Today we are literally falling in love for one of the most traditional desserts of Lebanese cuisine, an ice cream called bouza ala haleeb.
In Lebanese, bouza means “ice” and halib means “milk”.
No, milk is actually not the star ingredient of this dessert, even if its name suggests otherwise.
Have you ever heard of salep?
It is obtained from the bulbs of wild orchids that are dried and reduced to powder. The shape of these bulbs inspired its original name in Arabic, خصى الثعلب, which means …. “fox testicle”.
The history of salep goes back to ancient times. The very suggestive shape of European orchid tubers was first interpreted as evidence of their aphrodisiac effect. The Greeks and Romans were already preparing a powder-based drink of orchid tubers, called satyrion.
In Greek mythology, Satyrion was a nymph. And Orchis (from which orchids got their name) was the son of a nymph and a satyr who turned him into an orchid.
Satyrion is also an old name for the orchid. And finally, Satyrion is also a name for the groundsel and the ancient aphrodisiac made from it. Salep is probably the direct descendant of all these Greek and Roman symbols and customs.
Also, in the first century of our era, the Greek physician Dioscoride recommended the use of orchid bulbs as an aphrodisiac. It was also used as such by the Ottomans and if by chance today, a Turk recommended this hot drink and explained that it could strengthen your body, you should immediately guess what he really means by that… ?
Salep was once popular throughout the Ottoman Empire, and even seduced the English and German salons. Indeed, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before tea and coffee were all the rage, salep was very popular in England and Germany under the name of saloop, and it was appreciated for its wealth of energy. The arrival of coffee will make it fall to oblivion.
Salep is a thick liquid that fills your stomach. Indeed, the powder of tubers is very rich in mucilages, a very nutritious substance which forms a kind of gel when it is diluted. Orchid tubers are harvested in the mountains of Anatolia. Bleached and dried, they are then crushed to obtain a powder, salepi, which is used to manufacture salep. This flour is an extract of healing virtues.
Indeed, tuber powder has long been used by doctors as an emollient to soothe inflammation, as well as to prepare fortifying drinks for convalescents or children. It was also carried on boats to serve as emergency food in case of problems. Indeed, a 2 oz dose was considered sufficient to satiate a man’s hunger all day.
Now, let’s talk now about orchid, my favorite flower in the world! It symbolizes love, delicacy, beauty, fertility, refinement and charm. Yes, just that! In ancient Greek, orchis, which means “testicle”, first gave its name to a variety whose roots had a fairly unusual… anatomical hape.
Since the beginning of our era, the Greek physician Dioscoride speculated that orchids played a role in sexuality. They have actually always been associated with manhood, fertility, eroticism, and the female sex, probably because of their suggestive appearance. In ancient Greece, it was even believed that the plant played a role in sexual determination.
Orchids may symbolize beauty and everything I just stated, but the main signification of the flower can change according to its color:
First, white orchid, my favorite. It represents respect and humility, innocence and purity, elegance and beauty.
Red orchid symbolizes passion and desire.
Pink orchid symbolizes grace, joy and happiness but also innocence and femininity.
Blue orchid represents rarity.
Purple orchid symbolizes admiration, respect, dignity and royalty.
Yellow orchid represents friendship, joy, and renewal.
Orange orchid symbolizes enthusiasm, boldness and pride.
Green orchid brings luck and blessing. It represents good health, good nature and longevity.
My bouza ala halib sprinkled with roasted pistachio was just… orgasmic!
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 oz. salep powder
- ½ teaspoon ground mastic
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons orange blossom water
- Some crushed roasted pistachios for the decor
Dissolve the salep powder in 1 cup of cold milk using a blender to obtain a thick and elastic mixture.
Bring the rest of the milk mixed with the sugar to a boil.
Gradually dissolve the hot milk with the salep powder mixture, and mix again.
Pour into a nonstick saucepan (very important).
Mix the ½ teaspoon of sugar and mastic and reduce them to a very fine powder using a pestle.
In the saucepan, add the orange blossom water and mastic. Thicken over low heat while stirring regularly for 15 minutes.
Let cool, then put in the ice cream maker. Let it run for 30 minutes.
Place in an airtight container in the freezer for several hours (ideally prepare the day before).
Take the ice cream out of the freezer 15 minutes before serving and sprinkle with crushed pistachios.