Saturday, 28 February 2009

mastic ice cream

Lovely Ivy from Greece’s Kopiaste is hosting this month’s Think Spice event, with the theme mastic.

In 2008, I set a food challenge to use mastic but I never managed to do it so it rolled over into my 2009 challenges. With that weighing heavily on my mind, Ivy announced her theme ingredient and I just knew it was time to cook with mastic.

Having eaten a mastic pannacotta in the past, I knew it worked well with cream so I decided to use Tessa Kiros’ mastic ice cream as inspiration.

In Falling Cloudberries, Tessa doesn’t use egg yolks, nor whip the cream, but I find this makes for a softer, fluffier ice cream and so I created my own version entirely.

The results had very mixed reviews.

I adored the vibrant, pine flavours and found the sweet ice cream strange and yet moreish.

And yet both Jonas and our friend, Bicky, took one bite and couldn’t continue.

Bicky had been walking toward the table with her bowl when she snuck a taste. She froze in her tracks and her face look alarmed. Then she kept smiling and politely repeating that it was a “special” flavour, too “special” for her.

Jonas on the other hand took a little lick, wrinkled his nose and pushed the bowl away from him declaring “there’s no way I’m eating that”. Ahh, what are husbands for?

Instead of being offended, I found the whole situation slightly amusing, because for once I knew it wasn’t my cooking skills but the mastic itself that they were reacting to.

The mastic did produce an almost chemical pine flavour, but since I enjoyed it I was secretly pleased that I had the whole litre of ice cream all to myself.

Mastic is certainly an acquired taste but, for those who love it, it is heavenly.

Mastic Ice Cream
Anna’s very own recipe. Makes 1 litre.

½ teaspoon mastic granules
100g sugar
300ml full cream milk
300ml single cream
3 egg yolks, beaten


1. In a spice grinder, pulverise the sugar and mastic into a fine powder.

2. Combine the milk and sugar mixture in a saucepan and cook over a medium-low heat until sugar has dissolved and milk is almost boiling.

3. Put the beaten egg yolks in a bowl, then add the hot milk in a thin stream, whisking the entire time to avoid scrambling the eggs.

4. When completely combined, return the mixture to the saucepan and cook gently over a low heat until mixture thickens slightly. Set custard aside.

5. In another bowl, beat cream with electric beaters until soft peaks form.

6. Combine custard and whipped cream, beating with electric beaters to smooth mixture.

7. Cool before churning in an ice cream machine, as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

the flavour is very special, so if you’re nervous about it being too strong you might consider using ¼ teaspoon mastic granules instead.

Mastic & Orchid (add 3 teaspoons of sahlep powder to milk mixture);
Mastic & Rosewater (½ teaspoon rosewater to milk mixture);
Mastic & Orange Flower (½ teaspoon orange flower water to milk mixture).

Mastic is resin from the Pistacia lentiscus, a shrub found all over the Mediterranean and the Middle East. For some mysterious reason, only the trees in the south of the tiny Greek island of Chios can produce this special flavoured resin.

The shrubs can reach over 100 years and 3 metres high. The sap leaks from wounds in the bark of the shrubs and is then sun-dried into tear-like granules.

Mastic is used in drinks, as a gum and for flavouring spirits, liquors, sauces, cheese, cakes and desserts. It is also used as a substitute for vanilla.

Ancient Egyptian writings advised adding mastic to bad-tasting water and incense, the Koran encouraged Muslims to add mastic to their bread and ancient Jewish halachic sources even permitted chewing mastic on Shabbat to combat bad breath.

Mastic was the first chewing gum ever known, as the sun-dried resin granules soften when chewed. In fact the word mastic originates from the Greek verb “to chew”, as does the similar English word “masticate”.

In ancient times, mastic was used medicinally for intestinal disorders, dental and mouth diseases, diabetes and bronchitis. In the Middle Ages, it was used for cholesterol, blood pressure, burns, eczema, frost-bite and cholera. Today it’s believed to be a treatment for ulcers and have antimicrobial effects, which is why it’s used in toothpaste, mouthwash, and dental fillings.

Interesting it’s used to manufacture self-absorbing surgical threads and sticking septic bandages on surgical wounds.

Anyway, this is my entry to Think Spice, Think Mastic. Please visit Kopiaste to read Ivy's round-up.

Other mastic recipes:
Mastic Pudding - Cafe Fernando
Mastic Lor Cookies - Yogurtland
Mastic Frozen Yoghurt - Kopiaste
Mastic Gum Preserve - Rustic
Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread) - Kalofagas



  1. Great post, delicious ice cream and yes, mastic is unique and only grown on the southern part of Chios.

  2. Certainly mastic gum is an acquired taste but don't let this discourage you as I am sure they will love it the second time. Thanks for participating.

  3. wow! looks delicious and divine!

  4. Hi Anna,

    Great post! I can't wait to try your recipe myself, but I have some trouble finding the mastic.

    Because mastic is a gum, I was wondering about the texture of the ice-cream. Was it similar to regular ice-cream, of more chewy, and like a gum?

  5. thanks everyone!

    karlijn - the texture was like regular ice cream. because you turn the gum into powder it ends up just flavouring the ice cream.


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