Mediterranean cuisine and Greek cuisine in particular is one of my favorites and I am always on the lookout for new things to try. I recently came across a new Greek ingredient, mastic on two of my favorite Greek food blogs Greek Food R & R and Kalofagas. Mastic is the resin that comes from an evergreen tree found on the Greek island of Chios. When a mastic tree is scored, the resin "weeps" from the tree and the drops are dried by the sun. The mastic resin definitely has a resiny flavour and it has an aroma that reminds me of pine trees. Mastic is commonly used to make gum, liqueur and it is used as a spice in sweet and savoury dishes.
Once I heard about this new ingredient I just had to try. I was having difficulty tracking some down when a kind reader from Greece, Lillian offered to send me some along with some mastic gum. I was able to track down some mastic liqueur at the lcbo but they had less than a half a dozen bottles left in all of Toronto and at an out of the way location. I made a special trip to pick up a bottle and I was ready to try out the mastic resin and the mastic liqueur.
The first recipe to try on my list was a mastic shrimp saganaki that I had seen on Greed Food R & R. I had made a shrimp saganaki a while ago and really liked it! When I had made the shrimp saganaki the first time I had used ouzo as a flavouring so this time I just replaced the ouzo with the mastic and it turned out great. (I have updated the shrimp saganaki post with the results!)
When Lillian sent the mastic crystals she suggested a few things to try and one of them was adding mastic to a vanilla ice cream. Given that the weather has been nice and warm the last few days I thought that it was the perfect time to pull out the ice cream maker and make some ice cream. I decided to use my basic ice cream recipe and I added both some ground up mastic resin and a splash of the mastic liqueur. I did not use a full vanilla bean as I wanted the mastic flavour to be the star of the show but I did use vanilla sugar to add an undertone of vanilla to the ice cream. The mastic ice cream was just as easy as any other ice cream to make and it turned out really well. The mastic aroma coming from the ice cream was amazing and the flavour was just as good. I was not counting on how sweet the mastic liqueur was and the ice cream turned out a bit too sweet. No problem, I decided to serve the ice cream with a sour cherry sauce to balance out the sweetness and it worked like a charm. The sour cherry and mastic flavours paired really well! I topped it all off with some chopped pistachios for some contrasting colour and texture. Speaking of texture, the ice cream was just slightly gummy which was a really pleasant surprise. I am now looking forward using mastic again.
Mastic Ice Cream(makes 4 servings)
1/2 teaspoon mastic resin crystals
1/2 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
4 egg yolks
1 splash masticha liqueur
1. Grind the mastic resin crystals in a mortar and pestle along with some sugar.
2. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and mastic in a sauce pan until it almost boils, about 5 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to low.
4. Temper the eggs and stir them into the cream along with the masticha liqueur.
5. Cook at low heat until it thickens and can coat the back of a spoon.
6. You may want to strain the mixture at this point to remove any bits that may have formed while warming.
7. Chill the mixture in the fridge.
8. Freeze according to the instructions for your ice cream machine.
Mastic Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with a Sour Cherry Sauce
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream