream tastes just as good without it.
3 Tbsp. sahlab or cornstarch
5 c whole milk
1 c sugar
small piece of mastic, size of half a fingernail, pounded till powdered (optional)
1 Tbsp. rose water
chopped pistachios,for garnish (optional)
1. In a small bowl, mix the sahlab with a little milk to create a loose paste.Put the remainder of the milk with the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly till the sugar dissolves.
2. Reduce the heat. Add the sahlab/milk mixture to thee warmed milk, stirring vigorously.Add the mastic and continue stirring vigorously until it has dissolved.
3. Simmer milk for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.Add the rose water. Remove saucepan from heat.
4. Pour milk mixture into a ceramic bowl and allow it to cool before freezing. Freeze for 4 1/2 -5hours,stirring every 30 minutes to break up the ice crystals.*
5.When ready to serve, spoon into serving bowls and sprinkle with chopped pistachios, if desired.
*Pour sahlab/milk mixture into ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturers instructions.