I just realized that I have put up only a few dessert recipes. I need to add more. Especially in Ramadan, I crave sweets, after iftar. I am sure there is a medical explanation to this, but when the cravings are here, all I need is sugar, no explanations for me, thanks. I totally love milk-based sweets and they constitute an important role in Ottoman cuisine with their calming and subtle flavors.
Mastic pudding –sakizli muhallebi- derives its name from mastic gum. I know all it reminds you is construction supplies but trust me there is a lot more to this word. Mastic gum, also called damla sakizi (droplet gum) in Turkish, with its exquisite aroma is exuded from the bark of the mastic tree. The tree is native to the Aegean Island of Chios. According to the hearsay, during the Ottoman rule of Chios, mastic was worth its weight in gold. Apart from the culinary uses of its deep, woody and slightly bitter aroma, mastic gum has been used as a medicine since antiquity. It contains antioxidants, and also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, it’s also good for your gums and teeth, no wonder my mom used to chew mastic gum once or twice a month. To me, she was a crazy woman back then, for gnawing on such a hard and intensely flavored matter.
Here comes the recipe for a light and gourmet-like dessert:
3 mastic gum droplets/tears, you might wanna refrigerate the mastic gum and then roll glass over the droplets to crush them into a powdery texture.
(1lt ) 5 cups of whole milk
1 cup of sugar, heaped
2 heaped tablespoons of corn/wheat starch
2 heaped tablespoons of plain white flour
100 grs of butter
50 grs of cream (you can substitute this w/ 25 grs of butter)
Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan until homogeneous, put on medium-low heat, stir with a heat-proof whisk. Keep stirring and bring to boil. Bring the heat to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat, make sure the starchy smell has disappeared, if not, keep cooking. Be careful not to burn it or the texture will not be nice and even, you’ll end up with lumps and a BBQ-flavored custard. When ready, immediately spoon hot pudding into bowls. Let it cool off a bit on the kitchen counter and then cover and put the bowls into the fridge. Serve in a few hours, keeps for 1-2 days in the fridge.
And the pudding skin… If you’re a hater, press plastic wrap right on the surface of the pudding after pouring it into bowls. I don’t know where, might very well be in Foucault or Kristeva, but I remember reading a piece on the formation of subjectivity in children in both linguistic and cultural terms and the text mentioned the loathing that some people carry towards milk/pudding skin, the article proposed a whole new understanding of “abjection”.
It said, the skin, neither milk, nor cream/fat, subconsciously shatters our sense of subjectivity, therefore is “rejected” in order to (re?)establish “the self”. The sense of revulsion associated with the abject, the gagging at the sight of milk-skin, the ambiguity of which is a threat to the conventional processes of meaning making, derives from the extremely uncomfortable feeling of not being able to exactly locate and define the “object” in relation to the “subject”, in other words, the self and the other. I know I know, enough! I don’t know if I am making any sense, got carried away quite a bit. Sorry!
Back to the meaning of life, that is, our mastic pudding recipe at the moment:
*** An optional way to add mastic into your dessert is to wrap 4 droplets into a cheesecloth, then keep this in the pudding and remove after cooking. You can easily find mastic gum droplets in Mediterranean, Turkish or Middle-Eastern specialty stores in most countries. It keeps fresh for quite a long time. Ask for “damla sakizi” (pronounced “dumlah suckuzy”) in Turkish shops. You can also purchase mastic flavored sugar paste in jars, if you do so, adjust the sugar content of your dessert accordingly, but I prefer the real thing, unprocessed mastic gum, so to speak. For those of you who happen to like the flavor of mastic gum, I’ll come up with more Ottoman recipes with mastic later, including coffee with mastic gum.